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Home >Industry >Advertising >The rise, fall and return of Jagmohan Dalmiya

From the man who steered Indian cricket’s meteoric rise to a commercial sporting power to being persona non grata at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), and to heading the board again, Jagmohan Dalmiya has come full circle.

On Monday, Dalmiya was unanimously elected BCCI president at the board’s much-delayed annual general meeting (AGM). Dalmiya’s victory was made all the more sweet by his arch-rival and challenger Sharad Pawar having to opt out of the race after failing to secure a nomination for the post.

His nomination was backed by all six members of East Zone, whose turn it was to elect the next BCCI president, as per the board’s policy of rotating presidency among zones.

Dalmiya also becomes the first BCCI president to hold two terms, after a 2012 constitutional amendment allowed a candidate from a different zone to become president if his name is both proposed and seconded by the zone whose turn it is to elect the president.

Known to friends as Jaggu Da, Dalmiya entered the BCCI in 1979 when it wasn’t the cricketing power it is today, and rose to become its treasurer in 1983.

He joined hands with I.S. Bindra (with whom he fell out later) to break the hegemony of Australia and England over the International Cricket Council (ICC) and bring the coveted cricket World Cup to the subcontinent, first in 1987 and later in 1996.

In 1992, when Bindra was BCCI president, Dalmiya was elected secretary of the board. Together, they’d take steps that would change Indian cricket forever, at least commercially.

Before 1993, India’s state-owned broadcaster Doordarshan (DD) held a monopoly on the live telecast of cricket matches. The BCCI had to pay DD roughly 5 lakh per game to broadcast the matches.

Enter Dalmiya and Bindra. The duo fought DD’s monopoly by selling television rights to TransWorld International (TWI) ahead of the India-England series for a fee of $40,000, or 18 lakh. DD on its part, was forced to purchase the broadcast rights from TWI for $1 million, with the BCCI making a $600,000 profit.

Prior to the England series in 1993, for the first time in its history, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) and the BCCI tried getting a private broadcaster to produce matches in the Hero Cup, a tournament organized by the Dalmiya-led CAB to commemorate its diamond jubilee in November 1993.

They further sought to sell the broadcast rights to a private channel. It resulted in a legal dispute between the CAB and the ministry of information and broadcasting, which eventually culminated in a historic verdict that would change Indian broadcasting forever.

The Supreme Court ruled that airwaves could no longer be a state monopoly, paving the way for the BCCI to sell television rights.

Then came the 1996 World Cup, by which time Dalmiya had consolidated his position within the BCCI power elite. The World Cup, which was jointly hosted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, was a watershed moment for the business of cricket.

Dalmiya, who was the convenor of the Pakistan India Lanka Commission (PILCOM) was also instrumental in selling television rights for the tournament to WorldTel, a US-based company headed by the late Mark Mascarenhas.

The rights were sold for $10 million, a staggering amount at the time. Wills, a tobacco/cigarette brand owned by ITC Ltd, paid $12 million to become the tournament sponsor of the 1996 World Cup.

After the success of the 1996 World Cup, the last of its kind where the host nation managed the tournament, Dalmiya’s ambitions went global. He was elected the first ICC president in 1997, and would go on to serve for a term of three years, before leaving office in 2000.

As ICC president, he went about changing (and modernizing) the way the organization was run, resetting its agenda to make it a more profit-driven body, with high rewards—or doles, if you like—for those who supported him—a tactic Dalmiya perfected during his stint in the BCCI.

The TV rights for the 1999 World Cup, organized by the ICC, were sold for about $16 million. In June 2000, Dalmiya quit as ICC president a month after awarding television rights for two ICC events—the ICC World Cup and the ICC Knockout Champions Trophy.

In May 2000, the marketing rights for the events were awarded to the Rupert Murdoch-owned Global Cricket Corporation (GCC) for an amount of $550 million.

The bitter fall

Immediately after relinquishing his ICC post, Dalmiya returned to Eden Gardens in Kolkata, his second home, to be re-elected CAB chief. In 2001, after spending nearly two decades in the BCCI’s power circles, Dalmiya was elected BCCI president for his first term.

In 2004, after the completion of his term, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, the son of former Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal and a Dalmiya loyalist, was elected president in a bitter contest against then Union agriculture minister Pawar.

With the two tied at 15 votes each, Dalmiya cast his vote in Mahendra’s favour, igniting a fierce rivalry in Indian cricket’s corridors of power that still hasn’t ended. A year later, Pawar had his way, defeating Mahendra by 21 votes to 10, in an election that would change Indian cricket.

Buoyed by the ouster of Mahendra, a Dalmiya proxy, in 2006, the Pawar-led BCCI filed a criminal complaint in a Mumbai police station against Dalmiya, alleging misappropriation of funds during his stint as PILCOM convenor.

Dalmiya was alleged to have transferred 40 crore from an Indian Overseas Bank account to the CAB, of which he was president at the time. Within months, Dalmiya—the man who spearheaded Indian cricket’s commercial revolution—was suspended and expelled from the BCCI.

In 2007, he successfully challenged the criminal cases filed by the BCCI before the Bombay high court, and with the BCCI unable to prove its charges against him, he was vindicated. Likewise, the Calcutta high court suspended his expulsion, paving the way for Dalmiya to contest CAB elections in 2008. The BCCI revoked Dalmiya’s expulsion in 2010 after he withdrew a civil suit against the board.

The return

After biding his time as CAB chief (except for a 19-month period when he stepped down in 2006) for nearly eight years, Dalmiya returned to the BCCI in June 2013 after he was appointed “interim administrator".

That was after N. Srinivasan was forced to “step aside" till a probe into a betting and spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League (IPL) was completed. Dalmiya held the post for two months, announcing a slew of anti-corruption measures and a complete overhaul of the IPL. Most of those measures are yet to be implemented by the BCCI.

In October 2014, in an apparent declaration of support for Srinivasan ahead of the elections, the CAB and all its affliliate clubs felicitated the ICC chairman. Confident of an all-clear from the Supreme Court, Srinivasan pitched himself for a second term to the East Zone, which was to elect the next BCCI president.

However, in January 2015, when the Supreme Court virtually barred Srinivasan from standing for a second term as BCCI president, Dalmiya started moving again. The Srinivasan camp was already mulling his candidacy for the post of board president.

After regaining the president’s post at the Mumbai Cricket Association, Pawar was keenly eyeing the BCCI’s top job in what would have been his second term at the helm. With the apparent backing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pawar embarked on an ambitious campaign seeking, to find a proposer and seconder for his nomination among East Zone associations, forcing an election.

Dalmiya, meanwhile, had an enviable start to begin with, two votes, from the CAB and the National Cricket Club, the two bodies of which he is the president.

Having secured a nomination and the backing of the other East Zone members without much of an effort, Dalmiya then won an assurance from Srinivasan of his backing.

Despite a late effort by the Pawar camp to field young BJP leader Anurag Thakur for the top job, the game was up. Thakur, like Pawar, couldn’t muster the numbers, and with utmost reluctance, Pawar agreed to Dalmiya as a “consensus candidate" of both rival factions.

The grand old Marwari had done it again. This time, he had won unchallenged.

The return, in many ways, was complete.

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