Ravi Shastri

As Ravi Shastri admitted during his speech at the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture, the BCCI needs a good PR arm to deal with its communication  (Photo courtesy: Sudatta Mukherjee)

With its credibility taking a hit due to controversies and its poor communication with media, BCCI is most likely to depend on those who can endorse it much more articulately. Abhijit Banare explains.

Public lectures by eminent personalities are a great source of initiating discussions. Politicians, of course, thrive on it. In cricket, it is an opportunity to discuss the game, its legacy and the issues surrounding it. At the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Lecture, Ravi Shastri was given a platform to speak in the presence of other former Indian cricketers and senior journalists. While introducing Shastri, his co-commentator Harsha Bhogle pinned hope upon his colleague as the ideal man to discuss ‘India’s success on the field and the turbulent phase off it.’ Shastri’s terse reply after taking the mic did stir some faint discussions. The speaker chose to completely disagree with Bhogle about a turbulent phase for India.

“I don’t buy that. I don’t believe there’s anything turbulent. It’s just a mindset.”

The opinions presented by Shastri are best left for the reader to decide whether it was an endorsement or just a personal one. But the defence he presented for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) does help the latter since it hardly focuses on communicating on a public platform, or even to the media. Below are some of the points mentioned by Shastri in the lecture and why it is important for the BCCI:

Shastri first addressed the importance that BCCI has brought to Indian cricket. According to the speaker, a youngster owes it to the establishment for being given a chance to play at the international level. Theoretically, it sounds right but Bishan Singh Bedi made a better comment later in the day which not many would disagree. Bedi said that the board isn’t doing a favour by allowing a talented youngster to play for the country.

Second, extending the discussion over the BCCI, Shastri further drove the point that N Srinivasan is a terrific administrator and there was no reason for him to quit. “If I was in his place, there was no way I would have resigned,” he said. With the incumbent BCCI chief receiving constant brickbats, he would have not minded some compliments showered by the speaker.

Finally, he chose a topic which has been the centre of attraction recently — the Decision Review System (DRS). “India should stand vindicated.” Shastri was very articulate in explaining that the technology is far from even 98 per cent, let alone being 100 per cent accurate. He emphasised on how it affects the confidence of the umpires and the need for it to be taken out of the player’s hands.

Looking at the above points, any of the members in the board could have addressed a meet and raised the above topics. But it wouldn’t have come across as articulate, confident and convincing as it did from Mr Shastri’s mouth. The board can only thank the speaker for giving a voice to its opinions.

Moreover, the controversies and the “arm-twisting” by the board have reflected poorly in the way it has been presented by the media. As a result, it becomes difficult for someone like an N Srinivasan or a Rajeev Shukla to be taken as seriously as former cricketers who are active on a public platform.

As far as the communication is concerned, a lot is left to be desired. The arrogance with which the board deals with controversies is there for everyone to see. The lack of clarity and ability to defend itself further leads to being subjected to scrutiny by the media. During the entire spot-fixing controversy, it was difficult to elicit any matured response from the board and neither was it interested in being frank about it. The alleged involvement of owners further complicated the mess.

As Shastri admitted during his lecture, the BCCI does need a good PR arm to deal with its communication. One can just hope that whenever it comes, it is for a clear communication rather than adopting spin-doctor techniques to arm-twist the media.

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)