A policeman by profession, an ex-IPS, maybe there was no surprise that World War 2 was one of Amitabh Choudhary’s favourite subjects. During informal conversations, he drew the Operation Barbarossa analogy pretty frequently, metaphorically, to give thrusts to his assertions. Once, during the Committee of Administrators’ (CoA) regime in the BCCI, hit by a letter from the court-appointed committee, he called up this correspondent to inform that his reply would be no-holds-barred. “Operation Barbarossa will hit them (CoA),” he had said emphatically.
Veteran cricket administrator Choudhary, 58, passed away on Tuesday morning from a heart attack. As former Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) president Dr Nafees Akthar said, Choudhary was “hale and hearty” and the news came as a shock. Dr Akhtar described his senior as “Mr Jharkhand Cricket”.
Choudhary was the man who built Jharkhand cricket, presiding over it as the state association chief for more than a decade. He shifted Jharkhand cricket’s headquarters from Jamshedpur to Ranchi. MS Dhoni’s rise as a cricketer contributed to it. But it was an administrative job and Choudhary led from the front. A world-class cricket arena was built under his watch and one end of the stadium was named after him.
“This is unthinkable. He was a great leader, our guardian, although after stepping down as the JSCA president, he wasn’t there in any official capacity. This is an irreplaceable void as far as Jharkhand cricket is concerned. It feels like we have lost everything,” Dr Akhtar told The Indian Express.
Choudhary rose to become the BCCI’s joint-secretary and during a period of upheaval, as the cricket board went under the CoA to implement the Lodha reforms, he worked as the Board’s acting secretary. Initially, he was on good terms with the CoA members, much to the chagrin of a lot of BCCI old hands. Gradually, though, cracks started to develop, as the CoA felt that Choudhary wasn’t doing enough to implement its instructions.
“His (former CoA head Vinod Rai) intention has hardly been the implementation of the Lodha Committee recommendations. Instead, he has only been targeting the office-bearers and the members of the BCCI. The CoA in its very first meeting tried to upstage the apex court’s January 31, 2017 order with regard to India’s representation in the ICC. The Hon’ble Court had only said that the Committee will supervise the administration of the BCCI and not supplant them,” Choudhary told this paper in February 2019.
His long-time colleague, former BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry, condoled the veteran administrator’s death. “Amitabh’s contribution to the game of cricket in Jharkhand was immense. He will be missed by JSCA and it will be difficult to fill the void left by him in Jharkhand. I offer my condolences to his family, friends and well wishers,” he told The Indian Express.
Besides the acting secretary-CoA power struggles, Choudhary’s association with the Indian cricket had been eventful. He was the Indian team manager in Zimbabwe in 2005-06, a tour that marked the beginning of the Sourav Ganguly-Greg Chappell fallout. Later, working under the CoA in the BCCI, he faced tougher administrative challenges. He also had to deal with the Virat Kohli-Anil Kumble saga that saw the latter’s acrimonious exit as India coach.
Choudhary was ecstatic when India won a legal battle over Pakistan in the ICC as regards the alleged non-adherence of bilateral cricket commitments. He was the BCCI’s representative at the world body then and told this paper: “We were always certain of our eventual victory. Much before the Pakistan Cricket Board moved the ICC Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC), other avenues had been tried including a meeting with the chairman of the ICC (Shashank Manohar) at London in 2017. And I had remained firm in all of those for the reasons I have mentioned. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised by the final order of the ICC DRC.”
Choudhary also dabbled in politics and a couple of years ago, he was appointed as the chairman of Jharkhand Public Service Commission. But he was a cricket man through and through.
Away from the game, Rabindra Sangeet was one of his favourite pastimes. Some people criticised him for having contradictions. Choudhary didn’t mind. He wore his contradictions loosely.