Boxing Federation does well to keep media informed

Vikas Krishan (Photo courtesy: Indian Amateur Boxing Federation)

The sepia tint is strong but it does not take much for the image of an up and coming cricketer riding a bicycle to a newspaper office in Secunderabad to give the sports editors a copy of his photograph for use in the next morning’s edition comes through the sub-conscious. The montage that is playing on my mind is from the 70s when scoring a century or taking five wickets in the Hyderabad cricket league could enhance the chances of one’s photograph appearing in the newspaper.

This scene kept replaying in my mind’s eye when four Indian boxers – L Devendro Singh, Manoj Kumar, Jai Bhagwan and Vikas Krishan – won their pre-quarterfinals bouts in the AIBA World Championship in Baku, Azebaijan. And from the comfort of my home in Delhi, I got to hear Devendro and Manoj Kumar share their joy with boxing fans in India. This was thanks to the efforts of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation in sending journalists an audio file.Vikas_audio

Yet, on the day when four Indians boxers made it to the quarterfinals of the World Championship, there was no visual or sound byte available to vast sections of the media of Ronjan Sodhi battling hard to retain the double trap gold medal at the World Cup finals in Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates with a victory of China’s Hu Binyuan in a dramatic shoot-off. Only the enterprising reporters got through to Sodhi and managed to get some quotes from him.

Similarly, there was so little footage available of the Indian hockey team winning the Asian Champions Trophy at Ordos in China last month. How can PR Sreejesh, who emerged hero with two saves in the tie-breaker in the final against Pakistan, ever be built up as a hero? How can goal-scorers like Rupinder Pal Singh or Gurvinder Singh Chandi or Danish Mujtaba become household names if we do not get to see them perform in our drawing rooms?

Even less information was available to the popular media when 19-year-old archer Deepika Kumari claimed individual recurve silver in the World Cup Finals in Istanbul in September. She lost gold in a single arrow shoot off with China’s Ming Cheng after tying 26-26 in the final. It would have been wonderful if we got to watch Deepika perform and then hear her articulate thoughts about the stress, going into the shoot-off.

It will be an understatement to say that the amount of time Indian sportspersons get on TV pales in comparison with the likes of say Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button – just to name a few stars who hog TV time when cricketers are not the flavour of the month.

Sadly, with most of the print media also devoting enormous amounts of space to sport that is beamed live to millions of households in the country, the achievement of Indian sportspersons – however sporadic – does not get its due. If that is the bitter truth for international achievers, you can imagine how much time and space those occupying the lower rungs of the ladder would be getting in the national media.

Of course, there are exceptions. Yuvraj Valmiki, the young forward from a shanty in Marine Line in Mumbai, was granted his 15 seconds of fame when the Government of Maharashtra decided to award him Rs 10 lakh for scoring a goal in the Asian Champions Trophy final against Pakistan. Forget sociological stories about their backgrounds, we hardly get to see our champions perform on TV. Therefore there is a dearth of reportage in the print media as well.

I remember being with former India captain Jagbir Singh in the Delhi studios of DD Sports and analysing India’s games in the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament at Ipoh in Malaysia. We had no footage to fall back upon and we had to base our opinions on either tracking the games on the net or calls to colleagues watching the tournament.

Therefore, it was heartwarming to see the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation send not only the usual press releases but also audio bytes from boxers and coaches once the quarterfinal stage was reached. We could hear Devendro Singh and Manoj Kumar express their happiness at qualifying for the Olympic Games in London. A day later, we could hear 19-year-old Vikas Krishan analyse his quarterfinal victory Belous Vasili of Moldova and the coaches BI Fernandes and Pal Singh Sandhu speak about India’s best showing in a world championships.

This was a very smart initiative and has ensured that the result of the boxers and their coaches’ hard work has been adequately reported. There is a lesson that other National Sports Federations can take from the initiative of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation. If their officials spend so much as even a bare moment reflecting on what the boxing officials did to provide the media information, they will realise that they can replicate the effort for their own athletes.

Clearly, the National Sports Federations – and their affiliates at the State and lower levels – have their task cut out. They must ensure that the performances of their stars are shared with the print and electronic media. Importantly, in doing this, the mandarins must ensure that they stay in the background and let the athletes take centrestage. They must pay a lot more attention to providing information and access to the sportspersons.

It does not take much – except an awareness of the modern media’s demands and a positive attitude – to ensure that each Indian team that travels overseas has a media officer whose primary task should be to provide as much information and as quickly as possible so that the media in India is given the chance to report on the performances of our athletes in greater detail than is being done now.

Come to think of it, keeping the media fed with optimum information is not really a new idea. I remember a time in Hyderabad when cricketers would scored hundreds or take five wickets in the local league games and then cycle to the local newspaper officers to give the sports desk a copy of their latest photographs. With internet spreading wide, email has replaced the good old bicycle.

(This piece was written for Dainik Bhaskar)

About Rajaraman 453 Articles
Born on March 10, 1961 in Hyderabad, I wanted to be an electronics engineer but my focus on cricket and basketball at school and junior college meant that I missed qualifying from the entrance examination. I led the School and Junior College basketball teams. I then decided he would be sports a journalist like my father, Mr N Ganesan. While I graduated in commerce from the Badruka College of Arts and Commerce, I also spent more time in sports, representing Andhra Pradesh in the National Basketball Championship in 1980 and Osmania University in 1981-82. I joined the 1981-82 batch of Osmania Univeristy's Bachelor in Communication and Journalism. I missed the gold medal by 0.6 per cent and was pursuing the Masters' degree when The Hindu offered me a job as Sub-Editor in Madras. I took up The Hindu assignment on March 17, 1983. Though my job entailed editing functions only, I got to cover the annual Sholavaram motor racing grands prix in 1985 and 1986 and the Himalayan Rally in 1985 when my photographs also found expression in The Sportstar. I left The Hindu in November 1986 to join Press Trust of India as Sports Reporter in Hyderabad. I was called to New Delhi to report on the World Table Tennis Championship in March 1987. I covered a variety of events, including the SAF Games in Calcutta in 1987 and Islamabad in 1989. I ventured to Delhi in July 1992 when I joined The Pioneer as a Senior Reporter/Sub-Editor (Sports). My cricket writing skills came to the fore when I was deputed to write on India's tour of Sri Lanka in July-August 1993. I was rewarded with a promotion as Deputy Sports Editor in 1995. The departure of the Sports Editor in January 1996 saw me hold charge. A good performance during the 1996 World Cup cricket and the Olympic Games in Atlanta - when The Pioneer brought out a four-page supplement every day saw me being confirmed as Sports Editor in August 1996. The Hindustan Times, Delhi's largest newspaper, appointed me as Associate Editor (Sports) in January 1997. I conceived and launched a weekly colour supplement, Sport during the World Cup football finals in 1998. I covered the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok and the 1999 World Cup cricket in England. I left the Hindustan Times on February 23, 2000 to take up position as Editor, www.cricketnext.com on February 26 and can claim with pride that I played no mean role in building a good site that is rated among the best cricket news sites. Besides, a number of TV channels – NDTV, Star News, Doordarshan, CNBC, Zee News – and radio stations like BBC, SABC and ABC have invite me to in-studio discussions on cricket. In 2001, I authored a book, Match-fixing: The Enemy Within (Har Anand Publications). I joined www.espnstar.com as Senior Editor in June 2001 and worked for two years, helping it transform from a corporate website to a respected sports site and playing a role in driving the hugely popular online fantasy cricket game, Super Selector. I left the website to pursue life as a freelance writer and consultant, editing the Afro-Asian Games Observer in Hyderabad in October-November 2003 and helping the Board of Control for Cricket in India's Communication Committee. I joined the respected weekly magazine Outlook as Senior Special Correspondent in April 2005 and worked there till September 2007, with a story highlighting Sunil Gavaskar's minimal contribution to Indian cricket after his retirement being one of the best in my career. For a year, till Sept 30, 2008, I was Sports Editor, Samay, Sahara India's National news channel. I live in New Delhi with my wife Sudha and daughter Priya and after a short stint with www.iplt20.com and www.t20.com, I am now consultant with the Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi (28° 40' 0 N, 77° 13' 0 E) lending my shoulder to the wheel that will make India a hugely popular sports destination.