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In Memory of Jagmohan Dalmiya : Obituary


Kolkata: At the height of his career, it used to be said that Jagmohan Dalmiya could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. Such was the marketing genius of the man, who brought money to Indian cricket and replicated the success when he became the first Asian to head the game’s global body.

Seasoned cricket administrator Dalmiya, 75, who died on Sunday, was also known for his resilience, with even his detractors acknowledging that he had it in him to swim back to the shore if thrown deep into the sea, or could rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes.

The septuagenarian’s almost unbelievable comeback earlier this year as the head of the country’s premier cricket body BCCI, which had once ignominiously thrown him out, only reinforced the notion.

Born in a business family in 1940, Dalmiya was a club-level cricketer. He kept wickets for two teams – Jorabagan and Rajasthan – in the (then) Calcutta cricket league, and switched to cricket administration after hanging up his gloves.

Mentored by then BCCI mandarin Biswanath Dutt, Dalmiya cut his teeth in Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) politics, one of the most chequered and marathon innings in India’s sports administration.

Dalmiya became BCCI treasurer in 1983 – the year India won the World Cup. The wily businessman didn’t take much time to understand that huge money could be brought to the game from telecast rights, and teamed up with his then friend and later big foe I.S. Bindra to bring the cricket World Cup out of the British soil for the first time in 1987, as India and Pakistan co-hosted the hugely successful Reliance Cup.

Later, he served as BCCI secretary, before becoming ICC chief for three years in 1997.

As the top man of the global body, he brought money to it too. The ICC, which had a paltry sum in its coffers when he took over, was flush with funds when Dalmiya’s stint ended in 2000.

Dalmiya was elected BCCI president in 2001. He was all-in-all in the board till his tenure ended in 2004.

Later that year, Dalmiya hoisted his acolyte Ranbir Singh Mahendra as his successor in a tantalizingly close election where then union minister Sharad Pawar threw his hat into the ring for the top post.

As the election ended in a tie, Dalmiya gave his casting vote to ensure Mahendra’s victory, prompting a dejected Pawar to remark that the entire process was unfair.

“The umpire was the bowler,” Pawar had quipped after his loss.

Dalmiya then controlled the board by proxy for a year, with Mahendra being a mere puppet.

But the Pawar camp fought back by using all means to checkmate Dalmiya at his own game in the 2005 election.

Months later, the BCCI lodged a police complaint against Dalmiya for alleged misappropriation of funds related to the 1996 World Cup in which India was a co-host.

As Dalmiya faced a police probe, the BCCI expelled him in December 2006, which also forced him to step down as CAB president, months after a nerve-wracking election which he had won by defeating then West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s nominee, city Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee.

In mid-2007, Dalmiya was exonerated by the court, and he returned to head the CAB in 2008, by defeating then president Mukherjee.

However, in the next few years, he seemed only a shadow of his former self. He looked old, and his lack of full fitness was talked about in CAB circles.

But the wily cricket administrator bid his time, and pulled off the first surprise when sidelined president N. Srinivasan pitchforked him to the post of BCCI interim chief in June 2013 after the spot-fixing scam emerged.

The short term as head of the board brought him back to centrestage, with also displaying his wide acceptability in the board.

Dalmiya again played his cards well after the Supreme Court ran out Srinivasan from the race.

Keeping both the lobbies headed by Srinivasan and Pawar guessing his next moves, Dalmiya deftly exploited the hostility between the two to put himself up as an acceptable candidate and ultimately won the seat unopposed.


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Cricket, a Way of Life

One of the renowned cricket writers C.L.K. James summed it up perfectly, "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know"

Cricket, Life, British
Cricket writers around the world have eulogised not only the masters who played the game, but also the surroundings and the people following it too. Wikimedia Commons


Cricket, as one popularly terms it, is a way of life. The British established the game in every corner that they were present and made it into an elite sport. The famous saying, “cricket is a game for a real live man, keep fit little man, keep fit”, sums it up beautifully.

The pace and harmony with which it was played was similar to a musical symphony, wherein one was relaxed to enjoy every note or stroke in cricketing terms. Cricket writers around the world have eulogised not only the masters who played the game, but also the surroundings and the people following it too. One of the renowned cricket writers C.L.K. James summed it up perfectly, “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know”.

Cricket has evolved over times from the ‘play to finish’ to a five-day Test match. The customer, in this case, the spectator, as one commonly refers to in marketing jargon, as the king, has been at the center stage of the way the game has changed over the years. The paucity of time and the pace of life has played a major part in changing the tide of the royal game.

Test cricket, fortunately, is still revered amongst the cricketers and serious cricket followers as the ultimate form of the game, but this is changing rapidly in the fast pace digital world of today. Cricket is not just a sport anymore but has become the source of entertainment in the same vein as an action packed movie or an exciting event. Test cricket is gradually receding into a test of time and resilience, patience and endurance which is respected by fans and the people playing it has now given way to flamboyance, aggression and stardom.

Cricket, Life, British
The pace and harmony with which it was played was similar to a musical symphony, wherein one was relaxed to enjoy every note or stroke in cricketing terms. Wikimedia Commons

A cricketer is now more inclined to be known for his hitting rather than for his technique. Cricketers, as one sadly gathers, are now more focused on playing the shorter limited overs format of the game, rather than in acquiring skills to play Test cricket for their country. The only way forward, is to recognize an Indian cap, only when one plays Test cricket, maybe this would incentivise the upcoming cricketers to get serious about the conventional form of the game. An Indian cap for a T20 or an ODI player should not be given the weightage and aura of a Test cap.

Unfortunately, time and tide waits for no man. The show must go on and so cricket in any form is better than nothing at all. One can feel the cause of worry, when the modern master of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, a quiet observer at most times, speak vehemently about the changes required for the progress of the game. The 50-overs cricket, which boasts of the aspiration of every modern day cricketer “The World Cup”, he feels, needs to be altered not only to suit the spectators but also for the benefit of the teams and the players.

A 25-overs per 2 innings is a fabulous idea as the present game of the 50 overs version has become boring between the 15th and 40th overs. The fielding side, at most times, is left to play defensive cricket, whereas, the batsmen need very little skills to accumulate runs. Breaking that monotony is a good way to keep cricketers and their support staff on their toes and gives the spectators a change of scene as well. The most important aspect is that it gives both the teams a more equal opportunity of the conditions during the match. I feel this should be tested in the Indian domestic scenario as quickly as possible.

T20 format is now easily the most popular version of the game. However, one can see that this format is also gradually losing out to the T10 and the 100 balls per side matches. The tide is changing very rapidly towards cricket becoming a home-run sport, enjoyed by one and all, for only hitting boundaries. The T20 could in the near future soon become a two innings encounter of 10 overs each.

Also Read- Juul Halts Sales of Mint-Flavored E-Cigarettes, its Most Popular Product

One’s only worry is that the very characteristics and the core values of the game of cricket are being gradually disturbed to cater to the commercial advantages of all the stakeholders involved in the game. One cannot see that as unreasonable, but the very essence of why and how the game was being played is giving away to the hit and run ways of today’s world.

A cyclone is brewing to uproot the very base of pure cricket which has stood like a pinnacle of glory over a century of time. They say “a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”, and one hopes that cricket too lingers on in the same way in its new avatar. (IANS)