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Sight Screen

Thursday, June 16, 2005

True to form

Today's apt to be one of those 'sporadic blogging' days, guys -- it is day one of the three-day South Asian Journalists' Association annual conference; I am expected to attend. Will be gone from about 1 pm, till 10 pm, my time -- and will get back to this blog later in my night.
But meanwhile -- you guys surely saw Ranbir Singh Mahindra's sudden spurt of concern over Saurav Ganguly's form?
"Well, the replacement of Sourav Ganguly is to be considered by the selection committee, but definitely as far as the performance... I tend to agree over the point that he has to improve... in the sense that he has to score."

Just yesterday, I'd posted my thoughts on journalists' need to ask questions, no matter how inane, then see how the answers can be twisted into a semblance of substance -- with, if possible, a dollop of sensationalism thrown in. Hey, don't blame us -- how would you like it if you came visiting ad found, on our home page, the announcement: 'Sorry, nothing to report, come back later?'
Here's the perfect example of what I was talking about. Karan Thapar 'gets' Mahindra, so what's he going to ask him? Lemme see... ah, captaincy, that old favorite. And what's Mahindra going to say? That it is a matter for the selectors -- which it is. And since you can't stop there -- you are, after all, the boss.
So you say I have spoken to them, told them only performance matters, blah blah.
Apparently, Ganguly has to score runs. Duh! We knew that. It's like those press conferences Azhar used to hold, after a defeat. Why did we lose? 'We batted badly, bowled badly, fielded badly'. How can we win the next game? 'We have to bat better, bowl better, field better.'
This is what has me pissed off. There is a new coach in place. We are paying him good money to produce results. He has among other things scheduled a day-long meeting with the national selectors -- surely team composition, individual form of the various players, etc will be discussed? Surely decisions will be taken?
Why then pre-empt it by taking the debate to the public forum? At the least, if you were going to do that, it would help if it was substantive debate -- but this one isn't. 'He has to improve... he has to score...' And the sun has to rise in the East, surely?
There were things he could, by virtue of his position, have talked substantively about. Take the key element: transparency.
A few years earlier, Rediff had done a series of stories based on the BCCI annual accounts. Outlook, too had done some stories on the theme. The annual accounts, on those occasions, were smuggled to us by a lower level functionary of the BCCI.
The upshot? The BCCI brass restricted access to just the president, secretary and a couple of others -- to ensure reporters wouldn't get bootleg copies.
Why is the BCCI not publishing its annual accounts? It is a question that has been asked ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Thapar asks it here. And what does the BCCI chief -- who can, mind you, take the decision in a day, if he wants to - say?
"This is a point that has also been raised by many others. We are seriously thinking about it also."

Really? Years ago, my colleague Faisal had asked this question of JY Lele, and a couple of the other board brass. The answer he got then was that the board was 'seriously thinking' about this.
So that in sum is the interview. No insight on the things that matter. And a moment of pure inspiration: 'He has to score runs.'


  • Prem,

    Without going into too much detail, surely the responses of the BCCI President are to the *questions* being asked. So, the burden of proof is with the interviewer first and then the interviewee. I still remember that interview that Thapar had with Kapil few years back, on BBC India. When Thapar asked him bluntly if he had been involved in the match fixing scandal, Kapil was defensive and in his trademark toothy smile, he said no. But as the interview went on, Thapar kept on touching upon Kapil's raw nerve (knowing very well that Kapil was quite vulnerable at that time). The nauseousness of this exercise was so great that ultimately Kapil had to break down.

    My point being, plz don't blame Mahendra on this one. He is just reacting to what is being asked. I would rather pillory Karan Thapar, your fellow media-wallah.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:45  

  • How about this answer: Every cricketer will go through a lean patch.. I am sure Ganguly will come out of it.. I dont think he has to prove anyone anything anymore..

    Well.. for every tournament, you can see the financial outcome.. you know how much we pay our cricketers at various levels.. and our coach and other supporting staff.. Is there any need for annual report? Sum up the individual incomes for different series and you get the cumulative..

    Expect anything from BCCI..

    By Anonymous GP, at 11:51  

  • Pardon me Prem, but Rediff sure knows how to sensationalize an interview. They always keeping digging up the "What Ganguly thinks of Ranbir Singh" story everytime an Ranbir Singh interview is published and involves Ganguly (which is almost always).

    By Blogger Rahul Kulkarni, at 11:52  

  • You are spot on Sriraj - "You ask Stupid Questions, you get stupid answers".

    And in the meanwhile, England have reached 129/0 in 15 overs against Bangladesh. Please, can someone throw light on why Bangladesh is still playing International cricket. And no stupid answers please :-)

    By Anonymous Saurabh wahi, at 11:58  

  • Sri: Yes, it was an asinine question to ask, for which Karan is at fault. But surely, RSM can simply say "That is a matter for the selection committee" and leave it at that?
    My real grouse is, he was less than clear on things he *could* speak about -- like the issue of publishing annual accounts, for instance.
    Appropos, I remember once, when Ajay Jadeja was named vice captain of the national ODI squad, Rajdeep Sardesai asking him: 'So now you are vice captain, how are you going to ensure that India doesn't keep losing in the finals?'
    Jadeja's response was classic: 'Rajdeep, if I knew how to do that, why would I wait to be made vice captain before implementing it?'
    Rahul, about your point: Rediff is not exempt from the general malaise, yes. But in this instance, I would have to plead not guilty -- the reason for throwing up that story is to provide context. The two have a history, and that history is relevant here, surely, in understanding where these comments come from?

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 12:00  

  • Hi Prem,

    Are you suggesting that every time RSM makes a comment about Ganguly, he has what Ganguly said about him 5 years ago in mind ( and hence the need for that association)?


    By Anonymous Saurabh wahi, at 12:08  

  • indian cricket sometimes sucks coz of these kind of petty issues like friction between BCCI bosses and players and tax issues and blah blah.. WHy can't crickets just do their business of winning games like the aussies and englishmen

    By Blogger Ridham, at 12:09  

  • Prem, do you think that this issue between Sourav and Ranbir Singh Mahendra is going to come back to haunt him? I mean he isn't doing well right now, and his future seems to be hinged on a delicate balance between performance and selection.

    When RSM assumed his current position, Sourav wasn't quite in the same predicament that he finds himself now.

    Do you think RSM will take this opportunity to get rid of Sourav when he's down and out, assuming of course that he can roll over Dalmiya...

    By Blogger FSN 2.2, at 12:11  

  • "Intricacies of a complex mind", you assume that there is friction between players and BCCI because Rediff keeps on making associations like the one between Ganguly and Ranbir Singh.


    By Anonymous Saurabh wahi, at 12:15  

  • REDIFF faithfully reproduces this "exclusive" interview at periodic intervals lest Ranbir forgets about it. They have hit a goldmine with this one, haven't they?

    I remember this being the prominent piece of news from rediff when Ranbir took office too. Wonder if they ever bothered to check with Ganguly what his *current* feelings are.

    By Blogger chatura, at 12:22  

  • Exactly Chatura...

    By Anonymous Saurabh wahi, at 12:24  

  • but on second thoughts, that would be a very stupid question, wouldn't it?

    "So Saurav, what do you think of Mr. Ranbir".

    "I still think he is an a$$h@le"

    By Anonymous Saurabh wahi, at 12:26  

  • apologies guys, that last bit of obsenity on the post was uncalled for...

    By Anonymous Saurabh wahi, at 12:29  

  • yeah, it is an awkward question but isn't that what keeps (many) reporters ticking? and then they can quote that ad infinitum at various contexts under a veneer of journalistic integrity.

    By Blogger chatura, at 12:32  

  • >>>>Prem Said - the reason for throwing up that story is to provide context. The two have a history, and that history is relevant here, surely, in understanding where these comments come from? <<<<

    No Prem, I think you and your rediff team is terribly wrong on this one. Gangs & RSM have no history, its just one comment from Gangs, we dont even know the other side of the story. In any case, I think Sourav and RSM have moved on, so should rediff.

    And If you know Karan Thapar, you would know the kind of an interviewer he is, he wont let you go easily and I blame KT for this bullsh!t. Everyone is talking about Gangs form and almost all of us have expressed the same views at some point of time then why cant RSM.

    By Anonymous SP, at 12:34  

  • My version of it...

    KT>Ranbir, what are your views on who is to be the next Indian captain? Will Sourav be replaced?

    Ranbir> err..well..the replacement of SG is to be considered by the selection committee

    KT> What do you think of his performance?

    Ranbir>um..*touches chin, scratches head, etc*

    KT> Do you agree that he has to improve?

    Ranbir> *nods* I..err..tend..to agree..blah blah

    KT>in what sense? he has not been getting much runs lately,eh?

    Ranbir> yeah..in the sense that he HAS to score

    there, you got your QUOTE.

    By Blogger chatura, at 12:43  

  • Well to me the news report doesn't seem like extraction from Thapar. Mahendra not only said, Gangs needs to improve, but he also said, he spoke to the selectors about it couple of times and that he also asked them to make sure they give enough chance to people who are performing.

    Lets give Mahendra and Thapar a break guys. If fact, I agree with him. I think, in the last one year, Kaif got a raw deal in the selection process. It might seem like obvious thing to say, but coming from BCCI chief, it carries more weight, value and meaning. Coming from BCCI chief, the fact that he felt the need to say 'gangs need to improve & performers need to be given chance' carries a lot of meaning.

    hope selectors are listening.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13:11  

  • Doh! I like that bit about RSM and SG having no record.
    For the record, this: In 1996 -- about three weeks after SG returned from the England tour -- I had been to his home (I'd written about this earlier on this blog).
    We spoke, and at some point, his doomed tour of Aus came up. He said *then* that the whole thing was a fabrication; that RSM who was the manager then had problems with his father Chandidas; that the report was by way of being pay-back; that the report had nearly ruined his career, because he just couldn't get a look-in into the team for a long time after that, and invariably the reason offered was 'discipline'.
    Isn't that 'history' enough, that according to the guy who went on to become the national captain, a BCCI official who went on to become board chief damn near killed his career?
    As to how the two of them interact now -- do I need to signpost it? Really? Every time SG needs something done through the board -- since RSM took over, that is -- he has been going outside it, and working through JG. Latest of many instances in point, remember the issue of his playing county? "I don't know about it," goes RSM; "I informed JD and through him the board," goes SG.
    No "history", guys?
    As to Rediff hitting a goldmine, if that was all we needed, we could have run the story then -- in 1996. At the time it was not relevant, because RSM was by then out of the administration. However, when he became board chief, and SG by then was national captain, we deemed it necessary to carry the story. Just as we have carried stories on the history between Bindra and Dalmiya, say -- because there is context, relevance; a feud between two people is news, if both happen to be in high positions within the same body, and if their feud could demonstrably impact on functioning. As, IMHO, these do.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 13:31  

  • Hi,
    I don't know if all you guys know about Bill Bellicheck and the New England Patriots. But thats the model the board should adopt. The selectors and board stays out of the limelight, letting the coach and capatian do their job. They in turn give the most boring comments and keep everything close to the west. Everyone operates with one thing in mind - winning, and lo and behold it apparently works. I know there are a lot of diff., all I am saying is the mindset should be about the team and winning not about who gets the max amount of newsreel!!


    By Blogger KB, at 13:37  

  • Yes kb, but this is India. Every Amar-Akbar-Anthony guy like Lele (of the lele-lele fame) wants to be as famous as Tendulkar!!!

    By Anonymous amar, at 14:04  

  • Prem,

    Ever heard RSM say anything on this issue. I guess history isn't made up of one sided story. How do you know that Sourav is telling you the facts and he infact didn't do things he was accused off. And since you have so much of insider information, have you ever bothered to find it out from the then players like Shastri, Sachin, kapil, More, Srikanth, Srinath etc. *FYI* Mahindra on record has this to say about this incident :-

    "On the tour of Australia in 1991-92, Abbas Ali Baig was the team manager and I was administrative manager. I was not required to comment on any player, let alone Sourav. .."

    Infact, the more I read on this stuff, the more it seems that Rediff is hell bent on sparking this controversy to get some more hits and fortunately readers now a days are smart and have noted that pathetic attempt. Keep justifying it. You aren't helping
    Indian cricket either by doing this kind of reporting.

    As much as I like Sourav as a player and as a captain,(My friend is from Sourav's neighbourhood and he tells me that Sourav used to be a spoilt brat as a young kid)I wont be surprised if Sourav did something stupid during the 1991-92 tour (when he was 17-18 years old). It is a well known fact that Sourav has always had descipline problems(remember his Lancashire stint) and it appears in his captaincy record as well, his numerous fines etc are mostly due to his poor descipline. Moreover If because of that one incident he still doesn't talk to Mahindra directly and instead prefers to go through JG (which I doubt) then it is his immaturity as a person and not something what I would call 'History'.

    By Anonymous SP, at 14:10  

  • >>>relevance; a feud between two people is news, if both happen to be in high positions within the same body, and if their feud could demonstrably impact on functioning. As, IMHO, these do. <<<

    Wrong analogy Prem. Bindra and Dalmiya are in Press all over feuding with each other. In Gang's case Mahindra has never given a single hint that he has any problem with Sourav. And that's a fact however much you deny it.

    Although it is beside the point, but what do you expect when ask a stupid and so obvious question as this one(This is the question that rediff asked Ganguly about the 1992 controversy) :-

    "Q:Is it true that you refused to carry drinks onto the field early in your career? "

    What did you expect Gangs to answer, " Oh you know what Prem, I made a mistake blah blah blah and I refused to to carry the drinks blah blah blah"

    Btw, Dont you notice the Irony here that in Ganguly's story (and Rediff's story as well)that Gangs (supposedly) accused Mr. Mahindra of "having a problem with Mr. Dalmiya" and venting it out on Gangs as he was "from Bengal" and the same RSM became the BCCI Chief riding Mr. Dalmiya's support. ;

    By Anonymous SP, at 14:39  

  • I am giving Mahindra my total backing. As the President of the BCCI, he has every right to be commenting on Ganguly's form in the way he has. While the media was cynical about BCCI's agenda in the selection of the Indian coach, Mahindra played his hand well. When one of the candidates cried foul over the way he was treated, he explained that candidates could not be located in time to break the news. The selection of Greg Chappell, the willingness of the Board to consider specialists support, etc shows that finally BCCI is moving on.

    Why should BBC sensationalise a report where they have gotten what they want- some candid remarks to what can be deemed to be some 'hard hitting' questions.

    Manindra is an assembly member of Haryana. He is demanding an international stadium away from Faridabad because there is too much pollution from industrial townships. See: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050615/sports.htm#1

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 16:03  

  • Maybe we can request the President/PM of India to put a gag order on anyone related to BCCI including players, administrators, coaches etc. etc. What a load of bull!!!He said, she said crap. Richest board in the world and no sense of profesionalism

    By Blogger KB, at 17:12  

  • well said, prem.
    I think sensationalism is very different from shedding light on the history between Mahendra and Ganguly.

    By Blogger Dhruv Deepak, at 18:01  

  • Thanks for your reply KB. Mahendra has not said Ganguly is a poor player or that he cannot recover his form. He has expressed the view that he wants India to do well. The Board is directly responsible for nominating who is the captain of India. Poor performances of the team are also important for the Board. Accordingly he has asked the selectors should look at whether Ganguly should remain captain and whether he should have position in the team (by virtue of being a good enough batsman at present.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 18:14  

  • What a stroke of genius it was to start this blog!!! Its 3:30 and I have to code, but I feel myself inexorably drawn to the blog to see what others think....
    I must drink lots more coffeeeeeeee


    By Blogger KB, at 18:31  

  • I think the 'anon' guy who is giving Mahendra his full backing is the same guy who wants to be known as 'Forever Anon' and fights with anyone who even remotely says a few positive words about Ganguly. Dude, why not take a name? Nothing to do with identity hiding or such, but at least it gives me a better idea whom I am responding to just like I know when I read a post from Sriraj, Rahul Kulkarni, -i etc. Or else when you stuffs like 'I have been saying this for a long time', I wonder what you are talking about. I personally think if you plan to post on a regular basis, it's better to have an identity. Do you agree?

    By Anonymous Jai, at 19:54  

  • Hi Jai,
    Dont say nothing to him man!! He was the first guy to Thank me .... don't know y or if he was being sarcastic, but I'll take the Thanks


    By Blogger KB, at 20:11  

  • bah, humbug!

    it is rather telling, isn't it, that all this wasn't revealed in 1996 when Ranbir was a nobody. at the very least, they could have given the world, what happened in Aus(from Ganguly's perspective, i.e). its stock, no, scandal value rose only after Ranbir became a man of importance, eh?

    rediff was not interested in the feud and its development over the years -if so, they would have had an interview with Ranbir too, imo. it is just a nice gossipy snippet to publish every now and then - "remember guys, this is what Ganguly said 7 years ago to a loaded question".

    wish such dedication to revealing past history was shown in other matters, say, frail old men and their penchant for black bucks.

    as to Ranbir thinking Ganguly should score runs - thank you for that brilliant insight. all along, we were thinking he needed to grow a green beard - duh!

    By Blogger chatura, at 21:15  

  • I was reacting to the way Prem had presented the story. To me it was insightful. But Prem has other ideas.

    To some extent his comment indirectly ascribed untoward motives on the story. See the comment, “Ranbir Singh Mahindra's SUDDEN SPURT OF CONCERN over Saurav Ganguly’s form?”.

    The question posed by it is whether the BBC journalist known for using ‘hard tactics’ has beguiled Mahendra to say things he should not or put words in Mahendra’s mouth or heavens forbid, twisted the words around. In other words, he is a typical journalist. He gives an example of how a typical journalist would operate: “see how the answers can be twisted into a semblance of substance -- with, if possible, a dollop of sensationalism thrown in”.

    Prem thinks it is not a newsworthy story. He says, “so what's he going to ask him? ……. And what's Mahindra going to say? …… blah blah. Apparently, Ganguly has to score runs. Duh! We knew that. ” Then he contracts himself and sort of changes tact. He criticises Mahendra by making a public statement about it, pre-empting any decisions in this direction. Then he come down hard on Mahendra by saying curiously, “At the least, if you were going to do that, it would help if it was substantive debate -- but this one isn't.” The real interest of journalists would be to expose the dirty laundry and not to know what BCCI thinks about Ganguly. I must agree. Ganguly should not be the only point of discussion.

    Here are my questions: Was it interesting to know that Mahendra had lobbied the selectors to question Ganguly’s position in the team. Did it come as a shock to find that the highest authority in the BCCI may be gunning against Ganguly. If so, it qualifies as a scoop.

    Secondly, did the BBC journalist invent the interview. It seems the programme will be screened at some stage and it is on tape. So, the answer is no.

    Thirdly, am I interested in the way BCCI spends its money. Yes, to a point. Recently BCCI has opened its pocket and there is more monies going in all different direction. That is good enough for me.

    Here, I must confess I don’t not deal in personalities. I am impressed by the way the Board has conducted itself. I cannot explain the reason for it but hopefully a change in attitudes is taking place that will impact on the team in a positive way.

    The point of the story is that we are getting to know who the decision makers are. Greg has given his view already. The board and the selectors will make a joint decision over the captaincy, the team composition and almost everything else. They will give full consideration to what the coach has to say in private.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 19:06  

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