A remarkable personality!

Jagmohan Dalmiya had the uncanny knack of clinching deals which were totally in favour of the BCCI and yet leaving the other party to the agreement feel that it was a win-win situation for all concerned.

The BCCI survived in the pre-moolah days purely due to the commitment and passion of the administrators. They ensured that cricket did not suffer even if they had to stick to a shoestring budget. And given the scenario prior to the 80s, marketing the game to rake in millions of dollars remained a wishful thought. However, the entire dynamics changed when one certain Jagmohan Dalmiya entered the stage and took control of the BCCI during the 80s. He was a shrewd man when it came to finance and business. His persuasive ability was such that those who negotiated deals with him ended up giving Dalmiya more than they would have wished to, but yet went back to report to their bosses that they had outsmarted the Kolkata businessman.

Dalmiya had the uncanny knack of clinching deals which were totally in favour of the BCCI and yet leaving the other party to the agreement feel that it was a win-win situation for all concerned. Of course, Dalmiya was able to do so only because he identified the immense potential that cricket offered. It was only fitting that Dalmiya gained control in the 80s during which phase India won two major ODI championships. Or perhaps it was destiny’s way of getting its timing right for the Dalmiya-BCCI saga to unfold. The major triumphs under Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar in ’83 and ’85 respectively gave Dalmiya the added leverage he needed to make cricket a big money-spinner.

It was not a smooth process by any means as Dalmiya had to take on the State and Central agencies legally, but in the end Dalmiya got a stranglehold on marketing cricket the way it suited the BCCI. “Jagguda” as he was affectionately called was a complete package in that he was passionate about the game, knew the cricketers individually, responded to their needs, but yet could be tough enough to deliver a knock-out punch even to the mightiest of men. His tolerance towards cricket was remarkable in that he saw humour even when a cricketer gave the x-ray of the wrong hand to declare that he was fit to be considered for selection!

As regards his confidence for fixing a base price for television and other rights, he was unparalleled. I was watching a game with him in England during the 1999 World Cup and the discussion gravitated towards the sponsorship amount for that World Cup. Apparently there were 2 major sponsors who paid half a million pounds each and 4 minor sponsors who shelled out a quarter million pounds each. When I casually asked Dalmiya what kind of money he would have expected to earn if the World Cup were to be in India, his casual reply was “I would have had 20 minor sponsors and charged an equivalent amount of half a million pounds in Indian rupees from each of them.” That was what made Dalmiya different from the rest and but for him Indian cricket would have remained as poor or as rich as it was during the 70s.

However, the game is definitely left poorer by his passing away and I am sure that everyone connected with cricket across the world will miss him. He has left behind a legacy, which will have its pride of place as Bradman does when it comes to batting. Jagguda has seen it all during his innings as a cricket administrator, but in terms of the way he respected cricketers and always stretched his hand out to help them, he will remain peerless for a long time to come.

Despite his failing health prior to his death, he kept the BCCI functioning smoothly and in his death he has left behind others scurrying for direction. That’s perhaps once again destiny’s way of making others appreciate and realize that Jagmohan Dalmiya was and will be the real “Dada” of Indian cricket.