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BCCI needs one voice
by Gulu Ezekiel
Nov 23, 2007
Ten years ago in my capacity as a TV journalist I asked Raj Singh Dungarpur, then the BCCI president, why the Board did not have a media manager/spokesman.

His answer stumped me: "We have such cordial relations with the media, what do we need such a person for?" Dungarpur had confused 'spokesman' with 'PR man' and that mind-set continues in the Board set-up.

The result in this information-driven age of ours, much more so in 2007 than 1997, is that the right hand of the Board does not know what the left hand is doing and the public and the media are left confused and befuddled.

Among all cricket bodies in the world (including the virtually non-existent one of Zimbabwe), the BCCI is alone in not having its own website. And this is a Board that takes prides in calling itself the world’s first billion- dollar association!

Two issues have cropped up recently which shows the Board in poor light.

First the matter of chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar and his insistence on writing syndicated columns in the media. Only this morning one of the national newspapers carried a report that he gains to lose Rs. 40 lakh a year if banned from this practice. And in a glaring display of chutzpah he is demanding the BCCI compensate him for this loss of income!

There has been plenty of shadow-boxing between the Board and Vengsarkar until finally he has succumbed to their threats—either be a selector and don’t write or be a writer and don’t selector.

There is a clear conflict of interest involved in Vengsarkar's case particularly as his column is being syndicated by a sports management firm that has numerous cricketers on its rolls.

While the public and media is largely behind the Board in this particular stricture of theirs, all kinds of speculative stories have been appearing in the media as there is no one single person in the association who is in a position to brief the press.

Another controversy could have been avoided over the issue of Shah Rukh Khan's sudden high-profile presence at Team India's games, strangely coinciding with the release of his latest film.

Now Khan is a citizen of free India and is welcome to purchase a ticket for any game and be a spectator. However, he has been enjoying the hospitality of the BCCI as a VIP guest ever since the World Cup T-20 final in Johannesburg in September. It in this capacity that he has been accused by at least one official of using the occasions to plug his film to the media present at the matches.

Khan has pleaded his innocence in this matter. But as a movie superstar it would be something of a surprise if he failed to cash in on any free publicity. Having current co-star Deepika Padukone by his side at the matches only heightens this suspicion. The young lady of course has been gaining her own kind of mileage by getting herself conveniently linked to MS Dhoni.

All this is standard Bollywood practice and the links between Indian cricket and the glamour world of movies is nothing new.

With the vociferous Kapil Dev and his new baby, the Indian Cricket League, ready to pounce on the BCCI for each and every perceived slight, there has now been an attempt at damage control.

With the vociferous Kapil Dev and his new baby, the Indian Cricket League, ready to pounce on the BCCI for each and every perceived slight, there has now been an attempt at damage control.

Mr. Khan we are now informed by various senior Board officials is welcome at all games. But surely all this confusion could have been easily avoided if the BCCI learned to speak with one voice.
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