Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Hot Plate with Niranjan Shah

What is the board’s policy on Sourav Ganguly?
The board has an open mind; he’s a contracted player. Whenever the selection committee needs him, they can select him.

Why can’t players discuss Ganguly?
It isn’t a question of Ganguly. It’s a question of any player discussing anyone else, because it creates indiscipline, brings unnecessary media attention, and the board doesn’t want to get into the clarification thing all the time.

How does it create indiscipline?
If you are in the same team, you should not comment on each other, no? We think it is better to have the policy.e.

But they don’t really talk about each other. They talk about Ganguly, who’s an emotional issue…
But why does it always have to be in the media? I don’t understand. Once you are playing, you can’t say indirectly, “He should be there,” or “He should not be there”, because it’s the prerogative of the selection committee.

Doesn’t it mean the BCCI is paying too much attention to what the media is saying?
If we don’t pay attention, you will say that the board doesn’t do anything, or that the board doesn’t have an answer. So we try to clarify our position.

Doesn’t the board make a distinction between journalists with an agenda and journalists who don’t?
Yeah, we know from the newspapers about journalists who think about cricket, write about it, and help it. When they want a clarification, I like to give them a clarification so that there is no unnecessary media controversy.

Speaking of controversies, there was something that happened between Chappell, Dravid, and Ganguly before one match in Pakistan. We’ve heard that someone at the board asked Tensports to remove the clip and not play it again.
I don’t think…umm…I did not give instructions. I don’t know more. I saw one clip where they were on the field, which was played repeatedly. Afterwards I met Greg and Rahul, and the issue was never discussed. Actually, I don’t know what happened there, but I don’t think it was important. Maybe they were talking about what the team management wanted to do on that day.

OK. Now, when you tell players that they can’t talk about each other, doesn’t it stand contrary to the board’s announcements that everything will be transparent?
[Chuckles] What’s the meaning of transparency? I think the question of transparency has gone too far. Transparency doesn’t mean that you should speak only, or give your thoughts to the public. This is a team game, and discipline is a must. If everybody starts talking there will be no end to it. Because cricket is so important to the media, even the smallest thing will be magnified. So its better that people keep to themselves.

But what difference does it make to the BCCI if the media talks?
We are not saying no to interviews. If they talk about themselves, their game, we don’t bother. But if they talk about things related to our policy or our selection committee…I think there should be some constraint.

Is there anything else they can’t talk about?
We’re not gagging them – to use the word you people used. Just selections and board policy. There has to be discipline.

When you look at Australia and England, their players comment on each other and selection. There doesn’t seem to be much of a problem over there. Why do we think that talking about Ganguly will cause indiscipline or a problem?
It doesn’t cause a problem, but it makes somebody else feel bad. I don’t want to compare with them. We have our own rules and regulations. In Australia players do speak, but the board often has to come out with a clarification. So if you give them guidelines at the very beginning it is easier. After all, some things should remain between the board and the players.

Does it surprise you that Harbhajan, Yuvraj and Sehwag have one after another spoken about Ganguly even after the board asked them not to?
We have not told them only about Ganguly. They only talk about Ganguly. It is generally known that they should mind their own business and let the selection committee decide on the issue. After all, they are players. When they become selectors they can talk about these things.

So if you’re a player, you can’t express your opinion about another team member?
No, I don’t think so, because it’s not a good sign. Once you start talking about each other, there is no end to it.

This article was published in Tehelka on May 19, 2006


Salil said...

"We’re not gagging them – to use the word you people used. Just selections and board policy."

So Rahul, just how much do you think Dravid's going to be fined for commenting on the team selection policy of Powar/Harbhajan and their results?

I made some harsh comments about the BCCI on my blog some time ago when Sehwag was censured for his comments on Ganguly; after this interview I don't think I was particularly unfair to them. Shah's last comment is utter nonsense. In fact, all his points seem to have a very 'Board knows best, listen to us' vibe to them. I wonder what it'll take for the BCCI to realise that it's the players who matter and that they aren't the overriding authority in Indian cricket.

Rahul said...

Thanks for writing in, Salil. I asked Niranjan Shah these questions not because I had to, but because I genuinely wanted to know what the board's policy on this was. I have to disagree with you: what the board does with its players is its own business. While the players do matter, it's a fact that the BCCI is the overriding authority in cricket anywhere. My take on this is, let the players say whatever they want. However, I'm not with the BCCI and I don't know how taxing it must be for them to deal with a loose word by a player that changes form by itself while the media bandies it about.

By the way, the captain and coach are free to comment on selection matters.

Keep writing in.

Pratyush said...

Thanks for a top interview.

My issue with the matter is this - if the board is telling the players to not speak on certain issues, it is reducing the selling value of the players. So they are less likely to be demanded by televishion companies, newspapers.

If the board compensates the players financially for such losses, I have no qualms regarding the board wanting the players to shut up on specific issues.

Rahul said...

Thanks Pratyush. I don't think the value of players diminishes if they do not speak about certain issues. It's possible to raise your profile and value on television in several ways. Dhoni is a case in point - he has not needed controversy.

The board doesn't need to compensate players for loss of earnings. Doesn't your work contract mention that you cannot work for anyone else while you work for your current employer?


Pratyush said...

I am afraid I disagree here. The value decreases like this according to me - a player cannot give honest opinions on matters even if he wants - does not necessarily mean controversial comments. A player would be wary of saying any thing strong even if he so desires.

Players would be demanded a lot regardless of whether they are allowed to speak every thing. However, could a newspaper or television company pay more if players spoke their minds? I believe they could though I maybe mistaken.

Regarding the work contract for players - I am unaware but I have seen players write columns and give sound bytes to television companies (Dhoni being the recent case) apart from doing advertisements and so I have thought the players could work apart from being contracted by the BCCI.

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