Jagmohan Dalmiya, veteran cricket boss, dies at 75

An opener during his days as a club cricketer, Jagmohan Dalmiya, the administrator, carried his bat through.

Written by Sandeep Dwivedi | New Delhi | Updated: September 21, 2015 9:45:14 am
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A workaholic all his life, Jagmohan Dalmiya, 75, died late on Sunday. His working hours had shortened but most of last week he was a regular at his office, rather his den, the Eden Garden administrative block, from where he had planned big and small coups for close to three decades.

Till he was hospitalised a couple of days back, complaining of chest pain, Dalmiya, like always, remained in the thick of things of Indian cricket administration.

Till he breathed his last, he remained the most influential cricket administrator of the world’s most powerful cricket body.

An opener during his days as a club cricketer, Dalmiya, the administrator, carried his bat through. Following a heart attack on Thursday, he had an angiography done. Since the hospital spokespersons continued to say he was stable, the news of his death came as a shock to the cricketing world. Within minutes, condolence messages from past and present players, and administrators started trickling in.

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By the time he got a second stint as BCCI president in March this year, Dalmiya’s health and his memory were failing him. But he still was the consensus candidate in the deeply fractured Board. Somehow, Dalmiya never lost the knack of being in the right camp. Within the Board, there were many who said that “the old Dalmiya” wasn’t quite “the Dalmiya of old”, but in cricket circles he will remembered as the ruthlessly manipulative visionary who had a big role to play in making BCCI the all-powerful, autocratic cricket body, a position that England had enjoyed once.

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Folklore has it that during the days when England had a virtual veto in all cricketing affairs and never lost the right to host the World Cup, Dalmiya, at one ICC meeting, had thundered in a very “half-Marwari, half-Bengali” accent: “When I was young I was told Britannia rules the waves, but now it seems that Britannia waives the rules.” It is ironic that these days when the bigwigs of world cricket meet, it is the former rulers who are playing the victim complaining of India’s brutal reign on cricket. From an also-ran in ICC circles, BCCI is now the Biggest of the Big 3. This was the result of Dalmiya daring to dream big for India.

Those who pride India as a cricketing super power will never forget the efforts of the man who never had a bead of sweat on his head, a hair out of place and always wore a crisp safari suit with the crease more sharper than a surgeon’s knife. Like the Samaranches and Blatters of the world, Dalmiya has his detractors and those who called him the ‘game changer’. He had corruption charges against him but was also responsible for filling the coffers of the body he worked for all his life.

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When in college, Dalmiya had to give up on his dreams of playing serious cricket because of the untimely death of his father. Getting busy running Kolkata’s famous ML Dalmiya construction company, he turned his back to cricket. He would return to cricket as an administrator, rise through the ranks and be the first Indian to be the ICC president.

But what will be Dalmiya’s legacy, how will history remember him? Considering his eventful life, it is a difficult question. He had a hand in bringing the World Cup to India in 1987 but it was the stalwart NKP Salve who played a pivotal role. His chameleon-like nature helped him to master the art of winning BCCI elections. Probably, he happens to be the only man to defeat Sharad Pawar in any election. Pawar felt never so weak and helpless when he lost the BCCI election in 2004.

But, most importantly, Dalmiya turned the BCCI finances. During the days when the cricket board had to pay Doordarshan to telecast cricket games, Dalmiya fought court battles and the government of the day. He got the Board big money through telecast rights. Under Dalmiya, the Marwari businessman from Kolkata, the BCCI was wily, conservative and acted like those with old money. He was unlike the new-rich that run the BCCI today.

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