The disembodied Voice that woke me up at 6:30 am recently was suitably mournful. “The BCCI is not speaking to us,” the Voice stated. “Whaa!?” I mumbled. “The Indian cricket board,” the Voice, terribly awake, repeated in that tone of portending doom, “will no longer speak to us”.
The image of a walk along a Caribbean beach rudely thrust aside, I managed to gather that the Voice belonged to a young colleague who had waited for a godly hour to tell me that the Indian board had decided that a series we were running was taking too many potshots at them and that wouldn’t do.
He was terribly agitated. The sanctity of that most august of bodies, “in their eyes”, had been “besmirched” and “they were not understanding that the series was an honest attempt to look at Indian cricket”.
“After all,” one of those faceless officials had informed him, “the BCCI was a private body and it is up to us how we run it. Whether we choose to have a coach or let him get away, if we choose to be unprofessionally run, whether we assure ourselves of state associations’ votes by appointing their officials managers for tours by rotation, whether our selectors choose their friends’ sons for A tours, whether we choose to sell our television rights to companies that show only four-ball overs, that is our business, not your bloody problem,” he had thundered.
Okay, that’s not quite true. The official in question wanted to say all this, but had held himself in check with difficulty and instead muttered, “We are hurt by all that you have written and we will not speak to you officially.”
“Was that a promise?” I asked excitedly, visions of us writing story after sensational story as we wanted floating in my head, every story ending with the legend, “We regret to inform you that as the BCCI is not speaking to us, we cannot give you their version of events.”
“Er! I’m not sure,” said my colleague, unsure now of what tone to take. “Could you ask someone?” The hour was still early but as most of the Board officials are the devout, God-fearing types, I decided they would be up and about by then. So, with my excitement in check, I called up a top official, who promised to call me back after his puja. He did.
And after 10 minutes of the usual chit-chat on how the players were to blame for all the Board’s ills, I asked him why he was not speaking to us. There was a brief, telling pause. “But I am talking to you.” “I know, I know,” I replied, “but you’re not supposed to.”
“I’m not?” he asked, puzzled. “Why?” “Well, the Board is hurt by what we’ve written and so you won’t speak to us from now,” I informed him. “Whose decision was this,” he asked in quelling accents, “and why wasn’t I consulted?” I told him I’d try and find out and get back to him and called another talking head.
After 10 minutes of his trying to find out whether our series had been a “hatchet job by the Mumbai lobby” and my indignant nays, I asked him the same question. And got much the same cautious answer, “Can you find out who gave the order exactly and then I will tell you?”
By now, upset, I said I had had enough. It wasn’t even 8am and upset, I wanted to get back to sleep. The excitement was all for nothing. It was just another day in Indian cricket.