While surprises that make for good stories may remain, from a cricket writer's point of view the fun and drama seems to have gone out of the Indian team selection these days.
On Sunday afternoon, when Sandeep Patil and Co moved away from their vantage seats in the Wankhede Stadium
to the BCCI's offices located behind in the administrative section, a sense of high anticipation gripped the media - and I dare say the entire cricketing fraternity.
Suspense built up to fever pitch as this meeting went on well beyond an hour. This has been a season of turmoil for Indian cricket, what with the loss of the Test series against England. Everybody knows that the team is in transition, but how was the (fairly) new selection committee going to address the matter?
Would Viru Sehwag retain his place despite his poor recent form? Would the 'Delhi jodi' of Viru and Gautam Gambhir be split? Can an ageing, but hugely in form Jaffer win back favour? Who would form India's bowling attack? And, though it seemed a cinch after the ODI victory against England, would MS Dhoni still be captain?
By now, of course, all these questions (and more) have been answered. But the process has become all too prosaic. The practice nowadays is for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to send a press release about the team chosen, which kind of stymies the essential task of a journalist.
Who am I, what am I - to borrow from Descartes - if I am not to grill the selectors of the whys, hows and wherefores of the thought process of selectors? Alas, cricket writers today have been left to stew in their own existential dilemma-cum-angst. As the sport has grown, it has also grown more impersonal.
Of course, if you are very well-connected, you might get some inside info -- and supplement the rest with speculation. If you hit the bulls-eye great, otherwise there is always another try because there is such a deluge of disinformation that it inevitably drowns out the need for veracity.
In the old days, cricket writers would wait impatiently for the team to be announced. Mumbai for several reasons has been the venue for this, not the least because the Ranji Trophy has been won 40 times. Inevitably, this would be in Sobo. where the BCCI's offices (CCI before Wankhede) and the five-star hotels where players and official stay are located.
Grilling selectors - or some BCCI high-ups - was not just mandatory, but was almost always an unforgettable experience. Not just to understand how wheels within wheels move to get the story behind the story, but also because selectors and administrators (like the secretary who is a participant in the selection meeting) can be colourful character too.
I particularly recall one meeting where the captain was to be announced. A journalist who happened to be a close friend of the then BCCI secretary tried his best to scoop the rest. But the latter wouldn't relent even as he went in and out of the meeting to the washroom.
Finally, the journalist accosted the secretary in the hotel loo and told him not to utter a word since he was sworn to secrecy by the BCCI, but could he let him know the name of the captain through a sign.
The secretary used his index and middle finger to make the sign V and walked off. He had lived up to his promise of not speaking a word, but the journalist had understood the name and had got his story.
Who was the BCCI secretary and which captain did he refer too? Go figure!
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