India news March 2, 2015

Gamechanger's back but game itself has changed

He will, now, not be judged on his past as India's most influential cricket administrator but on how he handles two opposing factions led by the same people who ousted him in 2005

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Srinivasan's authority eroded

Jagguda is back. Again. At the top of the tree. Not as interim anything, but as Jagmohan Dalmiya, BCCI president, full-time head honcho. Giving rise to chuckle and groans of disbelief in equal measure.

It has been ten years since Dalmiya last held the post, ousted in 2005 by the very men - N Srinivasan and Sharad Pawar - whose cohorts hovered around him over the weekend in Chennai, seeking to draw him to their side. He was apparently even offered the post of patron-in-chief - custom-built for him - but refused, determined to send a message and reestablish his relevance in Indian cricket administration.

It is another reminder that as one of the BCCI's oldest hands, Damilya is instinctively familiar with the board's bizarre election dance. The BCCI constitution had been amended to ensure that presidential hopefuls could jump their zonal loyalties should any zone wish to support their candidature. Yet with this much-deferred 2014 election, Dalmiya has proved in the East there could only be one shogun.

He will, now, not be judged on his past as India's most influential cricket administrator but on what he is able to do from this point on. In a four-month stint as interim president between June and October 2013, Dalmiya made several promises including "Operation Clean-Up", but did not exactly stamp his authority on either the IPL's regulations or the board's general operations.

In many ways, Dalmiya steps into high office in a BCCI that must feel familiar but operates in an environment completely transformed over the last ten years. The Indian game's rapidly expanding economic empire, which Dalmiya and IS Bindra first set in motion, now operates in an age of Twenty20 franchise cricket, the internet and social media. A forward-thinking 20th century cricket mandarin, must now handle a 21st century business.

At 74, Dalmiya's sharpness and energy, which made him an administrator not to be messed with, will be of a lower wattage. He must now be the link between two bitter opposition groups, his favour and approval definitely sought after. Regardless of how much energy he may or may not have to send fur flying, the idea will amuse him greatly. His adversaries have fallen out and once again, like it did in his prime, the BCCI has turned to him. Jaggu the Redeemer.

To those outside India, Dalmiya's return brings a fresh sense of bafflement at the shenanigans of the orient. To those inside his country, it is another reminder that not only do the wheels of Indian cricket move in mysterious ways, they are capable of changing direction with alacrity.

In the pre-Srinivasan-Chennai Super Kings era - it did exist - it was Dalmiya who was the Indian cricket administrator who earned the collective wrath and scorn of the western world. The first Asian head of the ICC, former BCCI president and the founder of cricket's Asian bloc (which the new regime under Srinivasan turned into the Big Four bloc of India Australia, England and South Africa), Dalmiya was considered the scourge of the world game. He was the man, working alongside IS Bindra in the BCCI, who began to generate money for Indian cricket through television rights.

As ICC chief, he headed the team that turned the finances around leading even former CEO Malcolm Speed, with whom Dalmiya had many an arm wrestle, to admit that, "he taught the ICC how to capitalise on its new revenue stream." Dalmiya's prickly presence at the head of world cricket, established without any doubt that the power centre of world cricket had moved east.

Before this repeat renaissance, Dalmiya was last seen at the churning apex of Indian cricket politics in 2005 battling Pawar, Shashank Manohar, Srinivasan and Lalit Modi. Even though Dalmiya was not competing for office himself, the 2005 election was the first time he ended up losing in his quarter-century in cricket administration when Pawar beat Ranbir Singh Mahendra, the man who was in Dalmiya's corner.

He was then deliberately and methodically sidelined by the forces that had ousted him. Expelled from the BCCI, briefly arrested, Dalmiya had cases of misappropriation slapped on him by the new regime and most painfully, his kingdom, Eden Gardens, had to make do with fewer Tests and ODIs. In 2011, he and the Gardens faced what they thought of as the unkindest cut: the India versus England World Cup match was cancelled by the ICC, led at the time by Pawar. It is unlikely Dalmiya either forgot or forgave that slight.

During his prime, he had run Indian and international cricket from his office at the ML Dalmiya headquarters in Kolkata, with his loyal personal assistant KK Ghosh, conducting business through typewriters and landline telephones. He was, until recently, thought of as yesterday's man, 'former' in every sense of the word. In June 2013, he had stepped into the breach at the end of the raucous meeting in Chennai and was appointed interim president. In March 2015, he is full-time president again. The political cycle begun in 2005 has been completed and closed.

Dalmiya and Srinivasan are similar in many ways. They are both, an insider says, authoritarian, patriarchal and look after their own people with favours and largesse. The major difference between the two, however, is the absence of arrogance in one man and its overwhelming presence in another. Dalmiya has the ability to discuss, negotiate and eventually get what he wants. With Srinivasan, discussion is but an abstract noun.

Compared to Dalmiya and his safari-suit-wearing Kolkata persona, Srinivasan appeared very nouveau when he first showed up. Cheques arrived on time for players, meetings were conducted briskly, the man had a dry sense of humour and was kosher businessman - golf-playing, Scotch-drinking, cricket-loving. But by 2013, during the IPL's corruption scandal, the 'tectonic plates shifted' (to borrow a phrase from actor Rahul Bose on ESPNcricinfo's video chat show) and Srinivasan's true personality emerged, holding Indian cricket and its image outside the country to ransom for the sake of holding office.

That office is now gone until the next BCCI elections (in September 2017, thanks to a freshly-amended BCCI constitution in which all office bearers enjoy uncontested three-year terms) but for the next few months, Dalmiya will no doubt have Srinivasan in his ear more than he did for the last decade. His lietuenants happen to be two of the BCCI's most ambitious young officials, Anurag Thakur as secretary and Anirudh Chaudhary as treasurer - the latter the son of Dalmiya's aide Ranbir Singh. There is a very good chance that he will get opposing messages on some if not most issues. What is done about the chatter will be revealing. It will help us discover whether the old fox can once again tap into his old instincts at the head of the pack. Or if Jagguda's edge will now be blunted.

A version of this article first appeared in June 2013

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2015, 23:56 GMT

    Good news for fans across the Wahgah border. We can now genuinely hope to see more India Pakistan matches and Pakistani players participating in the IPL at some point of time. Mr. Dalmiya believed in strong Indo Pak cricketing relations during his last tenure so at-least I'm hopeful seeing him at the helm of affairs in India.

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2015, 11:30 GMT

    Surely, you're not a CSK fan Sharda !!! You are overthinking this thing, loosen up and let go soon.

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2015, 8:39 GMT

    "A forward-thinking 20th century cricket mandarin, must now handle a 21st century business."

    Cheers Sharda!

  • current on March 3, 2015, 0:48 GMT

    It is really unfortunate that these are the alternative Indian cricket has. From one compromised individual to another. And the one who did not win was more of the same.

    The premier sports organization of the country that represents the wishes and aspirations of close to a billion fans is run like a fiefdom by a clique of privileged few and their family members. The poor fans have no say at all in how the game is run or where the money goes.

    The only silver lining might be a bigger role for Saurav Ganguly.

  • Grandad on March 2, 2015, 17:41 GMT

    From all my 72 years of watching Indian and world cricket individuals have come and gone but there will none with the impact that Mr. Srinivasan has made both positively and negatively. Though it would be wrong to just single him out for all the wrong doings, I do feel he needs to step aside at least for the time being until the case finishes. IPL itself has a whole is not doing any good for Indian Test team and to single out a franchise there also doesn't make sense. As a old Indian fan I do feel highly letdown by our Test performances and do feel it's time for players like GR Vishwanath, Gavaskar, J Srinath, Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid and Kumble to step up both in administration as well in team setup to help Indian Cricket move forward. I do feel everyone will agree.

  • Dummy4 on March 2, 2015, 13:46 GMT

    In my opinion the administrators should have a Sharp Cricketing brain with business acumen and not more than 50 and should hold office only for one 5 year term and not from political background. We have 1.2 billion out of which I am sure at least a 1000 would fit that description. In that 1000 pick one from each state and Make them the state cricketing administrators and the best of them as their Chief controlling the cricket in India. That would be an Ideal world.Hope one day India gets there.

  • Keith on June 4, 2013, 14:13 GMT

    Thanks to Sharda Ugra's unmatched insight into the depths of Indian Old Order cricketing politics, it has become clearer than ever that the world of cricket needs to achieve "escape velocity" in order to remove itself from the massive pull of gravity created by the Great Men in the Sky Boxes. New faces (at least to cricketing governance, though not necessarily to the sport itself) are vital, and even more so the involvement of the cricketing world beyond India. Dalmiya accustomed us all to thinking that as India goes, so goes the cricket. The importance of India is undeniable and appropriate, but the governance of the sport MUST be global AND it must be pitched at the highest possible level of quality. No longer can this be accomplished by the Great Game being under any country's or any mogul's thumb. A fundamentally new governance model is desperately needed. Cricket now needs to show as much desperation in the boardroom as players do on the field. Call the Cricket Convention!

  • Kannan on June 4, 2013, 5:07 GMT

    It is ironical and a sign of the times, that a man who had no corruption charge against him has been asked to 'step-aside' by public/media pressure and replaced by a man who had embezzlement charges against him.

  • Dummy4 on June 4, 2013, 3:50 GMT

    @Sharda Ugra - I have been reading/watching your comments/speech here/ TV channels. We seemed to be relishing on others failures than success. We seemed to target certain individuals and bury people around that individual. We seemed to forget that there is a BIG event in London which is due to commence in 2 days time and we are here, trying to disturb every one's attention, including the players. . BCCI is a Corporate Body. Please allow it to function by itself. Law will taken its own course - Let us leave it at that. Let us stop spreading negativity since other countries are also watching us. This website is specifically meant only for cricket and not politics in cricket. I have already unsubscribed 1 leading English newspaper and channel with immediate effect.

  • C on June 3, 2013, 21:40 GMT

    I think the title should be ' Who's Cooking?'