The BCCI today played down the warning it had issued to Virender Sehwag, explaining that it was more of an `advice' rather than a `warning'. The board was responding to widespread criticism that it was trying to gag the players.
"It is a warning. Advice is part of the warning", Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, told PTI. "How can you call it a media gag on players? It is only a policy decision by the board that the players other than the captain, cannot talk about other players, selection and board policies. The matter is closed."
Sehwag, in a recent interview to PTI, had said that the team often missed Sourav Ganguly's presence in the side, even as he conceded that it is the prerogative of the board and the selectors to decide on the former captain's future. On the topic of player burn-out, Sehwag stated that the matter had been raised by Rahul Dravid, the Indian captain, with Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, during the tour of Pakistan earlier this year.
Sehwag had telephoned Shah seeking permission to take his wife along on the upcoming tour to the West Indies, which was granted. Shah then advised Sehwag to refrain from speaking to the media regarding board policies and selection issues and instead communicate directly with the board without hesitation.
He said, "If he (Sehwag) had some problem he and the other players need only to sit across the table with us and sort it out. Why go to the media? Why drag Dravid's name and say they had a discussion with the board president? These are internal matters.
"Does he go to the media when he wants an increase in TA/DA or players' fees?" he asked.
The BCCI has been firm on its instructions to Indian players on speaking on sensitive topics, which began during the Ganguly-Greg Chappell spat last September. Harbhajan Singh was the first player to voice his opinion on the issue, speaking out in support of Ganguly, following which the board took swift action. The board also imposed restrictions on the players regarding writing columns for newspapers and other publications - only the captain, coach and manager have permission to do so.
Referring to the player burn-out issue, Shah explained that India was in no way violating the ICC's new Future Tours Programme. "Playing against India at home or here means big money for the other cricket boards", he said. "That's the naked truth and we need to help them."