Jagmohan Dalmiya or Jaggu as I called him was always a larger-than-life figure in Indian and world cricket. The memory of my first meeting with him will remain etched in my mind forever. It was at a special general body meeting of the BCCI, held in Hyderabad in 1980. The meeting had been convened to elect managers for the upcoming twin tours of Australia and New Zealand.
I had already been part of the BCCI, having entered the ring in 1977. In our first meeting together Jaggu and I struck up a good rapport. We decided to take on the powerful ruling group controlled by stalwarts including MA Chidambaram, Fatehsingh Rao Gaekwad, PM Rungta, SK Wankhede and M Chinnaswamy, the then president chairing the meeting. The ruling group proposed the names of Keki Tarapore and Chandu Borde for the twin tours.
Jaggu and I, who had decided to coordinate our efforts, dared the mighty by proposing the names of Squadron Leader Shahid Durrani and Professor Ojha for the two tours. While Durrani was declared elected, we were denied the second win by sheer manipulation and chicanery on the part of two returning officers, namely Gaekwad and Rungta. They declared three votes of our candidate as invalid. When we confronted them to show us the invalid votes, they actually tore up all the votes. Rungta later told us that our guy had won the vote.
Another typical Marwari trait Jaggu had was an uncanny knack of reading balance sheets and statements of account. While going through the accounts for the AGM of 1980, held in September in Bangalore, three months after the SGM in Hyderabad, we took on the mighty Chidambaram, who was the then treasurer of the board. Jaggu had detected a discrepancy in the accounts regarding the printing of books by S Sriraman, who subsequently became BCCI president in 1985.
On this occasion Jaggu and I took on Chidambaram. Dr. Farooq Abdullah, in his inimitable style, stood up and asked Jaggu and me: "Is Chidambaram a thief?" We obviously ducked a bouncer coming from Farooq sahib. We marshalled a majority and would have won elections in 1980 itself, but for a last-moment adjournment by Chinnaswamy and two overnight "Aaya Rams Gaya Rams", namely Ranbir Mahindra and Kewal Mehra, who jumped the fence and accepted the posts of joint secretary and vice-president respectively.
This was the beginning of a lasting and fruitful partnership, which endured till my retirement in 1996. That is how I came to know Jaggu. We would sit at opposite ends of the BCCI table and would launch into arguments to expose the ruling camp. Together we broke the monopoly and stranglehold of a very powerful incumbent group in the BCCI. This built up a strong friendship and rapport with Jaggu and from then on till 1996, when I formally left BCCI, we were in regular touch. We spoke virtually every morning, sometimes for as long as three hours. My wife grew so exasperated that she actually teased me that Jaggu had actually become a sauten or 'second wife' as we say in Punjabi.
I like to call this period of our relationship the Bindra-Dalmiya era. We complimented each other. I was the dreamer and the visionary, Jaggu being the implementer par excellence . His biggest strength was the art of follow-up. He was an amazing worker, but he was also very set in his ways. He never changed his trademark attire - the safari suit. He wore it day in and out. The only difference was in his early days he would were a striped shirt and trousers. I sometimes jokingly told him: "If you want to wear a Safari, at least consider wearing a plain one."
His biggest strength was the art of follow-up. He was an amazing worker, but he was also very set in his ways.
His other big strength was he was a terrific deal maker and could bag the biggest and most lucrative deals with ease. In 1984 under the leadership of NKP Salve, then BCCI president, we moved the World Cup out of England to give South Asian cricket fans the excitement and glory of the 1987 Reliance World Cup. We succeeded in eliminating the English and Australian stranglehold on cricket and made the ICC a truly representative and democratic global body.
Those were also the days when we earnestly laid the foundations of making Indian cricket the commercial force it is today. We started by breaking the monopoly of the Indian public broadcaster, Doordarshan, to air all games involving the Indian cricket team. This was a Herculean task and not quite as easy as it may look today. It took patience, perseverance and mental strength to fight the monopoly all the way up to the Supreme Court of India.
The court issued a landmark judgment in 1994 and enabled us to bring in global broadcasters and producers like ESPN and TWI. This was truly a watershed moment in the history of Indian cricket, which catalysed the satellite broadcasting industry in India. This was, in my view, our biggest achievement during our tenure as BCCI administrators. After 1994, the commercialisation of Indian cricket has proceeded at a steady pace and without too much change. Of course, Lalit Modi marketed Indian cricket more effectively, but the real and transformative principles of change were actually laid down during the 1993 Hero Cup.
It was Jaggu's idea to organise the Hero Cup to mark the CAB golden jubilee. He did not sleep for three nights when the case was being heard. He coordinated with various officials at the different venues, used his powers of persuasion, and did not give up in his efforts to keep Doordarshan out of it at all costs.
For all his strengths and fine qualities, Jaggu could also be very stubborn. In 1981 when BN Dutt was wrongly removed as the East Zone vice-president, both Jaggu and I told the then BCCI president Wankhede he had made a mistake in nominating a person from the Eastern Indian state of Bihar, who did not even have a proposer and seconder from the East Zone. Wankhede made light of our concerns, but Jaggu took the matter to heart. He refused to attend a dinner that evening. I tried to convince him to come and even cited board tradition that fights were to be fought at the board table and evenings should be for a drink together. I explained we were opponents, not enemies, but Jaggu remained adamant and said he would `boycott all their functions.' I remember him telling me: "They violated conventions so we will also throw conventions to the wind."
We were successful in removing barrister Wankhede even before he could complete the normal tenure of three years. At the 1982 AGM in Bangalore we staged a coup and brought in Salve in his place. Jaggu wanted revenge for the removal of Dutt at Kanpur in 1981. These tactics showcased Jaggu for the street fighter that he was. He did not forgive or forget and was a tough opponent and foe.
In 1996 when I retired as BCCI president Jaggu wanted me to be the executive treasurer just like MA Chidambaram had done previously. I told him that I had been very critical of Chidambaram and had decided not to hold any office after I retired as BCCI president. I still remember we argued about this at length on a train journey from London to Nottingham, where we were going to watch the Trent Bridge Test match.
Jaggu could be critical of me and often told me: "You are very strong about your principles, but once you retire from government service you will be forgotten and no one will care about you." I told him I didn't care and always stressed that principles were paramount. What he cared about most was achieving his goals. That was the big difference between us.
Jaggu and I fought many a battle together and I can never forget his hard work, commitment and dedication to cricket. He very genuinely loved the game and made an oversized contribution to administering Indian cricket. He made Indian cricket into a global powerhouse. Cricket fans the world over need to remember the modern game and the way it is currently administered would have been very different had it not been for Jaggu. Cricket will miss him.
IS Bindra is a former BCCI president and current chairman of the Punjab Cricket Association