Not denying RCA is stepping stone to BCCI return - Modi
The vanity plate read CRI3KET. It was a gleaming steel-grey Ferrari. The tourists on their way to Buckingham Palace could not stop staring at the car and clicking pictures. Its owner, Lalit Modi, wore a big smile at the fact that his car causing such a stir.
Modi has always sought to turn heads and get tongues wagging. On Tuesday, he was announced the winner of the RCA elections. But Modi knew he was the victor on January 19 - the day of the polls. With a combination of money and charisma he got more than enough votes to decimate the opposition. The failed administration under his predecessor, CP Joshi, also helped.
Modi's return into Indian cricket administration could be seen as dramatic, considering the BCCI expelled him last September. The BCCI even challenged his nomination for the polls, but Modi found a route under the RCA constitution to get back into power.
In a chat with ESPNcricinfo, Modi admitted RCA is the door he will use to re-enter the BCCI. He revealed that the BCCI hurt him deeply and he wanted "to prove a point" to his opponents within the BCCI.
Modi's target has been one-time friend, co-administrator and now fierce enemy N Srinivasan. Modi says that not one day has passed since 2010 (when the BCCI initially suspended him) when he has not thought about driving Srinivasan out of the BCCI. It remains his goal and, he says, he is a "fighter".
How big is this victory and what does it mean to you?
It is a big victory. It has been four years since I have been fighting the previous cricket establishment at the RCA because of the deteriorating facilities. During my previous tenure as RCA president we had made it the premier state association. We had built of a state-of-the-art academy, a good stadium and we had plans to build a new stadium. Apparently the academy has fallen apart, there was bias in the selection process (of both first-class and age-group teams) and there was not much cricket happening in Rajasthan anymore. After I left, the administration had become political. The CP Joshi regime did not do anything worthy of note at the RCA.
My top priority would be to bring RCA back to its former glory. To do that we need to rectify the house within. We need to introspect and see what went wrong. And this time I want to build a system which just will not fall apart irrespective of who runs the RCA.
When did you start planning your comeback - the day you were banned by the BCCI or when you were suspended?
When the BCCI banned me I had to prove a point. Show to everybody that banning me does not mean that I am going to stay way. It actually gave me greater resolve to fight them. All they (the Srinivasan administration) are doing right now is to trying to fix everything: whether it is the game, the establishment, the meetings. Everything has become a one-man show. They are now trying to do the same at the ICC. To me that is just unacceptable. I just love the game. And hence cannot keep quiet.
You don't give up?
Why should I give up?
So you agree that the RCA is a stepping stone to returning to the BCCI?
I am not denying that. We have to cleanse cricket. The Supreme Court has helped in that activity by appointing Justice Mudgal panel to probe the allegations of corruption in the IPL.
But your return to India, at least in the near future, is uncertain. So how do you aim to run the RCA sitting in London?
It is not uncertain. I will be back soon. As and when the Indian (federal) government changes we will see. In ten days' time the election results will be out, so we never know how soon I will be back.
Why do you think if a new government comes into power you might be able to return quicker to India?
I will feel more secure (under a new government). We were afraid of the security troubles I had in the past (under the United Progressive Alliance, the existing government). I am sure under a new government there will be no witch hunt like it was there under the existing one. There is not a single chargesheet filed (against me) in the last four years. I hope I am able to go back and do what I am able to do.
In the interim my plan is to have capable people running the RCA. I will be in constant touch, overseeing and monitoring the activity from London. But the first thing is to get a good, stable team. We need to introspect and stop the outflow of the money that was vanishing from the RCA coffers under the Joshi administration. We need to ensure that a concrete plan is put in place right away.
You are aware the BCCI has already challenged your nomination and is threatening to bar the RCA. There is now a clear danger of RCA losing its affiliation. How do you aim to tackle that issue?
Let them try. I am not afraid of that fight. I have not been afraid of any fight. If they want to cancel our affiliation, let them do that. That does not mean cricket in Rajasthan is going to stop. What are they going to do: not allow us to play matches? We are going to fight for our rights and fight for our boys.
The biggest loss, if RCA affiliation is terminated, would be suffered by the Rajasthan players. A few of the players we spoke with are certain your return will boost their confidence, but they are worried about their future. How do you plan to give them confidence?
I have always looked after the players. They are the lifeline of the game. It is extremely important that I have an interaction with the boys. We will talk to them and make sure they are taken care of one way or the other.
Is this not a Pyrrhic victory - you win the elections but you lose everything else?
There is nothing to lose. I have been fighting the BCCI for some time now. If it wasn't for me fighting N Srinivasan from London it (Srinivasan being asked to step aside by the Supreme Court in March) would not have happened in the first place. If I hadn't supported all the people who are fighting him, he would not have been pushed into a corner like he is right now.
You are talking about the Cricket Association of Bihar?
Yes, I have given CAB full support. I am with them, talking with them, strategising with them, providing them with documentation.
You have been a vocal critic of Srinivasan. But even if, hypothetically, he goes, you do not have many friends in the BCCI. So how do you tackle your life ban?
Says who? I have many friends in the BCCI. A lot of them are afraid to come out and have their hands chopped off by Srinivasan. But for now we will take it one day at a time. Me winning in the RCA and then standing back and watching the BCCI falling apart … that is not me. I am cut out be a fighter and I am going to take on whoever tries to take us down.
Under the previous regime the RCA was in tatters and there were allegations of corruption against your predecessor and the acting secretary KK Sharma. How do you plan to unseat any deeply embedded roots of corruption while sitting abroad?
When I ran the show there was no corruption. I am a no-nonsense administrator. If somebody in my administration is doing wrong then I am doing something wrong because I am in charge. I will ensure corruption is weeded out. I am not on a witch hunt, but yes I am going to put things right.
The administration troubles have spilled over on to the field with Rajasthan having lost their way after 2012. How do you aim to correct that?
Without the facilities the Rajasthan team cannot go anywhere. During my time the team was enjoying the facilities, we were recruiting youngsters and developing them at the RCA academy right from the their mid-teens. Some of them have grown to become good players. We have good talent but to enhance that you need the facilities up and running, good coaches and staff, and that is my job as an administrator.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo