I cut my teeth in journalism two decades ago with an unlikely beat called BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India). I call it unlikely because in those days BCCI had just become a full-fledged beat with PILCOM coming into the picture — Jagmohan Dalmiya and IS Bindra beginning to dictate World Cricket. Along the way have seen rise and fall of several presidents and other cricket administrators, including the great Maharaja of Bengal.
I have forever been a fan of Agatha Christie, the way she scripted drama and intrigue. BCCI for me has been a live demonstration of thrillers. There is every element, twists and turns in the plot-lines, except murder.
And so, after years and a brief Covid break, I was back on the beat to follow the rise of Roger Binny to BCCI president. Binny, a 1983 World Cup winner is a massive icon. Currently the only man on the BCCI panel without a political affiliation. The others include Jay Shah, the son of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the Secretary of the Board, who was re-inducted for a second term. Ashish Shelar the new Treasurer, who is the West Bandra BJP MLA; Rajeev Shukla, the Congressman and eternal survivor, the Vice President; Devajit Saikia the Joint Secretary is a childhood friend of Himanta Biswa Sarma, the Assam CM.
Oh, and there is Arun Dhumal too to complete the fab five of BCCI. He is the brother of Anurag Thakur, a former BCCI president himself and also the current Sports minister.
I love covering the BCCI and witnessing their power play. Across party lines they play the sport called Boardroom Cricket.
For me the unreported headline of the week is Mr N Srinivasan complaining of Mr Sourav Ganguly‘s conflicts of interest. (Those who enjoy the comedy and BCCI stories will know why this is a headline).
India has been doing well in sports, not just cricket, and of course there is a new wave of enthusiasm in both men’s and women’s sports. No one can deny that. No one can also deny that covering BCCI and other sports bodies have got increasingly tougher for journalists.
Till the last Board AGM that I covered a few years back, there used to be a press conference, a briefing about ‘new BCCI’. Sharad Pawar did it, Srinivasan did it, Ganguly did it. And when no one spoke, we had Shukla ji regale the press crop with on and off the record conversations.
Today, he was subdued in the presence of a younger Jay Shah. Binny hardly spoke expect of his visions about ‘injury management’ and ‘having lively pitches’.
Mr Secretary kept his phone away and insisted on a ‘no phone, no camera’ press conference. He ensured everyone in the room kept their phones away on a tray and we had enough time to talk, enough ink and paper to carefully write down every spoken word.
I love covering BCCI because of the challenges it throws up. As a broadcast journalist, an on paper, off the record conversation doesn’t translate to much.
BCCI has given me unique challenges and taught me journalism in many different ways. Back in the days I used to complain about unfair advantage all my men colleagues took by rushing to the men’s room with Jagmohan Dalmiya, only to come to with some fresh news.
Today, there is a secretary who forces me to go back to short hand.
With every regime a new challenge will crop up and I hope I can keep renewing my love for covering the BCCI every-time.
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