Integrated Basketball Players Association (IBPA), a unique association of Indian Basketball players, along with Indian Basketball Fans organized the 5th Basketball E-Conclave to discuss ‘Media’s role in promoting Basketball in India.’ The conclave was dedicated to Olympian and Arjuna Awardee Late Radhey Shyam. The Panelist for this session were Paul Crane, Sports Broadcaster from USA, Ridhima Pathak, sports presenter, Sandeep Marwah, President of Asian Academy of Film & Television, Neeti Rawat, Sports presenter and first NBA Hindi commentator, Raman Bhanot, Broadcaster and TV Host, Aparna Rajkumar Senior Sports Broadcaster & Voice Of 3BL, Ashish Bhardwaj, sports presenter and Karan Madhok, former BFI PR manager and social media promoter.
Olympian basketball player Amarnath Nagarajan made the opening remarks as he paid tribute to his teammate Late Radhe Shyam. Amarnath who played alongside Radhe Shyam in the at the 1980 olympics recalled “I had a good friendship with Radhe Shyam. In those days we used to call him Radhe Bhaiya affectionately.” Talking about his memories form the Olympics the former India captain said, “Radhe was the star of the team. He along with Ajmer Singh was the chielf architect of our game play. They were responsible for the maximum points that we scored against the toughest teams in the Olympics.”
Amarnath also told an interesting fact about Radhe Shayam as he mentioned, “Radhe Shayam is the only Indian basketball player who successfully scored through a dunk shot at the Olympics.” Amarnath’s remarks were followed by another Arjuna Awardee and teammate of Radhe Shyam Ajmer Singh who said, “Radhe Shyam was a complete player. He was very humble and down to earth. He was my senior when I started playing but very soon we became teammates and good friends. His unique approach towards the game was what attracted me towards him.” Ajmer concluded “I was fortunate to have known Radhe Shayam as an opponent, as a teammate and as a friend.”
After paying the tribute to Late Radhe Shyam the conclave deflects attention to the main discussion on ‘Media’s role in promoting basketball in India’. The panelists were introduced by Jayshankar Menon, Asian ALL star Basketball Player, J Balakrishnan, former India player and Lakshmi Kant Tiwari, founder Indian Basketball fans. Paul Crane making his opening statement said “India holds a special place in his heart. The 3 years time during my eight trips that I made to India was the most cherished memory of my life.”
“India has great pool of talent and good support and nurturing can help India become a big player at the world stage.” Paul added. Answering about how someone can become a good commentator and anchor Paul said, “Becoming a great anchor it takes a lot of preparations. One needs to have good statistical knowledge as anything can happen during live coverage. So, anchors have to be well prepared to engage the crowd.To become a good commentator it needs the similar preparation as it takes to be an anchor but a lot of effort has to be put in to make sure that one pronounces the name of players correctly.”
Ridhima in her opening remarks said. “For her stage was her calling. It was her passion that made her a sports presenter.” Neeti Rawat who is volleyball player and multisport commentator said, “I am very proud to be the first female Hindi commentator for NBA.” Further talking on the topic she said, “Media plays an important role in promoting any sports and for the last few years I will say there has been major improvement in multi sports coverage.”
Aparna Rajkumar, who is a DD sports and Star Sports presenter, remembered, “Back when we played in the national championships there was hardly any media coverage but today things have changed. Especially with Social media we can always have eyeballs directed towards the sport.” “However, still money needs to be pumped in to get better media coverage.” Aprna added.
Raman Bhanot joined in the discussion and said, “it has been more than two decades since I Have been presenting sports and in the initial years every media house that covered sports kept cricket as the benchmark in terms of coverage and revenue. The expectation was never met by other sports and still it cannot meet. But now the paradigm has shifted, especially with social media coming into play.”
Karan Madhok followed Bhanot and said, “In the past ten years the role of media has changed both positively and negatively. Social media is definitely the positive aspect but the negative part is that many sports stories are still not being told.”
Ashish Bhardwaj in his opening statement said, “As a sports journalist I will say there are very less event as far as basketball is concerned and therefore there are less stories and less coverage. Most of the coverage is for 11-13 days during the senior national tournament other than that there is hardly any basketball event to cover. So to develop the sport and get more media coverage there is need to develop more Basketball events.”
Sandeep Marwah, advisor of IBPA, then joined in the discussion as he explained what media is all about. Marwah said, “Media is the fourth pillar of any democracy and that is why it plays a major role in promoting sports.” “Jo dikhta hai wahi bikta hai and media has seven platforms including print, TV, radio, new media, etc, With these options there is a lot of media space now available and choosing the right medium is the best way to promote any sport.” Marwah added.
Pual Crane then echoed the support to Karan Madhok’s sentiments as he said, “For Indian basketball to get media coverage they need to extend commitment. India needs to have a professional basketball league because it will not only improve players and their techniques but it will also build a better fan base and that will help in getting more media coverage.” Paul Crane further added, “If basketball in India wants to compete with cricket in terms of media coverage then they need to elaborate on the role of a Public relations professional. The PR should be responsible for bringing out stories that connect to masses. They need to put out information for sports presenters and broadcasters only then the sport can catch the imagination of fans and media. There is no better theater than sports there are no better entertainment than sports but it needs to be highlighted.”
Karan who also worked as the PR for BFI said, “During my tenure with the BFI, I used to put a lot of stories related to the players and history of basketball and now it is pity to see that all this has stopped. For basketball to grow in India the federation needs to create heroes whom the fans can connect to. This is only possible if the BFI puts out colourful stories on their social media platforms. Main stream journalists hardly cover basketball stories because they have nothing to connect with fans. So efforts should be made to build a player-fans relationships which in return will help the sport to become an appetite for main stream journalists.”
Paul Crane answering about the changes that he noticed during the tours to India said, “I have seen a lot of improvement and the past few years. More games are being played now but still there is a need to have a few names that matter to be associated with Basketball in India. There is need tro have more games and events that matter. A professional league is important because it will attract fans. Every team in that league should have PR so that regular stories can be fed to the media.”
Ridhima who recently covered the ICC 2019 mens World Cup said, “As a sports presenter we have to understand that the each and every sport has a pace of its own has a tone of its own. It is very necessary to learn that. Basketball is a youthful game and that is why to make it connect to the masses the tone needs to be cheerful and youthful. The game also needs to develop glamour on the sideline to attract the masses.”
Raman Bhanot while answering as to why a huge buzz was created during NBA India tournament and why did it diminish soon after said, “NBA is very popular among the youth. It is already a property with huge importance and brings novelty scale and magnitude which was the reason for the huge uproar that was cvreated during the league. But soon after the league ended Indian basketball could not feed the fans with anything of a similar magnitude and thus the buzz faded away.”
Bhanot further said, “The timing is also a very important factor for any sport to become popular. For example cricket was not always at the pinnacle in India in fact it was Hockey and Football thanks to the 8 Olympic medals in hockey and domestic football tournaments like Santosh Trophy and Durand Cup. But during the Asian Games 1982 colored Television came to India and Indians saw their hockey team loses to Pakistan. Just a year later Indians saw Kapil Dev lifting the World Cup and from their own heroes changed and rest is history. So just see the timing where cricket picked up. It was a time where India could see its heroes in colour and their heroes were Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar. Building heroes in Basketball is important at the same time understanding change of media tastes is also an important factor that needs to be looked upon in order to promote basketball in India.”
Ashish added to Raman’s comment and said, “It is very important to build heroes and put out their stories. There are very few people who talk or know about the legends of Basketball like Radhe Shyam and Ajmer Singh. It is also a very important task for media personnel to work in order to bring out these stores in open and let the people know about them.”
Niti Rawat answering how the media works in promoting basketball said, “we have to understand that media is just a medium to promote sports it is not a sport promotion board. Media delivers what people want to see and therefore we need to increase the demand of basketball in India.” Talking about her experience as a Hindi commentator for NBA, Niti said, “ Hindi commentary for one of the richest sports league was not at all easy. But is was a major step and success in India.”
Aparna Rajkumar when quizzed about what more needs to be done in order to get better coverage said, “we need to adapt to the change in technology. The Indian government should pump in more money in order to get better media coverage. A lot of people talked about having no stats on players so Khel Ids like adhar cards should be introduced so that the players information can be kept in one database which updates automatically with every game that has been played. Building heroes at the grassroot evel is also very necessary if we want the sport to grow in India.“ Aparna finally added that “Every sport has its own technique of coverage therefore the need of skilled crew members is also an important aspect for Basketball to be covered in India.” Aprna’s closing remarks sparked a debate on the need of skilled labor as Paul Crane said, “During the UBA league all the cameraman were from India. So skilled labor is present in India the most important thing is to develop more games of importance.”
Paul concluded, “A professional league is the way forward for basketball in India and Indian Federation needs to create a database of players as information is very necessary for sports broadcasters.”
Raman Bhanot in his concluding statement said, “India is ready for a professional league but we need to understand the context as to why do we need a professional league. India also needs people who are interested in the sport and are ready to sustain the professional league for a long period of time even ig there is no profit. An official channel is also necessary for a professional league to develop. The channel needs to have some stake in the league and it should be attached to the league for the love of the sport.” “India basketball needs to develop the sports and the bottom to top approach is the right way forward, Indian basketball needs to be developed at the grassroot level and from there it should be carried forward.” concluded Raman.
Sandeep Marwah then summarized the conclave and sad, “So in order to get better coverage for Basketball in India we need to develop heroes at the grassroot level and we need to have a professional league in order to have more games of importance.” Ashok Sharma, treasurer of IBPA, thanked all the panelist and participants on behalf of IBPA as the conclave came to an end.