March 12, 2015 7:35:36 pm
Indian cricket team’s love-hate relationship continues. Virat Kohli’s verbal tirade against an Indian journalist is just another chapter in the story which started in 2008. (Full Coverage| Points table| Fixtures)
The trend was set in November 2008 when MS Dhoni took charge as the Indian captain in all formats, following the retirement of Anil Kumble.
Since then, there has been a sort of media gag with the players being kept at arm’s length by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Shashank Manohar had just taken over as president, N Srinivasan as secretary, and it was hardly a secret that both like to keep the media away.
The new captain Dhoni didn’t mind to keep the media at bay with a gag order. Since then the players have refrained from giving one-on-one interviews on tour or during a series at home.
Even during ICC tournaments, while the rest of the sides prefer doing a media activity every day, the Indian squad prefers to stay mum. There is regular activity around the other sides with players being put up for media interaction. Sides like Australia, New Zealand and England even provide players for radio stations separately because the medium is a big hit in those countries.
In the case of West Indies, owing to the economic situation, there is hardly a travelling journalist. The team’s media manager functions as a journalist on tour reporting, doing features and interviews with players. The service provided by the media manager is akin to a syndicated news service.
Teams like South Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh are similarly efficient in passing on information, organising media activities and generally keeping everyone informed.
The only side providing no information is India. The problem is that the media manager travelling with the squad, Dr RN Baba, a genuinely nice man, is very good at organising media facilities at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium. But managing media is a specialist’s job, he is therefore thrown in uncanny situations.
With the standard reply being: No media activity, there is a gag, Dr Baba has the easiest role amongst all media managers. Then, there is a need to deny obvious situations like in the case of the Kohli outburst. Dr Baba may have sent through the media statement, but it is certain that it was not his strategy to deal with the situation.
The bigger issue is the absolute lack of connection between the current playing squad and the travelling media. Captain Dhoni prefers to address media before a match and if the team loses. So if at any time, India ends up losing six matches in a row, you could well end up having 12 Dhoni press conferences!
India is doing a lot of things right with its cricket. It is time the new regime led by Jagmohan Dalmiya evolves a media strategy with a targetted approach.
This will help in not just ensuring that the right message is conveyed about the squad in general and Indian cricket in particular. The usual whipping boys, BCCI, do a lot of good which goes unnoticed in this attempt to keep everything hidden behind a gag order.
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