N Srinivasan’s Relationship of Convenience with Jagmohan Dalmiya

02 March 2015

Yesterday, on the eve of the Board of Cricket Control’s annual meeting, Jagmohan Dalmiya was elected BCCI president. Reports have stated that both N Srinivasan and Sharad Pawar agreed to Dalmiya’s candidature, but not without some maneuvering by Pawar. Pawar is said to have wanted Dalmiya as president, since he was not close to former president, Srinivasan. However, in this excerpt from ‘Beyond the Boundary by Rahul Bhatia in our August 2014 issue, Bhatia explores Srinivasan’s relationship with Dalmiya, which was definitely antagonistic, but also convenient when necessary.

In 1999, AC Muthiah was named president of the BCCI, thanks to the support of a man who had loomed large over both Indian and international cricket for years—Jagmohan Dalmiya. Dalmiya, a power player from West Bengal, had been named ICC president in 1997. The prime of his administrative career coincided with possibly the biggest development in cricket history—the explosion of the market for cricket broadcasting, particularly in the newly open Indian economy. Dalmiya was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to the Indian subcontinent in 1996, when it was co-hosted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. By this time, Dalmiya had attracted the attention of the whole cricket-playing world; in his book Sticky Wicket, the former ICC CEO Malcolm Speed described him as “without doubt one of the most resolute, able, difficult, prickly, and unpredictable men” he had met.

Over the next decade, Srinivasan’s relationships with Muthiah and Dalmiya, antagonistic and convenient by turns, helped him consolidate his power, both at the TNCA and within the BCCI. “Our group brought Dr Muthiah to power” at the BCCI, a former senior official of that organisation from Rajasthan, known for his mining and construction interests, told me. “That’s Dalmiya, Arun Jaitley,”—the senior BJP leader who headed the Delhi District Cricket Association for over a decade—“all of us. We voted for him.” Badri Seshadri, one of the founders of Cricinfo, realised that Dalmiya was the real power behind the throne when he once took a proposal to Muthiah. “You must convince Dalmiya,” Sheshadri recalled being told. “He made it very plain.”

But Muthiah and Dalmiya began to drift apart almost immediately after the former’s election. “Dalmiya probably thought that because Muthiah has been brought into power by him, he would be consulted on all matters,” the senior official said. “Which Muthiah did not do. To that extent, Muthiah was correct. But his knowledge of cricket was very limited, and he, in turn, started taking impulsive decisions.” Like many others, this official did not want to be identified, even though he had stepped away from cricket after being voted out of his post. It seemed an unspoken code among most cricket administrators that the safest place to be, after years of handling large contracts and currying favour, was underground.

In 2000, Muthiah’s opponents on the board grew unhappy with what they saw as his independent streak. With the Indian team going through a funk, Muthiah invited the retired Australian opening batsman Geoff Marsh to become a consultant for the country’s new National Cricket Academy. “That led to a lot of complications,” the official said.

Rahul Bhatia  is a reporter. He has worked for The Caravan, Mint and ESPN Cricinfo