Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday disclosed that he was offered the Indian cricket board president's post in the early 1980s but did not take it.
"It came as a surprise to me when I received an offer from luminaries of the Indian cricket board to be its president in the early 1980s. It was more than 25 years ago," Mukherjee said here at the screening of "Hum Sab Ek Hai", a documentary on cricket in India produced by his ministry.
Mukherjee looked at ease on Saturday after days of heightened tension between Indian and Pakistan over November's terror attacks in Mumbai.
The seasoned politician said his immediate reaction after being offered the post was: "What will I do there!"
Mukherjee said as a village boy he was fond of football and not cricket.
The 73-year-old leader said when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) men insisted, "I took shelter under my mentor and then prime minister Indira Gandhi. She told them I am too busy. I felt relieved. And N.K.P. Salve became the board president (in 1982)".
Former BCCI president B.N. Dutt recalled that he, along with his prodigy Jagmohan Dalmiya, had gone to Mukherjee's residence and requested him to take over the reins of the board.
"Initially, he agreed, but told us to come a day later, as he wanted to speak to Gandhi. But when we went to him the next day, he told us "I can't take the job. Madam has told me 'Mukherjee, where is your time? You have important things to do'," Dutt told IANS.
Terming cricket as a national obsession, Mukherjee said India's cricketing history and the social impact of the game have made a deep impression in the people's psyche.
"In its progress from being a game of the royalty to a game encompassing all sections of society, cricket exemplifies our philosophy of unity in diversity".
Brimming with nostalgia, Mukherjee remembered India's historic World Cup triumph in 1983 under Kapil Dev's captaincy. "It was late at night. But the excitement it generated across the country is unbelievable. The first call I got that night was from prime minister Indira Gandhi, who told me 'This is really a glorious occasion and our heads have gone high'."
The senior minister proudly mentioned a bat gifted to him by Kapil that contained the signatures of all the players.
Mukherjee, however, felt that India should not be reduced to a single-game nation, and mentioned the heroics of independent India's first individual gold medal winner shooter Abhinav Bindra and the boxers and wrestlers in last year's Beijing Olympics.
He appealed to the sports fraternity to give suggestions to the government on reviving the lost glory of hockey and taking the nation forward in non-cricketing disciplines.