Test cricket. He's a match-winner and according to me Sehwag should be in the Indian team in all three forms of the game as long as he is fit and available," said Lele, at the CCI on Monday, while delivering the keynote address of the "Legends Club" on the 98th birth anniversary of former captain Vijay Hazare.
The outspoken former official claimed how he had played a role in Sehwag getting a firm foothold in the Indian team through the ODIs early on in the Delhi dasher's career.
"Selector Madan Lal used to bring up Sehwag's name consistently in selection committee meetings chaired by Chandu Borde as the player used to score 40-50 regularly batting at 7 or 8 in domestic matches and after a lot of persuasion was included in the squad of 15 in the ODI series against Zimbabwe (December, 2000)," Lele recalled.
"When captain Sourav Ganguly was banned from the Rajkot game for India due to over-rate penalty, Madan asked me to try and convince Borde to give Sehwag a chance. I persuaded Borde to include him in the XI and the latter agreed only on the condition that I take up the entire responsibility by saying he could not be contacted and I agreed. And Sehwag is still playing," said Lele.
Lele also recalled legendary Sir Garfield Sobers' lofty praise of Sehwag's abilities during a talk show in Mumbai a few years ago when he said he was the Indian player he liked most for his attacking play.
"When I met Sandeep Patil before the Test series, I told him about Sehwag's match-winning qualities and he agreed," Lele added.
Lele also revealed how Raj Singh, as BCCI president, had not okayed a squad to Zimbabwe with Sourav Ganguly as its vice-captain following talks he had previously had with captain Mohammed Azharuddin and coach Anshuman Gaekwad who had not liked the Bengal stalwart's attitude.
"There is a clause in the BCCI's constitution that all touring squads need to be approved by the president. In one instance, when the squad was picked for Zimababwe (1998) with Azhar as captain, Raj Singh did not okay it as it had Ganguly named as vice-captain.
He confronted the selectors after having heard Azhar and Anshu speaking against Ganguly prior to the meeting and asked them how was he was named as vice-captain. It got changed and Anil Kumble became the vice-captain and the team was given the nod by the president," Lele said.
India played a one-off Test and 3 One-dayers on that tour.
The former BCCI secretary was against the idea of paid selectors introduced by the Board a few years ago but agreed to the idea of selection committee meetings and AGM of the Board being telecast 'live'.
"There is no harm in telecasting the AGM. But there are some secrets in the Board and they will not like them to be made public. But I am against the concept of paid selectors. They should be given some extra money as compensation but not like Rs. 50-60 lakhs per year," said Lele answering a question.
Though the Board is raking in moolah from the lucrative Indian Premier League, Lele was of the view that the T20 format was harming Test cricket.
"T20 cricket is harming Test cricket," he said.
But he also recalled the days when the BCCI was in the red to the tune of Rs. 75 lakh when the late Madhavrao Scindia was at the helm of its affairs and he was the Board's joint secretary in 1990-91.
"Scindia wanted his green signal to conduct even routine meetings as the Board had suffered a loss of Rs. 75 lakh. It was only from 1993 when the I S Bindra-Jagmohan Dalmiya team took over, that money started flowing into the coffers with the first sign of it coming when Star Sports agreed to pay Rs. one crore annually to the Board for the next five years for getting telecast rights for matches," he said.
"After five years, when the contract ended Star Sports were willing to double the amount but on the insistence of Dalmiya, tenders were called for and we were shocked to see Doordarshan, which was telecasting matches free of charge from 1980 to 1993, bidding for the rights by offering Rs. 235 crore for the next five years and the Board became rich," he reminded the audience.
Lele also praised former IPL chairman Lalit Modi for multiplying this amount several times when he headed the T20 tournament for three years from 2008-10 and criticized the BCCI for taking disciplinary measures against him for alleged financial irregularities.
"He brought in Rs. 9500 crore to the Board's coffers from 2008-10. They should have simply thrown him out if they wanted to punish him but should not have pursued the matter and forced him to leave the country," said Lele while recalling his first few meetings with Modi.
"It was in 1994 or 1995, when he met me with Amrit Mathur, who was with the Indian Railways, and offered to sponsor Baroda (CA) for Rs. one lakh per year and we accepted it. But on the eve of the the next AGM of the BCCI, he wanted me to give him a letter to attend the meeting as BCA representative which I refused without getting the managing committee's approval.
"The next day, I saw him attending the meeting with Bindra (on behalf of the Punjab CA) and he told me that he knew of ways to get into the AGM. At the end of the meeting, he told me he is ending the sponsorship of BCA," said Lele with a laugh.
"Modi was the one to come up with the idea of the IPL-like league (for 50-over cricket) at that time," said Lele who added that the brainwave was scuttled by Dalmiya.
The former cricket administrator was in favour of day-night Test matches and Ranji games being played under lights but was against India playing Pakistan at neutral venues.