Once again, Indian cricket is in the news and unfortunately this time too it is not the on- field performance that has caused a storm. Instead shredding bare the fallacy that the underbelly of the game is restricted to bookies and cricketers, the latest episode exposes another nexus, this time between players and journalists.
At the centre of the controversy is cricketer Wriddhiman Saha who was threatened by a ‘respected journalist’ over an interview. “I don’t take insults kindly. And I will remember this. This wasn’t something you should have done,” are some of the snapshots that Saha posted on twitter.
From Harbhajan Singh, Virendra Sehwag to former coach Ravi Shastri, there have been calls urging Saha to disclose the identity but now in what suspiciously looks like back peddling, the wicketkeeper batsman says his intention was not to ruin another’s professional life “my nature isn’t such that I will harm anyone to the extent of ending someone’s career. So on grounds of humanity looking at his/her family, I am not exposing the name for the time being,” tweeted the cricketer late on Tuesday.
This though is the same player who has publicly disclosed dressing room conversation with coach Rahul Dravid where he says he was asked to consider retirement. Not just that, Saha also opened another pandora’s box, revealing a congratulatory text by BCCI president Sourav Ganguly after a good score against New Zealand in which he says dada reassured him of keeping a spot in the team. “What I’m struggling to understand is how things have changed so fast,” said the cricketer on his omission from the next series.
Saha’s exposé though has bigger repercussions on the relationship between the board president and chief coach Dravid. Questions are being asked about Ganguly’s interference in selection matters at a time when not much water has flown under the bridge over Virat Kohli contradicting his statements.
Murmurs of who the ‘respected journalist’ is, are more than just rumours. The concerns that junior players have been trapped in the same nexus where access to even top cricketers has been uninhibited are not new. Saha’s exchange with the ‘journalist’ may have been ruthless but seems familiar.
“Cricketers are very vulnerable, not everyone is secure of their place in the side or of a big contract whether from a sponsor or IPL. Some of these journos pretend and some are in fact close to IPL owners, brand owners or top BCCI office bearers and use that proximity to create an image in the mind of that vulnerable cricketer. There are wheeler dealers, there are peddlers there is no doubt about it, but by and large journalists continue to do their job. There will be a handful of rotten apples as there will be in any other profession,” says a senior sports journalist.
It is not just those who have tweeted in support of Saha, the ones who haven’t are equally conspicuous including Sachin Tendulkar whose autobiography has more than a hint. “This case smacks of arrogance and also influence that this said journalist wields over Indian cricket, cricketers as also the power he has over the officialdom of BCCI. Saha has spoken because he has an opportunity since he has nothing at stake now and you can see that he is already backtracking saying he won’t name the journalist so what was the point of putting the conversation out in the first place?” asks a respected sports broadcaster.
Behind the scenes
BCCI says it will investigate the matter, so far the cricketer says he has not been contacted but it would be safe to say that the real power play is the one going on behind the scenes.
As most insiders will tell you, there is definitely more than what meets the eye and this controversy is less about Saha and more about rivalries within Indian cricket’s hallowed corridors. “It was all about power, politics and Saha is unfortunately caught in between and he will do nothing about it while BCCI will only be seen as doing something because what can the BCCI do- ban the person coming to the press box? That does not solve the problem, he will still be in and around Indian cricket and will continue to wield influence over Indian cricket and Indian sport,” adds the broadcaster.
So, what changed the status quo, why did Saha decide to go for a media trial and then backtrack when the said ‘journalist’ has had a monopoly hold over the BCCI for more than a decade with access even to international players? His lobbying reportedly goes back to the time of Jagmohan Dalmiya.
With much at stake, chances are this episode will die down soon and in time it will be business as usual. It is perhaps easier to make it into the Indian team than it is to keep up with all that is not quite cricket.