Cricket isn’t quite in Shashank Manohar's blood. In fact, he’s never played the game at a serious level, although his brother Sunil’s — often mentioned in records as S Manohar — solitary visit to the crease in a first-class match has many thinking he has. What is in his blood, though, is law, a profession he followed his father into. In fact, had it not been for law, you might never have heard of the low-profile advocate from Nagpur. When V. R. Manohar, Shashank's father, was Advocate General of Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar was the state's chief minister.
Years later, when Pawar took over the reigns of the BCCI, Manohar was the head of the Vidarbha Cricket Association, a post he first held in 1996, and it was only natural that he be elevated to a bigger stage.
But that trajectory had little impact on Manohar's style of functioning. A staunch believer in the simple life, Manohar, to this day, doesn't wear a watch or carry a mobile phone. He felt no need for a passport till he was forced to get one in 2007, when his position in the BCCI meant the possibility of attending ICC board meetings in Dubai. It turned out that one such trip in 2008 was the first time Manohar stepped on foreign soil.
At 52, Manohar is a relatively young BCCI president, given some of those who held the post before him. His rise to the top of the heap in the BCCI has been through the ranks, and anything but meteoric. "When he began, it was at the grass roots," says Rajan Nair, a VCA colleague who has known Manohar for more than 30 years. “At that time Nagpur was considered a small centre, not even a B-level city. Places like Jaipur and Mohali got to stage Test matches but Nagpur was ignored by Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and the powers that be.”
For Nair, what stands out is Manohar's consistency. “He's a man of very strong opinions, but he won't air them unless asked,” explains Nair. “And he hates chamcha-giri. When he asks you something, you're free to disagree and he will explain his point of view. If you try to suck up to him, he won't have any time for you; if you lie to him, God save you.” Lalit Modi might have done both, and earned Manohar’s wrath.