Columns - Keep the Faith

Dhoni episode exposes BCCI claims on leaks

By G Rajaraman
Saturday, November 22, 2021

It is tough to hazard a guess now on what makes India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni more angry – the selection of Irfan Pathan over RP Singh for two one-day internationals against England in Bangalore and Cuttack or the fact that his differences with the selectors have been leaked to the media?

The truth is known only to eight men -- five selectors, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, coach Gary Kirsten and BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan in his capacity as Convenor of the committee. Ostensibly, one of them has 'leaked' information that the captain was angry that the selectors suggested that RP Singh be dropped and Irfan Pathan included in his place.

Of course, RP Singh bowled a total of nine overs in the first two games against England at Rajkot and Indore and gave away 74 runs while picking a wicket. He made way for Ishant Sharma in the third game and was dropped from the squad when the selectors met after the third game in Kanpur.

Two days later, after a Bengali daily reported that Dhoni wanted to quit as captain when the selectors insisted on making the change, the India captain spoke of how disgusting and disrespectful it was for someone to leak critical information from the meeting. It was easy to visualise a scenario like this because it has happened before.

A number of captains, coaches and selectors – characters in the selection drama, in a manner of speaking – have chosen to tip off their friends in the media. Quite obviously, the media loves such leaks and has a field day, often forgetting that it is often being used to 'plant' stories that suit them. 

I believe that much of the speculation would have been stifled had BCCI let Srikkanth speak for the Selectors and offer some insight into the changes. It is important for the media and the cricket fans – stakeholders of the game, after all – to understand the thinking behind such changes rather than be left to grapple for understanding on their own.

Of course, as Dhoni says – and his predecessors have said before – what is said within the meeting must stay within the mindspace of those attending the meeting. And, of course, it would be easier if the Board were to put out a media release with some quotes from the Chairman of Selectors on key changes made in a squad.

It would have been simple for the BCCI to put out a media release quoting the Chairman of Selectors K Srikkanth on the changes made for the two one-day games. M Vijay was sent back to facilitate Sachin Tendulkar's return while RP Singh was dropped and Irfan Pathan roped in one more time. 

I remember seeking out BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan during the Nagpur Test against Australia and trying to convince him that the Board must adopt a better policy in sharing selection issues with the media. At the end of a selection meeting, the Board Secretary just reads out the names picked for a team. No other information is shared. 

Srinivasan was quite clear – adamant, I dare say – that the BCCI would not change the policy. "One of the things that the Board President Shashank Manohar and I have ensured is that there shall be no leaks from selection meetings," he said. "We do not owe any explanation to the media on why a player has been chosen or left out. It is not our mandate to educate the media."

The episode has exposed the myth that the BCCI can plug leaks. It has only highlighted that the leaks will continue because hungry, competitive media outlets have not been given access to some basic information. In the absence of a joint communication from the group that chose the team for the fourth and fifth games, mediapersons dug for information – and one struck gold.

I hope BCCI will not continue in denial mode and will make the necessary changes to its approach to communicating on key issues with the media. As for the captain, perhaps it is time to simply say: "Welcome to the hotseat, Mr Mahendra Singh Dhoni." It has been quite a comfortable ride so far but the seeds of distrust sown now can make the road ahead a tad bumpy.