BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya’s ill-health has become a cause of serious concern for the cricket board. There are growing fears among members that the veteran administrator’s age-related illness, which has had the 75-year-old missing important meetings and being a passive spectator in the few he attends, is affecting the work of cricket’s most influential body.
At the working committee meeting last month, Dalmiya, while reading the short adjournment announcement from a paper handed to him, was repeatedly prompted by secretary Anurag Thakur. Later, for members’ clarity, Thakur had to repeat the contents of the statement.
BCCI vice-president from Assam, Gautam Roy, who attended the meeting, said, “It is very clear, Dalmiya isn’t well.” It was a view seconded by Orissa Cricket Association president and former IPL chief Ranjib Biswal who said the BCCI president “wasn’t fit to run the show”.
“The BCCI is the most powerful cricket body in the world. It’s a big corporate entity. It deserves a president who is active and can take decisions,” Biswal said.
Former BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah, while observing that “the president wasn’t in the pink of health”, said it was tough to replace Dalmiya, whose term ends in 2017. “It’s up to him to decide if he wants to continue or step down,” he said.
Roy, who has had a working relationship with Dalmiya since the days the Kolkata businessman led Asia’s charge to end England’s grip over cricket, said, “Dalmiya is a very respected person and shouldn’t be hurt. We should let him decide if he wishes to continue.” But there are those in the board who say that owing to his frail health and fading memory, Dalmiya isn’t in a position to decide if he should stay on or step down.
With his travel restricted, Dalmiya skipped the recent IPL governing council meet that decided the Lodha Commission recommendations and even the World T20 organising committee meet called to design the framework of the ICC tournament.
Many BCCI officials say it is Dalmiya’s son, Abhishek, a mere member of a club affiliated to the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), who coordinates with members on his father’s behalf and assists him in day-to-day affairs. It is also learnt Abhishek accompanies the BCCI president to most meetings.
On August 28, at the working committee meeting, Abhishek reportedly sought permission to enter the boardroom to be by his father’s side but the request was successfully challenged by Mumbai Cricket Association president Sharad Pawar.
When contacted, Abhishek refused to comment on the issue: “I don’t want to get into this.”
Dalmiya’s colleagues talk of frequent memory losses, and how he mixes up references at important meetings. Yet most members are of the view that the man who asserted India’s presence globally should get an honourable exit.
“His contribution to Indian cricket is immense. He’s the man who changed Indian cricket and also the ICC. But he’s not in top shape, health-wise. If he calls it quits at the next AGM, he will leave with dignity intact,” a former joint secretary of CAB, known to be close to Dalmiya, said.
There are others who feel he should be given a ceremonial post. “He should be made patron-in-chief. This will need a constitutional change. But for a man of his stature, the BCCI should do it,” one of them said.