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Dalmiya takes the cab route
Indian cricket administration's old fox returns to the BCCI fold, stepping in this time to be its interim president as the beleaguered body tackles the fixing issue. Is N Srinivasan right in reposing faith in him, or has he underestimated Jaggu's famed ambition?
Mere paas Eden hain. " That was Jagmohan Dalmiya's Deewaar-esque defiance in 2005 after he lost the BCCI presidential elections to Sharad Pawar on his home turf. And eight years down the line, it's his control over his state body - Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) - that has again brought him back into national reckoning.
He has faced a few storms in these years. Dalmiya got ousted once from the CAB but the maverickturned-survivor never let go. He came back at the helm of CAB in 2008 and since then enjoyed a smooth tenure, becoming a yes-man of the BCCI administration that had once even thrown him out.
Last week, when N Srinivasan agreed to Dalmiya becoming the interim chief of the BCCI in the face of the betting and spot-fixing storm, the Tamil Nadu strongman had a few equations in mind. Srinivasan recognised the fact that Dalmiya is one administrator who doesn't have political compulsions at the moment. In West Bengal, the BJP and Congress don't have a say over the workings of the state body while Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) have their own battles to fight. In the present scenario, Dalmiya is his own man and unlike DV Subba Rao (Andhra), Shivlal Yadav (Hyderabad) or Niranjan Shah (Saurashtra), there won't be any political pressure on him when he comes to attend the Annual General Meeting in September.
In addition, other than CAB, he has direct control over the vote of National Cricket Club - a nonexistent unit in Kolkata which has continued to hold on to its voting right in an electorate of 30. The BCCI insiders also believe that Dalmiya can work his influence over units like Assam, Tripura and Haryana - which makes him an important cog in the BCCI wheel.
The third important factor that went in Dalmiya's favour was his well-documented anti-Sharad Pawar stance. Even on the eve of the crucial working committee meeting last Sunday, the Dalmiya associates made it clear that they would prefer to stay with Srinivasan than help in bringing Pawar back to the BCCI.
Dalmiya's reservation about Pawar stems from the fact that the Mumbai man was instrumental in humiliating him in a BCCI meeting in 2006 and stopped all grants to CAB, which led to him vacating his post at home. Srinivasan, on the other hand, fell out with the Maratha strongman since helping him take over BCCI in 2005. It was Pawar's proximity with Lalit Modi that distanced Srinivasan from the former BCCI president and now the rift has gone to such a level that Nationalist Congress Party was one of the first to come out in the open and demand the current president's resignation.
But given his ambition, will Dalmiya continue to be a rubber-stamp chief to another controlling president? That's the million-dollar question which is doing the rounds in the BCCI circles. He gave two contradictory reactions since he emerged from the working committee meeting in Chennai that brought him back to the limelight. "I am not the president, Mr Srinivasan is...I am only the interim chief, " Dalmiya said, surrounded by Srini's men in Chennai. A day later, soaking in his moment of limelight on his CAB turf, the 73-year-old contradicted himself. "If you think I am Srinivasan's proxy, that's wishful thinking...I will show what it is, " Dalmiya said, adding that he is well within his rights to attend ICC meetings.
That's just a glimpse of the power hungry boss who ruled Indian cricket for close to two decades. After coming to cricket administration in the early '80s, he went against his mentor Biswanth Dutt, captured power both at BCCI and CAB, and went on to become the ICC president. But one of his fiercest battles was for the BCCI president's post in 2001, when he beat AC Muthiah by a single vote in Chennai and took complete control over the body. For the next three years, he was the super boss and along with the then India captain Sourav Ganguly, made CAB the most powerful unit in BCCI.
But it was Pawar's emergence in 2004 that rocked Dalmiya for the first time and even though he held on with the help of a casting vote in the acrimonious election that year, one could sense that the end was near. He delayed the inevitable in 2005, postponing AGMs again and again, but finally the 21-10 verdict proved the final nail in his coffin.
Or maybe, it wasn't. Despite being barred from all BCCI meetings for three years, the Chanakya of cricket administration is back at a time when the game needs an image rebuilding. Dalmiya was the man who brought the 1987 and 1996 World Cups to the subcontinent, which took the game right into the kitchens of Indian households. Can he do it all over again?
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