India news May 28, 2013

Dhoni protected from tough questions

On the eve of the Indian team's departure to England for the Champions Trophy - their first assignment after a controversial IPL - MS Dhoni was barred by the BCCI-appointed media manager, RN Baba, from answering any question related to the alleged corruption issues in the league.

Each time a question about the controversy was put forth during the 14-minute interaction, Baba intervened. It appeared as though Baba, who is from the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, was under strict instructions to not let the captain respond to any query that was remotely concerned with the controversy.

Before the start of the press conference, Baba had announced that the interaction was "strictly pertaining to Champions Trophy and no other questions will be answered". But considering the number of arrests that have been made in the last couple of weeks, including those of four first-class cricketers, the questions had to be asked.

Four times Dhoni was asked to share his views on the alleged corruption issue. 'What do you have to say about spot-fixing? Has there been an impact on players going into the Champions Trophy?' 'As the leader of the Indian cricket fraternity, why isn't that we've not heard from you so far?' 'Can you guarantee Indian cricket fans that during the Champions Trophy, there will be no mischief on the field?' 'Do you know Vindoo Dara Singh personally?'

Baba waited for each question to be completed before fending it off by saying, "next question, please." Almost on every occasion, Dhoni's face turned blank. Only once did he react with his trademark grin.

This was in stark contrast to a usual Dhoni press conference that often ends up as a light-hearted interaction. But considering that Indian cricket is going through one of its most tumultuous phases that's resulted in arrests of players, bookies, film actors and the BCCI president's son-in-law, everyone who had congregated at a five-star hotel next to Mumbai's international airport knew this was not going to be the usual freewheeling chat.

Dhoni had evaded questions during the last week of the IPL at least three times, even skipping what used be a mandatory pre-match press conference for captains on the eve of the final. However, with the Indian team set to depart for England for participating in the last edition of the Champions Trophy, he had to face the media on Tuesday evening.

Finally, a seasoned journalist diplomatically asked Dhoni whether the team would enter the Champions Trophy with an extra sense of responsibility - the last question of the interaction.

"As cricketers, we always have that extra sense of responsibility with us," Dhoni said. "It is our job to bring people into the arena and to encourage the youngsters who aspire to take up (cricket) as a livelihood and as professional cricketers. There is a responsibility on us and hopefully we can fulfill it to our potential."

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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