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Nov 18, 2007 at 02:40am IST

BCCI gag order has more to it than the media mess

New Delhi: Indian cricket is always dominated by intrigue. More so now after the BCCI diktat which says the national selectors can't comment publicly on their choices.

But there is a growing fear that the BBCI move may lead to more speculations dominating the headlines. But why has the BCCI decided to gag the media so abruptly?

For dozens of mediapersons covering the Indian Test team selection meeting on Wednesday, it was a frustrating vigil. None of the selectors were available for comment. A notice board outside the venue of the meeting said: "No press conference, no media release."

"The board has made a policy on this and it is not necessary to give reasons why some players have been selected or why someone has been dropped," BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah said.

But then came the defiance. Within days of the directive, the chairman of selectors, Dilip Vengsarkar, appeared to have defied it making it look as if he is not falling in line and the board barking up the wrong tree.

A column written by Vengsarkar in a Marathi daily is currently under scrutiny and the board says it will seek an explanation from him. The board had earlier banned Vengsarkar from writing newspaper columns and appearing in media after a string of controversies.

Does it mean the BCCI is afraid off media?

"Not really," BCCI Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty asserts. "Even before selections, media do so much of speculations attributing things to the selectors and BCCI sources, it has become a problem. In countries like Australia, they just send an email to all the media houses and it goes as an informative media to everybody at the same time," Prof Shetty points out.

Does it then suggest that there is a fear that if the selectors face the media, they will have to face tough questions? "I don't think so. Sometimes, they have been misquoted or misunderstood and then clarifications are issued by the person concerned, which leads to more complications," Prof Shetty says.

Prof Shetty is right to some extent. Media speculation around cricket is definitely a problem. Also, there has been very little informed comment, which may have forced the board to shut the doors on media.

Sports journalist Sharda Ugra, however, says media speculation is a reality. "There will always be speculation and motives attributed to people, no matter what people say," she points out.

According to her media speculation is not really a problem as such. "It's a phenomenon that you have to deal with. For instance, the Australians have a full-time media manager attached to their team. The Indian team, on the other hand, has been begging for a media manager for a long time to deal with the media; probably someone who can protect Dilip Vengsarkar."


Prof Shetty admits there has been a delay in appointing a media manager. "BCCI has already been looking for a media manager and the board has already received a few applications for the post. We are not averse to appointing someone," he informs.

He says BCCI will soon have a media manager, who can relate properly with journalists and give the kind of information that the media is looking for and also ensure that at the right time they get whatever information they need.

Where then does the real problem lie? Does the problem lie with the media or with the selectors, who are perhaps not the greatest of communicators?

Ugra accepts lack of communication skill is essentially the problem. "This happened once before with Chandu Borde. They did exactly the same thing and there was a furor and a ruckus about it. Because cricket is the number one sport in the country, you have to have someone who explains why certain things happen."

"If you speak to the selectors, they will give a certain logic about why some people have been picked and someone wasn't. There is a certain logic that by and large runs there. But they need to communicate that properly, which they often fail to do,” she points out.

Meanwhile, the board is talking tough with Vengsarkar. "In his position, Vengsarkar can't write. He is not supposed to write," Prof Shetty claims. Ugra also agrees there is a conflict of interest. "If you want to maintain a distance from the media, it has to be complete."