Jagmohan Dalmiya’s death has indeed brought an end to an era that saw innumerable upheavals in the politics of what’s now known as the world’s richest sports body- the BCCI.
Indian cricket was rocked by the allegations of match fixing in 2001, when several high profile Indian cricketers’ name surfaced related to this scandal.
But, few months before this extraordinary development, in November 2000 the CBI raids at Dalmiya’s house and dozens of offices made massive headlines.
The CBI said that the raids were conducted following the registration of a First Information Report against Dalmiya and some other persons involved in the TV rights case.
CBI authorities had sought correspondence that Doordarshan had entered with Stracon, UTV and WorldTel in various sporting events besides criket. Dalmiya had expressed inability to furnish the papers, saying he was not connected with the agencies or events.
The CBI had also alleged that Doordarshan sold television rights for two cricket World Cup tournaments to private firms despite having all the facilities to do the work itself.
They said several Doordarshan files pertaining to telecast rights of the 1996 and 1999 World Cups had been scrutinised by the agency and the anti-corruption unit felt a case could be registered and a formal inquiry initiated.
Raids on Dalmiya’s offices and residence dominated the national news agenda for several days, while as reporters we struggled to keep track of which premises were searched where.
This development left Dalmiya utterly stunned. He even called an urgent news conference to lodge complaint that the CBI and ED were ‘harassing his family.’
Just a day after the multiple raids at his office, he invited three journalists to his office at the Cricket Association of Bengal in Eden Gardens. I was representing rediff.com, while other two gentlemen were my senior friends from Reuters and PTI.
He instructed his secretary, Kunal Kanti Ghosh to distribute a copy each of a document, which Dalmiya described as his ‘character certificate’ issued by the Reserve Bank of India.
He told us, ” how can the CBI and ED question my integrity when the RBI had issued me good character certificate?”
Dalmiya and rediff.com never enjoyed a great relationship with the former always critical of our ‘anti-BCCI’ stories.
Such were the hostilities between the two that when Australians arrived in India to play their historic Test at Eden Gardens in 2001, Dalmiya refused to allow me to cover the match.
Later, he came to know that despite his ban on me, not only was I able to watch the match from the press box all throughout but also managed to pull off a coup by being the first journalist to get an exclusive interview with VVS Laxman after he played historic knock of 280 runs.
After the Test match, when I wrote a diary to ‘Not Out Mr Dalmiya,’ he told me it was never his intention to deliberately ban me from the Eden Gardens.
His critics both in CAB and BCCI felt that he was quite autocratic in his functioning but there’s little denying the truth that he always championed the cause of cricket across Asia.
He became the first Indian to head the International Cricket Council and it was during his time as the ICC president that cricketing minnows Bangladesh was awarded the Test status in 2000.
This decision drew a lot of flak but Dalmiya stood firm on “his decision.” Yes, he later told me that it was his decision to grant Bangladesh the Test status.
He said with a mischievous smile on his face,” If I had stayed a little longer in the ICC, I would have given even Nepal the Test status.”
There are a lot of aspects Dalmiya’s detractors didn’t appreciate of his leadership style and how he went about running cricket bodies, but there’s very little doubt that he was responsible for single-handedly raising the profile of the BCCI internationally. And Indian cricket will always be indebted to him for this.
14 years ago, I had chosen the headline of my diary Not Out Mr Dalmiya in protest against his decision of ‘banning’ me from Eden. But in reality, what he achieved as a cricket administrator will forever make him truly ‘not out.’