IPL: Rohit Sharma’s rant opens up right to privacy debate again

Did the broadcasters actually breach the line for juicy news this season?

Rohit Sharma during an IPL match (photo: @mipaltan/X)
Rohit Sharma during an IPL match (photo: @mipaltan/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The age-old debate over the ‘right to privacy’ has cropped up once again in IPL 2024 with Rohit Sharma, the India captain, accusing Star Sports of recording his private conversation on the sidelines and airing it despite his request not to do so. The official broadcasters gave a quick rebuttal to Rohit’s allegations on Monday, 20 May - denying any such charges except showing him appealing not to record any such conversation.

In a strongly worded statement in his X handle, the former Mumbai Indians captain voiced a concern that broadcast of such private conversations between players could lead to a breakdown of trust between ‘fans, cricketers and cricket.’ No wonder, the troll army has also swung into action in laying the blame on the door of the official broadcasters – while Rohit’s reputation as an easygoing, media-friendly person has also added fuel to the fire.

It may be worthwhile to examine Rohit’s statement in light of two of the recent flare-ups on live TV during the ongoing league. The first one was earlier this month and had nothing to do with him when soon after Lucknow Super Giants were routed by Sunrisers Hyderabad, the LSG owner and industrial tycoon Sanjeev Goenka was caught on camera having an animated discussion with his captain KL Rahul and head coach Justin Langer.

Now it was too juicy a footage for Jio Cinema, the digital rights partners, to ignore and their TV pundits added fuel to the fire when they pointed out that such discussions would ideally take place behind closed doors. Langer later played down the incident as a robust discussion as one would expect after any defeat in an interview and found it more akin to a ‘storm in an espresso cup.’

In Rohit’s case, the video clip which kicked up a storm was not actually from their last match on 16 May as referred but from the pre-match day between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens. During an informal chat with Abhishek Nayar, the assistant coach of KKR and a longtime friend and erstwhile colleague of Rohit, the latter was audible in Hindi that things were changing in the franchise – which to whom was like a temple as he had built it and it would be his ‘last year.’

The video clip soon went viral and the KKR social media team had reportedly uploaded it on their handle before quickly removing it. Speculations went rife about Rohit’s future with the franchise whom he had led to five IPL titles – though one can certainly question the wisdom of such a loose conversation on the part of such an experienced campaigner within audible limits of a TV crew and camera.

Once the dust settles down, it’s worthwhile to ponder if it was an afterthought on the part of Rohit to lay the blame on the broadcasters’ doorstep. They are one of the biggest benefactors of the league and also have access to pre-match days while the franchises hold the rights for shooting inside dressing rooms or hotels where private celebrations like birthdays of players and their travelling families take place.

 In retrospect, one can say that the sports media in India is not anywhere as ‘intrusive’ as some of the countries in the West and is unlikely to offend the big guns. The question then remains: who draws the line for them?   

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