Image Mismanagement Question: What separates the BCCI headed by Jagmohan Dalmiya and the BCCI headed by Sharad Pawar? Answer: A Nike T-shirt.
Well, forgive the cynicism, but how can you ignore the headlines? Or the whispers. Everyone and his cat believes the BCCI's new rulers sent instructions to reinstate Sourav Ganguly in the team to Pakistan and then include him in the XI for the Lahore Test. The BCCI's top brass denies this vehemently. Whether this alleged interference is a precedent, an exception or a master move that has escaped more feeble minds, does not matter. If true, what this is, first up, is a cynical and alarming use of official muscle.
On the first day of the Lahore Test, Ten Sports received a call asking them to stop airing the footage of the Chappell-Dravid-Ganguly love triangle seen earlier that morning. Of course, we all know that Rahul Dravid, Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly were arguing over which flavour of icecream they wanted for lunch, (Nutty Buddy, anyone?). It is only that journalists have such dirty minds, why give them anything that could be misconstrued as dirt? In other words, the next time anyone feels an ice cream debate coming on, please get a room.
It is a bit disorienting as all this comes from the sharp-suited tradesmen of transparency, that is, the new BCCI that promised to deliver us from the Evil Empire of Kolkata. The same new regime is now enforcing a clause in their player contracts which bans cricketers from writing columns or doing TV capsules. How the players agreed to such a clause is as baffling as its emphatic enforcement by a supposedly marketing-savvy BCCI. The only way it could possibly make sense is if the BCCI can prevent India's rivals from talking trash about our players in our vast media market. In a free economy-and hell, a free country-that's not going to happen so we will just continue to suffer Shoaib Akhtar mouthing off at India's batsmen and Nasser Hussain continuing to talk down to Indian cricket.
Marketing a sport is about more than sticking logos on uniforms or selling TV rights or treating players like advertising hoardings. Marketing is showing and using your resources off to best effect. For the Indian team, those resources include the non-cricketing qualities of its players: Dravid's intelligence, Anil Kumble's deadpan humour, Virender Sehwag's "fundey" and Harbhajan Singh's irreverence. And, with respect, the cricketers, on or off the field, make for darn sight more interesting viewing than BCCI's officials. No offence, gentlemen.