Freedom of speech might be a constitutional guarantee, but the Board of Control for Cricket in India thinks otherwise. For long, it has warned its contracted players about not talking to the media before — a contractual obligation — during the series or a month before or after it, and most recently Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara were cautioned for their interviews.
Reportedly, BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel had a word with the duo after their interviews were published this week. “The two players have been cautioned not to speak to the media immediately after the tour. They were cautioned not to speak to the media immediately after the tour,” a reliable BCCI source said.
In fact, the players have to seek the secretary’s permission to speak to the media, a top BCCI official informed The New Indian Express. “That’s very clearly stated in the contract,” he emphasized.
However, the BCCI’s reaction has evoked flak from several former players. "I don't know what exactly has happened and the reason behind such a gag order. I presume the Board is taking some measures in such bad times for cricket. The sport has earned a lot of disrepute over the last few months with spot-fixing and now doping! Maybe, it's one way of a preventive measure by the Board," former India Test batsman Chandu Borde remarked.
But not all toe his line. Like for instance, former India opener WV Raman, reckons the gag clause will only benefit players. “There are certain norms and those have to be followed. It has been there for a long time and it’s good for the players, too. India is huge country, and if everyone starts making a statement on their own, there were will be chaos. It will put more pressure on the players. It’s for their (players) good that the BCCI has included the clause in the contract,” Raman explained to the Express.
The point of deliberation here is whether one-month is too long a tenure. Former opening batsman Aakash Chopra reckons the players have the responsibility to abide by whatever is stipulated in the contract.
“If it’s the part of the contract, it should be followed. There are also many other things in the contract and you can’t let pick and choose whatever you want. The board after all pays you and there are so many other benefits when you sign the contract. So naturally once you sign it, you have to stick whatever that are stated in the contract. If you don’t like, then not sign it,” Chopra told the Express.
But with a frenetic calendar, players hardly get a month’s space between the series.
“There is so much of cricket being played these days that they will never be able to speak at all if they abide by the one-month period under the contractual terms. It's fine if it is sensitive issue or a controversial matter. But the players should at least be allowed to speak about their own game," opined a former player.
However, other boards are more relaxed about players’ interactions with the media. Though only a designated player can speak to media on the match day, they do oblige interview requests on non-match days.