I must confess I was not prepared for this. When the BCCI umpire Sanjay Hazare called me this morning and informed me about the death of my very good friend Jaywant Lele,I was shell-shocked. I at once rang up his Baroda residence and spoke to his daughter-in-law. His death is a personal loss for me.
I first met Lele in 1962 when I went to Baroda and played for five seasons for their Ranji team. Over the years we developed a very close friendship. I still remember the 1981 tour to England. I was the manager of the India Under-19 team and he was my assistant. But eventually he took the lead role,and I was happy with that. I can never forget the way he helped me on that tour. The Indian team was not given all the facilities as per the terms and conditions of the tour but Lele took on the high and mighty of the Test and County Cricket Board (TCCB which was superseded by the England and Wales Cricket Board in 1997) and ensured that we got our dues. Back then the BCCI was not a very powerful organisation but Lele never feared anybody. He was very straightforward and outspoken,a person who never minced his words.
Lele always played with a straight bat and this quality put him in good stead in cricket administration. He came up through the ranks. He served as an assistant secretary of the Baroda Cricket Association,then became its secretary before moving to the BCCI. How was he as an administrator? He was very prompt to deal with any subject and never left his work for the next day. He was very helpful as well.
He was the BCCI secretary when the match-fixing controversy broke out at the turn of the millennium. He took prompt action,played a major role in setting up the Chandrachud commission and eventually the guilty people were punished. He was never afraid of taking on the big names but at the same time,he was popular with the players as well. Towards the end of his career he fell out with the Baroda Cricket Association people and lost his post. I dont know the details but what I can say is that his state association was the loser in his absence.
Leles love for cricket was unquestionable. Indian cricket will miss him.
(Former India skipper Borde,who was the chief selector when Lele was the BCCI secretary,spoke to Shamik Chakrabarty.)