An era has ended with demise of Jagmohan Dalmiya


Qaiser Mohammad Ali


An ailing Jagmohan Dalmiya, a former president of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and a two-time BCCI chief, passed away in a Kolkata hospital on Sunday, three days after he was admitted there following a heart attack. He was 75 when he breathed his last.

With the demise of Dalmiya, whose three-year term as BCCI president was to end only in September 2017, an era has ended — well and truly. Period. Nobody can, in actual terms, replace him — for his God-given sharp intellect and the ability to sort out the seemingly unsolvable, knotty problems.

A giant among the world’s best sports administrators, Dalmiya took over BCCI’s presidentship at the March 2 AGM, for a second time – rather three, if a short tenure as interim president in 2013 is taken into account – but several ailments had made him a virtual shadow of his past lately.

Rich tributes have started pouring in from all over the world, and the BCCI, as a mark of respect, immediately cancelled a media event planned for Monday in Bengaluru, where Board secretary had promised to make some grand announcements.

From business tycoon Kiran Mazumdar Shaw to former Pakistan Test of-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq to Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, people from all walks of life have paid heartfelt tributes to Dalmiya.

Dalmiya would always be known for two main reasons – the man who opened the financial floodgates for the Board, and for his presence of mind, sharp wit, and humour. His ability to resolve the toughest of problems, whether it was the controversy surrounding Shoaib Akhtar’s illegal bowling action, the suspension/banning of six Indian cricketers in South Africa in 2001 for various transgressions, or tackling a host of tricky issues at home, was admired by one and all.

The Kolkata-based Dalmiya along with then BCCI president IS Bindra will go down in history as someone who brought big-time sponsorship money into the Board at the turn of the 1990s. That was almost 14 years before marketing wizard Lalit Modi joined the BCCI in 2005, and started talking and bringing in millions of dollars.

Dalmiya, who in his prime drew awe from both his friends and foes with his sharp administrative acumen, had been ailing for a while and due to which his movements had become restricted.

According to people close to him, he also had attacks of dementia, besides other age-related problems, due to which he would inadvertently embarrass himself during BCCI meetings.

A Marwari business tycoon, originally from Sikar district in Rajasthan, Dalmiya was born on 30 May, 1940 in Calcutta, now Kolkata. A club-level cricketer, he went on to occupy almost every post in the Cricket Association Bengal (CAB), which he headed at the time of his death on Sunday and ruled Indian cricket with iron hand. He literally climbed up the ranks, both at the CAB and the BCCI before finally becoming the first Asian to head the ICC (1997-2000).

That was a big achievement, to become the president of the ICC, which had always been dominated by the Englishmen and Australians. He, as BCCI secretary (1993-1997), successfully organised the 1996 World Cup in India, along with Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Dalmiya was controversial, too, and the bogey of the 1996 World Cup chased him for a long time to come. It was issues related to financial embezzlement, related to that World Cup, that gave an opportunity to his foes to embarrass him and Dalmiya was very nearly arrested by the police until a compromise was reached between him and his enemies.

Dalmiya made many comebacks to cricket administration, and his latest one was in March when he was said to have become the consensus presidential candidate for the warring groups, led by N. Srinivasan and veteran politician Sharad Pawar.

Politics in the BCCI was at its peak in the months leading up to the March 2 AGM at which Dalmiya was elected the boss. Now, after his demise it is feared that politics is likely to intensify again as there are several known aspirants for the top post.

So, technically speaking, what would be the process to elect the new president, as per the BCCI constitution?

The new president could be in the chair within 15 days from now, to be elected at a special general body meeting, which needs to be convened by the secretary. Before that SGM, a new interim president would be in place from the zone Dalmiya belonged to, east zone.

Rule 15 of the BCCI constitution that deals with ‘Election of office-bearers and vice-presidents’, explains how the presidential vacancy should be filled. Says Rule 15 (v): “In case of vacancy occurring in the office of president by reason of death or by him being adjudged insolvent or by him being convicted in a criminal case by a competent court or by resignation or otherwise, the secretary shall within 15 days convene a special general body meeting to elect the president who shall be nominated at least one full member from the zone which proposed the name of the president whose term was cut short prematurely. Such person who is so elected shall hold office till the next elections.”