The architect of Asia's rise

Jagmohan Dalmiya gestures while talking to the media Raveendran / © AFP

When Jagmohan Dalmiya recognised the value of a united Asian front in the early 1980s, he took the initiative to build an alliance, cutting through political lines on many occasions to renew India-Pakistan cricket ties, using left-field strategy to push Bangladesh towards Test status, and strongly backing Sri Lanka when it faced security trouble. The crowning moment was the successful hosting of the 1996 World Cup in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka but the effects were more long term and wide ranging.

Dalmiya realised Asia's strength lay in its numbers and set up the now-defunct Asian Cricket Council, which strengthened India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh's position in the ICC. The result was a change in cricket's commercialisation - and the creation of a unified voting bloc that effectively ended the dominance of the sport's traditional powers.

Former ICC president Ehsan Mani, with whom Dalmiya worked with in plenty of ICC and ACC programmes, said the BCCI and PCB had worked together at an "unprecedented" level when Dalmiya had led the Indian board.

"He was a visionary and a champion of India-Pakistan friendship and cooperation," Mani told ESPNcricinfo. "During his time as the secretary and then president of BCCI the two boards worked together at an unprecedented level. His wise counsel and behind-the-scene maneuvering will be sorely missed today as India and Pakistan struggle to resume bilateral series in the face of the interference in the game by politicians in India."

When another Asian country felt hemmed in or troubled by the actions of the wider cricket world, Dalmiya would step in. Less than a month before the start of the 1996 World Cup, Sri Lanka were in danger of losing their co-hosting rights because of a bomb blast in Colombo. Australia and West Indies refused to travel to the country but Dalmiya assured the Sri Lankan board that the other matches would still take place.

"He was president of the ICC the year I represented SLC at the board," said SLC president Sidath Wettimuny. "I remember him being keen to promote the Asian bloc and he was very supportive of Sri Lankan cricket."

The maximum benefit, though, was enjoyed by Bangladesh, who were awarded Test status during Dalmiya's term as ICC president in 2000. According to former BCB president Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Dalmiya formulated three steps for Bangladesh to get Test status and oversaw each of them.

"The first step was to be recognised by the ACC, without which it would have been difficult to get the ICC's full membership," Saber told ESPNcricinfo. "He arranged the ACC's support for us. Secondly, we had to establish Dhaka as an international venue. This was a big part of the strategy. There was a lot of doubt about whether the 1998 mini World Cup would be held in Bangladesh because a large part of the country was under water. There was a flood in the country. Dalmiya's support was amazing, in giving us the tournament and then holding on to it.

"The third step was to align Bangladesh's Test bid with his vision of globlisation. Who will be the tenth Full Member? That's when Bangladesh's name came forward. If he didn't want to establish globalisation, then we couldn't have pushed for Bangladesh." Bangladesh's Test status also hinged on Dalmiya's long friendship with Syed Ashraful Haque, then the BCB general secretary and a leading name among the administrators of the Asian bloc.

"He was the first one to say out loud that cricket can be a billion-dollar sport," Haque said. "Everyone thought it was a joke, especially the Australians and the English who laughed at him.

Haque worked closely with Dalmiya during the 1996 World Cup and was later put in charge of his ICC presidency campaign. "He put me in charge of the 1996 World Cup's opening ceremony. During the semifinal of the tournament in Kolkata, he wanted me to host a dinner for all the Associate Nations who were a big factor in those days. I asked him how I could invite so many people in such a fancy hotel?

"He said, "The Indian board will pay for it, but the card will bear your name." So the card said, 'Ashraful Haque requests the pleasure of your company …' He announced there that he would run for the ICC presidency."

Mani said that as ICC president, Dalmiya created the knockout tournament - later called the Champions Trophy - to not just generate revenue but to bring lesser-known nations under the umbrella of world cricket.

"The ICC knock-out was his brainchild to generate money for the running of the ICC and the development of cricket around the world. The first of these events was held in Bangladesh, followed by the second one in Kenya. They underpinned the viability of the ICC and provided a foundation on which others, including me, built.

"He was a great supporter of Bangladesh's endeavours to become a Test-playing nation and it was for this reason that he was particularly keen to put Bangladesh on the world cricket map by arranging to stage the first ICC knock-out in Dhaka."

Saber, who was BCB president at the time, said the strong bond between Asian nations that Dalmiya helped develop no longer exists. Saber remembered how Dalmiya could bring India and Pakistan together to play in a tournament celebrating Bangladesh's independence.

"One of his big achievements was how he brilliantly cultivated ACC's solidarity and unity. You just see how he brought India and Pakistan to play at our Independence Cup in 1998. India and Pakistan fought against each other during our Independence War but he brought these two nations to play in this tournament. This was his diplomatic genius.

"His other vision was to globalise the game, yet cricket is shrinking now. There are more people playing sports like football and rugby, but fewer people play cricket these days. Those running cricket nowadays are going in the opposite direction to the vision of men like Dalmiya, Dr Ali Bacher, John Anderson, Ehsan Mani and David Richards."

With inputs from Umar Farooq Kalson and Andrew Fidel Fernando