Shashank Manohar, the new BCCI president, is a man of few words, not given to hyperbole and verbosity, which cricket administrators are generally fond of. A lawyer by profession and a staunch loyalist of Sharad Pawar, Manohar, to many is an enigma who shuns the modern tools of communication as if they are a hindrance and not of any help.
His not using a mobile phone and not even having a personal e-mail id is seen by many as a virtue, though it is impossible to figure out how can a man, whose office demands being touch with the outside world on a second to second basis, function efficiently.
These quirks apart, Manohar has maintained an image of rectitude and financial probity that in today’s age can be seen as a modern marvel. It is hard to understand how he has managed to be unsullied by what has been going on around him, especially when he was president of the Board, when the riches and glamour of the IPL tarnished the image of almost everyone associated with it.
He was there when the Board amended its constitution which allowed its members to own an IPL team, which led to N Srinivasan’s conflict of interest and his subsequent fall. It is even more of a wonder that how can a man seen so close to Pawar, a symbol of intrigue and manipulation, have a reputation so different from that of his mentor. That he has managed to do so and is today seen as the antidote for all the scandals sullying the game of cricket, is either a tribute to his impeccable conduct or to his PR agency that has cleverly crafted an image that may not be the true reflection of the man behind it.
Who the real Manohar is could be soon revealed as he takes over the reins of Indian cricket at a time when its very existence is under threat. How he deals with so many thorny issues confronting the board and in what manner he presides over the cleansing of the game, will eventually decide what Manohar stands for. Till then, any objective judgment from a position of neutrality will have to be reserved.
Whatever he may or may not be can be debated endlessly, but one thing is sure, he is a man whose obduracy in sticking to his stand can’t be questioned. As a proof of Manohar’s unbending will, reflect on what transpired in the Nagpur Test of 2004.
India were to play Australia and the wicket on offer was as green as any in the world and as hard as even Perth could be. The Indians were shocked, not to say that the Australians were not. Adam Gilchrist, the Australian captain in that Test couldn’t believe his luck and publicly confessed his surprise and delight.
Sourav Ganguly, the Indian captain, distressed and upset, is supposed to have pleaded with Manohar, who was heading the Vidarbha Cricket Association, to mow the grass and not let the home advantage slip away from the Indians. Manohar, at that time was in the anti-Dalmiya camp, the group that was in power, and refused to issue any instructions to the grounds man.
Ganguly withdrew from the Test at the last moment, citing injury as the reason. Rahul Dravid led India, who, expectedly, were routed in the match. The scars of what happened at Nagpur left a negative impact on the team, with Ganguly being accused of letting the team down. Within a span of four days, a cohesive Indian unit had become dissent driven, the impact of which was to be felt in coming years.
Why Manohar did not get the wicket changed is even today a mystery, many accusing him of letting his anti-Dalmiya sentiments prevail over the good of the Indian team.
Call it ironic or the signs of the changing times, that today Manohar becomes the president as a nominee of the East Zone with Ganguly being the person to nominate his name. Their first innings together was a disaster. How it shapes up the second time will be worth watching.