Indian Cricket Loses Its Best Administrator
Cricket lovers in India are indebted to Jagmohan Dalmia for taking Indian cricket in the world space with dignity and commitment. If Sachin Tendulkar is considered the God of Cricket in India, then administrators like Jagmohan Dalmia are the people who created platform for many such young boys to mould themselves as the masters of the game known as gentleman’s game.
Like any other single individual he also loved cricket, but off the field. His concern was to prepare favourable condition for the players in the field rather than take up bat or ball himself to play the game. Therefore, it can be rightly said here that Jagmohan Dalmia died doing what he loved best, running Indian cricket. He was the most efficient cricket administrator, who was re-elected president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) only in March 2015, but passed away in Kolkata on September 20, following a heart attack. He was 75 years old
Born on May 30, 1940, in Kolkata, he began his innings at the BCCI in 1979, before taking office as its treasurer in 1983. Under his leadership, the BCCI became the game’s richest sporting body. In 1987, he along with I.S. Bindra helped bring the cricket World Cup to the subcontinent for the first time. During these years, he is also credited with crafting a series of lucrative television deals, giving telecast rights to private channels, which was earlier monopolised by Doordarshan and set the foundation for transforming the gentleman’s game into the reach of the people amidst the crazy spectacle that it is today.
He not only became popular because of his administrative skills within the subcontinent but the world too started to acknowledge his management capabilities and therefore within a decade, he broke into cricket’s global arena, becoming president of the International Cricket Council (ICC)—the apex body for cricket globally—between 1997 and 2000.
But the downfall was even more swift, after his stint as ICC chief, he was back to cricketing affairs of the country and was the president of BCCI from 2001 to 2005, but in 2005, Jagmohan Dalmia lost the control of BCCI to the opposition group led by India’s politician and then central agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, who accused Dalmia of corruption while conducting the 1996 cricket World Cup. He was blamed for stealing cash identified with the 1996 World Cup and was also expelled from the Cricket Association of Bengal, in addition to the BCCI.
All these years, he worked silently, but a decade later, amid allegations of more corruption in the BCCI under a different administrator, Jaggu da—as he was fondly called—made a remarkable comeback in the helm of cricketing affairs. Here is a brief chronicle of the rise, fall and rise of Jagmohan Dalmia.
In 1997, Dalmia became the president of the ICC. When Dalmia took charge as the ICC president, according to some reports, the sporting body had a measly $37,000 in its coffers. By the time he left in 2000, it had $11 million. Much of that had to do with Dalmia’s business acumen and marketing ability, which also remade Indian cricket.
It helped that Dalmia always knew his way around money. The son of a Kolkata construction magnate, he joined the family business as a 19-year-old.
After his tenure at the ICC, Dalmia became the president of the BCCI in 2000. He held the position until 2004. By then, the BCCI had become the game’s most powerful body.
In 2001, when India was touring South Africa, ICC referee and former England captain Mike Denness found Sachin Tendulkar and five other Indian players guilty of a technical breach of rules. Indian players were banned for one test even as the country protested. In the end, Tendulkar was let off and the following year ICC did not reappoint Denness as a match referee. The credit here too goes to Jagmohan Dalmia for restoring the dignity of Indian cricket.
In 2005, Jagmohan Dalmia was wrestled out of India’s cricketing board for close to a decade. Much of that had to do with a rival faction winning the elections under Sharad Pawar. As mentioned above, Dalmia was accused of financial misappropriation by the new regime, which also forced him to resign as the chief of the Cricket Association of Bengal in December 2006.
After multiple court cases against him, Dalmia was finally cleared to contest elections and became the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal in 2008 for a five-year term.
In March 2015, Dalmia returned as the president of the BCCI. Much of that had to do with N. Srinivasan, the then president of the BCCI facing allegations of massive corruption involving his family members in IPL, which forced even India’s Supreme Court to step in. Dalmia emerged as the consensus candidate among various factions in BCCI when elections were held. This was his second term as the president of BCCI.
The BCCI will now need to name a president for the rest of Dalmia’s term. The BCCI constitution expresses: “The secretary might inside of fifteen days assemble a special general body meeting to choose the president who should be named by no less than one full member from the zone which proposed the President’s name whose term was stopped rashly. Such individual who is so chosen might hold office till the following decisions.”
But the space and aura earned by Jagmohan Dalmia around his position would hardly be earned by any administrator in coming years. He will be remembered for his contribution to Indian cricket and for touching the hearts of journalists in more friendly ways.
By Joydeep Dasgupta from Kolkata