Mumbai: BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, who passed away in Kolkata on Sunday , will forever be remembered as the man who made Indian cricket a self sufficient entity and engineered a shift of power base from its spiritual home at Lord’s to Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
In his chequered administrative career, he saw it all: the good, the bad and the proverbial ugly. If Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket was revolution that rocked the traditional cricket establishment of Australia, it was the astute business man from Kolkata, who understood the potential of India becoming commercially a global powerhouse of cricket. His biggest gift to Indian cricket was to strike a multi million television deal with World Tel in the early 90’s that went a long way in making BCCI the richest cricketing body in the world.
A shrewd tactician and someone who was at forefront of the BCCI numbers game, Dalmiya was the brain behind India co-hosting the Reliance World Cup in 1987 and then the Wills World Cup in 1996. In his 35 year administrative career that started from being elected as Cricket Association of Bengal working committee member from Rajasthan Club, it was followed by being the treasurer and subsequently the secretary of the body.
A protege of former BCCI president BN Dutt, he became the treasurer in the mid 1980’s and was known as the man who convinced NKP Salve to allow Eden Gardens host the Reliance Cup final instead of Wankhede Stadium.
He along with friend turned foe Inderjit Singh Bindra also defeated the England and Australian block to win the bid for co-hosting 1996 edition in India, pakistan and Sri Lanka, In 1997, he was elected unanimously as the president of the International Cricket Council (ICC). In 2001, he defeated AC Muttiah to become the BCCI president in one of the most pitched elections in Chennai.
In one of the most political BCCI fight, Dalmiya’s casting vote in favour of his candidate Ranbir Singh Mahendra to defeat union minister and NCP heavyweight Sharad Pawar by a solitary vote. However the quartet of Pawar, N Srinivasan, Shashank Manohar and Lalit Modi with the backing of Bindra came back next year to not only defeat Mahendra but also opened cases against him.
He was suspended from the BCCI in 2006 and also ousted from his home association. Dalmiya won a long legal battle and then again got his place in state association back. When the spot-fixing scandal broke, he was the first consensus candidate for interim president’s post and earlier this year, he again emerged as the man who was found acceptable by one and all to take up the president’s mantle.
For Dalmiya, cricket was more of a vocation as he was a wicketkeeper for his club Rajasthan. Once he knew that cricket as a career was not possible, he took keen interest in his family business set by father MN Dalmiya Constructions. In 1963, the company was instrumental in building the Birla Planetorium. While he earned plaudits as tough talking businessman, his love for the game never diminished. His administrative power and knowledge of vote bank was always appreciated by his peers and seniors.
He was especially close to BN Dutt, who was then emerging as a powerful figure in BCCI politics. However when Dalmiya sensed that the board needed political backing, he calculated his next move like a politician.
His relationship with Dutt was what Dalmiya would often call as “Guru-Shisya” relationship as Dutt taught him the nuances of sports administration. In the year, 1990, however it was the disciple, who upset the master’s applecart as he along with Rungta brothers Kishen and Kishore formed a faction that helped Madhavrao Scindia win an acrimonious election that ended Dutt’s tenure in BCCI. Since then, there was no stopping for the man from Kolkata’s richest area New Alipore.
He was virtually a ‘One Man Show’ for the next 15 years in the cricket board. While the Australia and England’s cricket administrators were wary of him, they knew it was difficult to keep him away from the focus as India slowly and surely became the game’s commercial hub. His power was gauged by the fact the he forced the erstwhile South African board president Ali Bacher to withdraw Mike Denness from match referee’s position after he alleged that India’s Sachin Tendulkar had tampered with the ball during the Port Elizabeth Test match in 2001.
However in the early part of 2000, his longtime friend Bindra did not like his ways of running the board and became an adversary. It was also the time when Lalit Modi and N Srinivasan also harboured aspirations of having greater say in the board. With Pawar also wanting to head the board, they worked tirelessly towards garnering votes. But eventually Pawar lost to Haryana’s Mahendra by 16-15 margin due to Dalmiya’s casting vote.
Having never lost an election in his public life, Pawar came back stronger and demolished Mahendra’s challenge with a 20-10 verdict. It was 2005 and when Dalmiya’s slide started. There were court cases galore, he was summoned on charges of financial irregularities concerning 1996 World Cup and in 2006, he was ousted at an Extraordinary GB meeting in Jaipur.
Subsequently, he had relinquish his CAB presidency to then Kolkata Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee. Interestingly, Dalmiya had defeated Mukherjee 61-56 at state cricket body’s election where the then Chief mInister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee had openly declared Mukherjee as his candidate. In fact once a sitting Police Commissioner with all his power and might lost against Dalmiya, it made CM Bhattacharjee make the now famous statement:”It was a victory of evil against good”.
So even when Mukherjee took over from Dalmiya in early 2007, he had to relinquish the post very next year after the courts cleared him of any wrongdoing. He convincingly defeated Mukherjee to get his presidency back and remained at the helm till he breathed his last. However people close to him in CAB believe that those three years where he faced ignominy of financial irregularities, was ousted from the board and fought legal cases all over the country took its toll on its health and he was never the same man post 2008.
By 2011, the sharpness that world associated with Dalmiya was not there but even though someone who would be found difficult to ignore as his elevation to the post president completed a circle for the veteran Kolkatan.
From Srinivasan to Modi, Pawar to Manohar, whether they liked or disliked Dalmiya, one thing they knew was his ability to bring votes to the table. Even during his final days as administrator, he enjoyed a lot of support from the eastern zone units
However his third term as the president that started from March 2 this year was mostly marred by his ill-health and talks of not being able to conduct meetings properly. Most of the meetings were held in Kolkata but it was basically secretary Anurag Thakur, who was calling the shots. Jagmohan Dalmiya might have passed away but he had certainly left an ever-lasting legacy in Indian and world cricket administration.