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THE BIG BOSS

Vindictive, rude and autocratic

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Susan Ninan provides a first-person account of how she was barred from entering the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association after N Srinivasan disliked a news report run by the Times of India.

My claim to infamy was sudden and abrupt when I was deputed to cover the Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match between Tamil Nadu and Haryana in Chennai in November 2011. Little did I know that the experience would leave me with precious little knowledge of the humble ways of domestic cricket. Instead, I was schooled in the omnipotent powers exercised by its parent body.

Not that I did not notice something was amiss. Times of India never received any communication concerning matches conducted by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA). In other words, we were pariah in the local circuit. Also, the one question that fellow scribes used to throw at me at almost all assignments was, "So, is your daily still an outcaste? When is TOI and TNCA finally going to kiss and make up?" Invariably, peals of laughter would follow.

I was later enlightened by my colleagues that our daily had been barred by the TNCA from the Chepauk press box since June that year, in the wake of a report which dealt with the association letting go of the opportunity to host a Test match against West Indies due to the retreating monsoons in November.

At a time when we struggle to remember our own birthdays, we deduced that the state association would have forgiven, if not forgotten the matter, which was past a shelf life of five months. Nothing had been published since that would further enrage the body. But to assume that the TNCA would forget, we soon realized, was foolish. The TNCA never forgets.

Anyway, to get back to the match. I was in attendance at the stadium well before the first ball was bowled and watched the proceedings from the stands, where there was no semblance of a shade to take refuge from the fierce Chennai sun.

I observed from a distance as fellow journalists debated the beauty of a cover drive from the cool confines of the gallery just above the dressing room. For a moment, I wished I was there. To make that happen, I had to be as discreet as possible.

While my presence went unnoticed that time, I ran out of luck the next day. TNCA media official R Vishwanath had spotted me talking to a fellow journalist as I was leaving the stadium during lunch. He seemed far from pleased. He probably did not expect me to return once the innings resumed.

When I tried to enter the stadium after lunch, one of the guards at the gate shouted at me, "You are from Times of India, right?" I nodded. "Sir has asked us not to allow entry to anyone from your daily. Please leave. "

I felt like a criminal. I refused to budge. "There's little I can do. My job will be in jeopardy if I allow you to enter the stadium. Please cooperate and leave right now and don't come back tomorrow, " Vishwanath told me from the other side of the gate.

I called my editor, briefing him about the turn of events. Earlier in the day our photographer C Suresh Kumar was denied entry for the same offence, that of belonging to India's largest daily. It was decided that we would not toe the line and I was to go back the next day, this time accompanied by Suresh Kumar. The incident was highlighted in the newspaper.

The third day's action had the guards slamming the gates on our face. We were angry and felt humiliated. But the TNCA was not done yet. Joint secretary Dr G Natarajan came up to the gate, fastened it and sized us up as though we were fugitives. He hollered: "Your paper does not follow any policy whatsoever, how can you publish one false story after another so brazenly?"

Incidentally, the day before we had published a report on the lack of clearance for some of the newly-built stands at the stadium. "Your newspaper cannot write trash day after day and get away with it. None of you can step into the stadium, just leave, " he added, turning scarlet.

But we refused to budge, and after another round of arguments with another official, I was allowed to re-enter the spectator stands. Our photographer was disallowed. The match eventually ended in a draw. But by then, the on-field developments had been reduced to a mere subplot.

Not that the powers-that-be could pummel us into submission. We continue to be forthright in our approach, a case in point being a report carried last month on the three newly-built stands at the stadium being sealed by the city corporation.
Even now, I have to contend with gushes of, "Oh! So you were the one who was denied entry into the stadium. " It's almost as though it was a personal failure.

That was my introduction to the myriad ways of the TNCA and the stocky man at its helm

THE BIG BOSS


1

Srinivasan is an avid golfer and was captain of the Kodaikanal Golf Club during 1995-97. Around the same time, he also took over as president of the Tamil Nadu Golf Federation.

2


Srinivasan was the Sheriff of Madras for two terms in 1989 and 1991. Over the last decade and a half, he has been the president of the Cement Manufacturers' Association for five terms from 1991 to 1994 and 2004 to 2006.

3


He was the chairman of the board of governors of the National Council for Cement and Building Materials (NCCBM) for four terms from 1991 to 1993 and 2004 to 2006.

4


Srinivasan was also the chairman of Development Council for Cement Industry (DCCI) constituted by the Government of India for two terms from 1992 to 1996.

5


Srinivasan was also the president of the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) for two years from 1996 to 1998.

6


He was also an active Member of the Prime Minister's high-profile Council of Trade and Industry from 1996 to 2001.

7


Srinivasan was also the President of the All India Chess Federation from 2003 to 2011.

8


A lifetime achievement award was conferred on to him by TIECON in 2009 and a degree of doctor of literature (honoris causa) was conferred on him by the Tamil Nadu Physical Education and Sports University, Chennai, in 2011.

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