When fans switch on their television sets during the limited overs series between Australia and India, they will only get to hear the slanted opinion of experts, who will include some big names in the game.
For the Board of Control for Cricket in India, it’s not been about choosing the best names for the commentator’s job. The diktat of the Board, which rarely tolerates criticism, is clear: “Those who agree to the terms of the Board will get the job.”
According to it, commentators must not criticise the India team selection, its opposition of the Decision Review System or speak on the Board’s administrative matters. Given the emoluments, few would refuse to toe the line.
But straight-talking Ian Chappell, the former Australia captain, has proved an exception. In an era of BCCI’s ‘paid commentary’ policy, listening to Chappell providing insight into the game would have been a welcome relief. However, fans will not be able to hear the man, who refused to accept BCCI’s strict dos and don’ts for the commentators.
Chappell, who once didn’t even hesitate to take on Don Bradman when the latter was the Australia board chief, declined the offer from host broadcaster ESPN for commentating in the series, refusing to accept BCCI’s terms and conditions.
“I was invited by ESPN to do commentary. I emailed back asking who I was working for and the reply was; I was contracted by ESPN but I would be subject to BCCI restrictions,” Chappell told HT in an e-mail interaction.
“I emailed back to ask what these restrictions were and was told; ‘I couldn’t talk about Indian selection, DRS or administrative matters. I responded saying I didn’t feel I could do my job properly under those circumstances and therefore declined the offer.
Although Mathew Hayden is said to have replaced him, Chappell said he was unaware of that.
“I’m not sure what happened with other commentators. It wasn’t a matter of being asked to sign anything - it never reached that stage,” he concluded.
Generally, there’s a policy among all TV networks not to be too harsh on issues that will harm their brand, but the Indian board’s policy is strict to the extent of embarrassing itself.
The biggest example came when the Indian Premier League spot-fixing scandal broke.
The day the controversy surfaced, fans watched in disgust as the commentators refused to utter a word on the issue on the official channel.
Australia will play seven ODIs and a T20 in India. The tour starts with a one-off T20 tie in Rajkot on October 10, followed by the ODIs.