Where's the transparency factor?

Updated: 29 October, 2020 07:46 IST | Clayton Murzello | Mumbai

The Indian cricket board continues to treat details of player injuries as state secrets. After all, it's no sin to get injured and be out of action.

Rohit Sharma, who is not named in any of the three teams to tour Australia, is seen here ahead of India's 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at Old Trafford, Manchester on July 10, 2019. Pic/AFP
Rohit Sharma, who is not named in any of the three teams to tour Australia, is seen here ahead of India's 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at Old Trafford, Manchester on July 10, 2019. Pic/AFP

Clayton MurzelloPlayer injuries: "To be revealed to the media only if necessary, with minimum details." That's how the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) dictionary seems to have been describing injuries for all these years.

The shocking lack of transparency in the Rohit Sharma injury saga exposes the stubbornness and arrogance of the richest board in the world and their refusal to be answerable to their fans.

The selection for the tour of Australia was firstly kept a secret. No, the media was not informed about a selection meeting and that can be passed off as a BCCI-patented school of thought that says we don't have to tell you everything.

When the team is announced through a press release, the last sentence reads, "The BCCI Medical Team will continue to monitor the progress of Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma."

The words "continue to monitor" would give one the impression that the two Sharmas were mentioned earlier in the release. No, they weren't. Nor were the nature of the injuries.

The COVID-19 scenario prevents the BCCI from having a press conference and a virtual press briefing would be too much to expect — I say this with no trace of cynicism. But a few words from chief selector Sunil Joshi would have been fair to expect.

The Board is headed by a fine former captain and it is near-unbelievable that Sourav Ganguly is letting such things take place under his watch.

Doubtless, the Rohit injury issue is shrouded in mystery. By mentioning "monitoring" the BCCI has indicated that the classy batsman could still make it to Australia.

In such a scenario, couldn't he have been named in the squad and still be monitored? In the bargain, Rohit has lost his limited overs vice-captaincy; an honour he richly deserves with the kind of performances he has dished out in white-ball cricket. If there came a time when the burden of captaining in all formats got to Virat Kohli, the best man to take charge of the limited overs teams would be Rohit.

But now KL Rahul has entered the mix and the question needs to be asked whether Rohit will get back his deputy tag once he returns to full fitness.

Joshi should count himself extremely fortunate that he is not made to face the media post his committee's selection for the tour of Australia. My mind goes back to Ahmedabad 1999 when Chandu Borde had an extremely uncomfortable time answering queries from the media after his committee picked the team to tour Australia in 1999-2000.

Borde was grilled over his committee's call to include MSK Prasad as the only wicketkeeper in the side and ignoring the claims of Nayan Mongia who was not part of the home series against New Zealand.

Borde could just harp on the fact that Prasad "has been doing well and is young and up and coming." One reporter from Mongia's home city of Baroda took things a bit too far...literally. He made his way up to the front and demanded from Borde the reason behind Mongia's exclusion.

Borde was relieved when the press conference concluded and joked with a journalist he knew, "You rascal, asking me all these tough questions." The reporter took umbrage to Borde calling him a rascal albeit in a lighter vein and vowed not to speak to him ever again. It provided the only instance in cricket of a journalist unwilling to speak to a former player instead of the other way round!

Selection press conferences are not as common as they used to be in the 1990s. At one of them, the recall of Navjot Singh Sidhu was announced. A veteran journalist put his hand up and asked the selector: "Why this change of heart with Sidhu?" The selector didn't hear him very well so he asked the BCCI secretary sitting beside him: "What's wrong with Sidhu's heart?"

While press conferences provided a bit of mirth, reporters at times overstepped their brief, forgetting that many a time the chief selector was a distinguished former Test player. The late Ramakant Desai had to face the music when the Indian team for the opening Test of the 1997-98 series against Australia was announced. Mumbai were thrashing Mark Taylor's team in their tour game at the Brabourne Stadium.

The team for the Test at Madras had only one Mumbai player - Sachin Tendulkar.

Desai, although uneasy, answered every question thrown at him and came up with a humorous response when a reporter wanted to know why Mumbai players were continuously ignored. "That is a question even I want an answer to," he said, as Tendulkar hit Shane Warne for yet another boundary en route his double century. Desai's reply bore testimony to the fact that the chairman of selectors does not always have his way. Ultimately, India won the series 2-1 but I wonder how many had a word of praise for the selectors.

Desai passed away the following year. I remember him for several things — his discomfiture at selection press conferences, his quick smile, watching a Ranji Trophy match at the Wankhede Stadium and wanting to have some onion pakodas with his tea.

Everyone welcomes appreciation and Desai was no different. He was not coy to appreciate this newspaper's reporter interviewing him at his Associated Cement Companies office at Churchgate after the young Indian team he had selected won the 1997 Sahara Cup in Toronto.

Borde too was experienced enough to take the rough with the smooth. In Bangalore during the 2000 India v South Africa Test, I asked him if it was fair that only the chairman of selectors be answerable for the decisions of the entire committee. "Well," he said, "when you are the leader of the group, you have to take the bouquets and brickbats."

The current scenario is not about bouquets and brickbats as much as it is about transparency. And that is sadly lacking.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello

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The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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First Published: 29 October, 2020 06:44 IST

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