BCCI election 2013 September 29, 2013

Meet the new IPL chairman

Ranjib Biswal was a solid first-class allrounder, one of India's youngest members of parliament, a newspaper editor, and now has a tough new challenge

The IPL's new chairman, Ranjib Biswal, is known to be an N Srinivasan loyalist, but there is more to him. He has captained Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Vinod Kambli and Ajay Jadeja. He led that team to the Asia Youth Cup triumph in Dhaka in 1989. He scored five first-class centuries and took 153 wickets when he played for Orissa and East Zone. He didn't get to play for India, but he has managed teams that have won the World Cup, the Champions Trophy, the Asia Cup, and the one that drew a Test series in South Africa. At 43, he isn't much older than some of the players he has managed on tour; there are 42-year-olds playing the IPL.

A year before he retired from playing, Biswal was the third-highest on the wicket-takers' list in Ranji Trophy, the highest from his zone. Soon after that season, at the age of 25, he told his father he was going to contest the parliamentary election. His father laughed.

The father was supposed to know these things better. Basant Biswal himself was a former deputy chief-minister of Orissa. He was nicknamed "Super CM" when he was JB Patnaik's assistant in the early 80s. Ranjib, though, went on to win the election from Jagatsinghpur. This was no mean feat: he hadn't entered the parliament through Rajya Sabha where you can go through just a nomination; he had won a general election. The parliament at that time recorded him to be a "sportsman" and an "executive" in Steel Authority of India. He is one of the youngest MPs India has ever had.

Biswal kept playing cricket, but soon he seemed to realise domestic cricket wasn't big enough for his ambition. "I had done exceedingly well in domestic cricket, and was the highest wicket-taker for the two consecutive years," he told the Kolkata-based Telegraph. "However, I was not selected for the national team. My cricket was not taking me anywhere, so I called it quits."

Not that all his cricket had been about "getting somewhere". Pravin Amre, another of his team-mates at Under-19 level, remembers a helpful and fun colleague. "He was a very useful allrounder," Amre says. "A very good person. Very helpful nature. A balanced individual. "I remember when we went to Australia in 1988, we didn't get hotels and all. We stayed with an Australian family, the two of us, and he took very good care of me when I fell sick for more than four days."

When Biswal first won the Lok Sabha election, the parliament noted he had travelled to Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand and the UK. On these travels, he began to collect stamps. Now he has about 3.5 lakh of them, a significant proportion of which are cricket ones even though India doesn't do stamps for its cricketers.

"It's organised country-wise in albums, which take up a huge space at home; nearly an entire cupboard," Biswal once told ESPNcricinfo. "I've got Bradman, Frank Worrell, Garry Sobers … [In] India we don't have stamps on the cricketers, basically the stamps are from England, West Indies, Australia, who come out with commemorative stamps."

Biswal stayed in touch with cricket administration even as he dabbled between politics and editing an Oriya daily, Samay. In 2005, he was back in active cricket when made a member of the national selection committee. His two years there were tumultuous as one of his U-19 team-mates, Ganguly, and coach Greg Chappell had a drawn-out public spat. He began accompanying the team on tours soon after his term as selector ended.

Forget the "lucky manager" tag, when the team and the board were going through a bad crisis after the spot-fixing controversy, when the players were vulnerable and susceptible to saying unwanted things, the BCCI went to the manager that had the record of putting players at most ease. As a manager, Biswal brought the authority to not blindly follow the BCCI directive. Even during gag orders, for example, he could allow players to do the odd interview if he was assured nothing sensitive would be discussed. The players respected him in return.

However, he had loftier goals than being team manager, although he loves to travel and keeps a count on the number of countries he has visited. Around the last AGM, Biswal was all set to be named the BCCI secretary before losing out to a bolter, Sanjay Jagdale. Reportedly it was his fellow Congressmen in the board who didn't want to see him progress so much so soon.

Biswal was then given the National Cricket Academy job, which now has gone to Kerala's TC Mathew. Now Biswal has a job that is coveted and high-profile at the best of times, but he has his task cut out here. The image of the IPL needs repairing after what went down last year, and also the next IPL will clash with what Biswal kind of excelled at: the general elections. Then there are rules that need to be drawn up for the mega-auction in 2014. The next year is a good time for Biswal to show he is not there just because he is a Srinivasan loyalist.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Varnendra on September 30, 2013, 9:13 GMT

    Sure; Srini would make sure Indian concerns get the priority. However has India ever got its priorities right? No. Indians migrate to West not just for cash but because they have the SKILL, yes it is a skill, to get priorities right; life is wonderful there. Therefore why don't just let them run the show even if India pays more for ICC? My Money My Petrol never really works well for a collection.

  • VENKATACHALAM on September 30, 2013, 7:14 GMT

    Ranjib Biswal- looks too skilful to be just a Srinivasan Rubber Stamp. He seems to have just too many arrows in his bow for him to not make a mark as Ipl Boss !

  • suresh kumar on September 30, 2013, 3:47 GMT

    india generates 3/4 of world's cricket total revenue we need Strong leader like Srinivasan, who has ability to repel unwanted pressure that favours eng and aus teams. ICC wants indian wealth to develop world cricket (through odi world cup) but does not accept our concerns (eg: drs, two ball rule), to counter these we need strong man like srinivasan.

    And also we need a person who gives first preference to indian cricket and protect its intrest, bcz thousands of indians playing cricket professionally, bcci needs to employ them, if bcci runs a charity how would people involving cricket feed their family. Whether you guys like IPL or not, it is here to stay.

  • Chandra on September 30, 2013, 0:04 GMT

    Let us Hope best things are ahead. Modi's Brain (Business) and Srini's Acuman (Political and Leadership) is what Biswal needs to succeed and make IPL even better and proud in all ways.

  • Jay on September 29, 2013, 20:58 GMT

    The first thing the IPL has to get rid off is the Bollywood influence, followed by a few people who simply don't understand the dynamics and intricacies of the game of cricket. We need 'cricket people' to run stuff in India, period. I know that won't happen so easily. But this spot fixing mess will only rejuvenate and strengthen the IPL going forward. Players will now realize they cannot get away with cheating. Sreesanth's ban along with a few others will be a life lesson to some of the upcoming youngsters that no matter how talented they are, wrong moves will always lure them away from righteousness and that's when they have to be at their strongest mentally. I congratulate Mr. Biswal on his appointment. Being a former first class cricketer, I hope he takes the league forward with dignity and integrity. God bless Indian cricket and the IPL.

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