The Taj Palace was a war zone for the valiant media corps on Monday — grim, nervous mediapersons, suspecting newsbreaks by rivals, stalked the lobby, their eyes peeled, their ears perked.
The charge, of course, was led by photographers and TV cameramen; the arrival of each Working Committee member was greeted by a roar, a scrum and a chase. Soundbites were sought, photographs shot at point blank range. In the limelight, flashbulbs going off a foot away from their eyes, the luminaries soaked in the attention.
After the officials landed, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri arrived together around 3.25, five minutes before the Working Committee meeting was to start. The two threw a word of greeting and friendly scorn at the methods the "big guns" of the media employ, and went in, reporters dogging their heels.
Minutes passed, there were roars from outside the hall where the meeting was taking place. Each time the door opened and someone went towards the men's room, journalists milled around, discussing what 'sources' had revealed, exclusively, seconds ago. India football coach Bob Houghton, who has a room at the hotel, was recognised and chased too - and a possible link with the Working Committee meeting was discussed. Houghton insisted he was an innocent bystander and was allowed to pass, unmolested.
Gavaskar and Shastri stayed for 35 minutes or so, and their exit led to another scramble, about 80 people chasing them from the hotel. As the two former captains waited for their car, it seemed like another scrum was on the cards but the duo parried off hurled questions without effort. Experience helps.
Even as they waited, Indian skipper Rahul Dravid arrived. He called out to Shastri, gestured that he would call him… Spotting Dravid, most reporters then ran to him, prompting Shastri to jokingly cajole journalists around him to join in the sprint…
News filtered out that 72-year-old Chandu Borde was being mooted as the next cricket manager. Within seconds, this breaking news was being flashed (everyone obviously got it "first") on TV screens.
Back, below stairs, the Board meeting continued, as did the wait. Each time the door opened, people shouted to the conferring wise men inside. Raj Singh Dungarpur came out and, rather unadvisedly, held an impromptu, noisy conference there and then, admitting, in his inimitable style, that the Board had been "embarrassed" by the Graham Ford fiasco.
The press conferences that followed resembled a riot, as usual. N Srinivasan and Rajiv Shukla briefed media about the decisions of the Working Committee, and Vengsarkar and Niranjan Shah announced the teams. The fight for the bite was over.