Ranjona Banerji: The BCCI prez’s trial by media

28 May,2013

By Ranjona Banerji


The fact that N Srinivasan, chairman of the Board for Control of Cricket in India, thinks that his main adversary in the IPL mess is the media shows how much news television has changed the discourse. Us journalists have always existed, but on the periphery of everyday life, an early morning or mid-afternoon fix that rarely lasted beyond an hour if that long. Now, the “media” is a 24-hour experience and whether it’s being silly or serious, it cannot be ignored.


The BCCI chairman however is railing against the wrong enemy. The media may be annoying – to him at least in this instance – but what the BCCI has done or not done for cricket has to be scrutinised. Whether Srinivasan likes it or not, the revelations that IPL players have been caught spot-fixing, that bookies have full access to cricketers and that his son-in-law is somehow involved cannot be ignored. Srinivasan is lucky that the conflict of interest in the Board chairman owning an IPL team has not come under greater scrutiny in the past.


Monday night on TV, our worthies who have made journalism such a contender were torn between the IPL saga and the Naxal attack in Chattisgarh. The problem here is that the Naxal problem is complex and complexity and television are natural enemies. To just start jumping and advocating “war” on Naxals is not just irresponsible, it is foolish. I did not expect to hear a sensible discussion on Salwa Judum or the civilian militia created to fight Naxals on TV and I was not proved wrong. However, Rajdeep Sardesai (CNN-IBN), Nidhi Razdan (NDTV) and Arnab Goswami (Times Now) all tried to discuss Naxalism? Does one get any marks for trying? Only in Junior KG I think.


IPL then was a much safer bet. Except for the fact that Rahul Mehra (the man who exists to hate the BCCI) was on two channels at the same time, a trick he learnt from Ravi Shankar Prasad and both can teach that to Chris Angel. Anyway, if Srinivasan thought that the media was against him on Sunday, he couldn’t have imagined the horrors of Monday. He had handed himself over as a target and the media, quite rightly, could not look the other way. (Actually Barkha Dutt did appear to look the other way or maybe that was an old issue of that talk show she does being replayed, which was on the food security bill. Or maybe it was just bucking the trend.)


The trial by media was on full swing and even though Sunil Gavaskar tried to defend his friend Ravi Shastri for being part of the inquiry commission and frowned upon a witch hunt, everyone else was less charitable to the BCCI. Which is only to be expected, given the brazenness of Srinivasan’s response. The fact that the BJP and the Congress – both well-represented on the cricket board – are on the same page was not missed by the media. If only they could show the same spirit of bipartisan cooperation in Parliament as well said one studio guest sarcastically. The BJP, which wants a resignation every time the wind changes, is not so sure about Srinivasan, leading to a little spat between Rahul Kanwal and Shaina NC on Headlines Today. Why does Shaina NC come on TV at all? No one is ever nice to her.


Newspapers are no kinder and the Asian Age called Srinivasan’s attitude, “Shameful!” while The Times of India called him “combative”. The fact that Indian and Chennai captain MS Dhoni has been avoiding the media was not missed either.


Srinivasan has made mistakes not just by changing the by-laws to own a team, giving his son-in-law free access, pretending that nothing is wrong, appointing an inquiry commission that reports to him, being caught with whole-scale cheating on his watch, annoying Sharad Pawar, but also blaming the media. Ha ha. This will not end well.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator based in Mumbai. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. She can be reached via Twitter at @ranjona. The views here are her own


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