My old friend Anshu Jain resigned last week as co-CEO of Deutsche Bank, walking away from the plump sum left on his employment contract. That is elegant and impressive, in keeping with a man who has a notable sense of pride. He resigned for the sake of the bank, where he’d become the target for a host of German concerns, and is moving on to calmer things. At 52, he can take fresh guard—middle and leg, please, umpire—and prepare to face a less hostile attack.
Anshu is a remarkably good banker: he has to have been, to have been the manically vegetarian, cricket-loving, non-German-speaking CEO of Germany’s most cherished bank. His is a compelling tale of success. I’ve known him since we were both 15, and part of a small, inseparable group of friends at Delhi Public School, Mathura Road. His formative years could not have been more removed from the heights he inhabits, rubbing shoulders with Merkel and Cameron, golfing with Bloomberg and Tendulkar.
In high school, Anshu and I (and others in our group) would often spend our break time in search of some moneyed Punjabi classmate from Karol Bagh from whom we could cadge ice-cream or Campa-Cola. We were the sons of bureaucrats in socialist India, and our allowance was less than meagre, a few rupees a week. Ice-cream would be procured in exchange for help with homework, or a similar deal that made the most of our bookishness. School yards are a laboratory for barter.
We brought lunch from home in tiffin boxes and rode DTC buses everywhere, crowded, careening, polluting vehicles that we hopped on and off with ill-advised panache. I have been on the Mudrika bus with the future CEO of Deutsche bank, gone to watch Grease with him (reluctantly, in my case, when it came to a cinema in Chanakyapuri), and skipped school to watch Test cricket when it was first telecast live in India.
India versus Pakistan, 1978. A black-and-white TV at the home of Anshu’s tauji, who had to be persuaded not to tell anyone that we weren’t in class. Pakistan’s team smeared India’s face in the dust, and yet we watched, aghast but riveted, perking up whenever the cameras panned to “Zaheer Abbas ki begum”, as the commentators called her, a glamorous figure in large dark glasses.
Apart from Geetika — his wife and rock — cricket has always been Anshu’s great love (although he has, of late, been carrying on an adulterous relationship with golf). He knows cricket better than any non-cricketer I’ve encountered, and is steeped as much in its nuance and theory as in its delicious trivia. So much so that I’m convinced that Life After Deutsche for Anshu has to bring with it some formal involvement with the game.
There are other, more prosaic things he might — or should — do. He could become a banking czar in the Modi administration, or an economic adviser at large. In truth, he’d make a lively finance minister and a more than useful addition to the Rajya Sabha. Wildlife conservation is another area where Anshu might be pressed into the nation’s service.
Of course, the problem with some of these suggestions is that he’s not an Indian citizen any longer, having become a Brit some years ago. If anyone embodies the argument for dual nationality in India, and for an end to India’s mulish insistence that one can be a citizen of no other country if one is Indian, it is Anshu. And so, any advisory role he might play for a government would likely be in the UK, where he could, perhaps, bolster Cameron’s resolve to keep Britain in the European Union.
But hang all that. Anshu should be running cricket. Why can’t he be put in charge of the BCCI, where he’d bring to that monstrous organisation a much-needed infusion of generosity and integrity? Or the ICC, the body that governs world cricket? If ever there were a job pitch-perfect for Anshu Jain, it is as their president.
Tunku Varadarajan is the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution