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Dalmiya the Machiavelli of Indian cricket

Dalmiya on Sunday night emerged as the biggest icon of the Indian cricket administration.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, Kolkata
PUBLISHED ON JUL 31, 2006 03:04 AM IST

Who is a bigger icon, Sourav Ganguly or Jagmohan Dalmiya? While the Prince of Kolkata may be worshipped in Kolkata Jagmohan Dalmiya on Sunday night emerged as the biggest icon of the cricket administration.

He defeated the chief minister-backed challenger Prasun Mukherjee 61-56.

Faced with insurmountable opposition from and collective might of the state machinery, a cool as cucumber Dalmiya proved himself to be the Indian cricket's Machiavelli - from whom even a politician of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's stature and power base can take lessons in realpolitik.

Had it not been for the shrewd business sense and marketing skills of Dalmiya, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) wouldn't have been the richest cricket body in the world. And nor would those involved with the game have been making mega bucks.

Dalmiya has also been instrumental in making cricket a popular game in many virgin places of the world.

It was in 1979 that Dalmiya first stepped into the corridors of power of the BCCI along with his friend-turned-foe IS Bindra. He became treasurer in 1983, the year Indian cricket team won the World Cup.

Dalmiya, along with Bindra, can claim the credit for gaining the right to stage the World Cup in India in 1987, which brought big money into the subcontinent. They also led the commercialisation of the game in early 1990s, making the BCCI the richest cricket board.

Besides becoming the president of BCCI several times, Dalmiya, who till last year was hailed as the man who hasn't lost an election in his life, was elected chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1997 - a tall order in the international world of cricket where the whites had always ruled.

Dalmiya's three-year stint as the ICC chief also enhanced the fortunes of the international cricket body.

In 1996, the BBC declared him to be one of the world's top six sports executives. When Australia and West Indies refused to play in terror-scarred Sri Lanka during the 1996 World Cup, he conjured up a united India-Pakistan team in a matter of days to play friendlies against Sri Lanka there.

In 1991, when the boycott of South Africa officially ended, he arranged a tour of the South African cricket team in India, which went a long way in helping them shed the stigma of apartheid.

Presented with the International Journal of the History of Sports (IJHS) achievement award for administrative excellence in global sport in 2005, Dalmiya tasted his first defeat the same year when the Sharad Pawar group defeated Dalmiya's proxy candidate in the BCCI.

The defeat also led to the present BCCI regime slapping charges and cases of fund misappropriation against him.

The board asked Dalmiya to furnish details of a transfer of Rs 400 million ($85.5 million) from an Indian Overseas Bank account in Bhawanipur to the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), of which he was the president from 1996 to 2005.

After Dalmiya failed to reply to the notice, the board debited the amount to the CAB and also decided to withhold all subsidies to it.

Earlier, the board had alleged misappropriation of the 1996 World Cup funds by Dalmiya and filed a complaint against him at a Mumbai police station.

Dalmiya was born in Kolkata May 30, 1940. He studied in the well-known Scottish Church College of Kolkata. He started his career in cricket as a wicketkeeper for some clubs while helping in the family business.

Dalmiya joined his father's firm ML Dalmiya and Co and made it into one of India's top construction firms. His firm constructed Kolkata's M.P. Birla Planetarium in 1963.

He got married to a Bengali lady and the couple has two sons.

The words of Ian Chappell sum up Dalmiya's calibre best: "He has a vision for the game's progress that I haven't heard enunciated by any other so-called leader among cricket officials."

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