`Sometimes I received pats and sometimes brickbats'

Jagmohan Dalmiya who will be contesting for the post of BCCI President, for the third time, spoke to The Sportstar.

G. VISWANATH

Jagmohan Dalmiya who will be contesting for the post of BCCI President, for the third time, spoke to The Sportstar. "I am a small fry. I love the game and have tried my best to contribute to it,'' he said during the course of an interview at his office in Shakespeare Sarani in Kolkata. Excerpts:

Question: You have been involved in cricket administration, at the national and international level, for a long time.

Answer: Well, I did not go after it (posts) or stick to them once I got in. Somehow or the other things have worked out my way. I saw challenges in it and also I wanted to serve the game of cricket.

I did not aim for the International Cricket Council (ICC) President's post. But circumstances forced me into it. Australia and West Indies refused to play in Sri Lanka. I felt they were wrong. It was like giving license to the terrorists and further the interest for cricket in Sri Lanka would have diminished.

I thought cricket needed a boost, a real thrust. Had partition not taken place, India and Pakistan would not have been playing as separate identities. There was five or six Test playing nations once. I thought globalisation was needed. I felt that international cricket was being played like club cricket, played only by a few countries. That's not the right thing.

When I was Board Secretary, I suggested at an ICC Forum that the game should be globalised. I was looked at with contempt as if I had suggested something dirty. I was told, since I was the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Secretary then, that I should try it out first in Asia.

On introspection I felt they were not off the mark. There were five teams: Bangladesh, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. I returned home and in a year the figure jumped from five to 12. The seven countries that became members of the ACC were Nepal, Maldives, Thailand, Brunie, Japan, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Nobody, including me took Japan seriously. They played golf at the weekends.

I wanted to prove a point. I organised a tournament for the 12 countries so that at the next ICC meeting I could tell them all that globalisation is possible. Every team came with expatriate players for the tournament in Kuala Lumpur, but in the Japanese team there was not a single immigrant.

When I was the ICC President, there were 22 Associate Members, today it's 89 and would cross 100 soon. So there were many factors that motivated me to be part of the administration at different levels.

Administration in India must have posed altogether a different challenge for you.

When I was the Treasurer of the Board in 1985, and later when I was the Secretary, I took charge with a deficit of Rs. 85 lakhs. When India won the 1983 World Cup the Board did not have money to pay to the players. We paid only Rs. 14 lakhs then. This time we have paid Rs. 11.65 crores. Then, we organised Lata Mangeshkar concert and raised money and paid Rs. 1 lakh to each World Cup player.

Obviously wearing different hats must have given you a great deal of presence, status symbol.

Well, cricket has given me a position for the service I have rendered to the game. We don't take anything in return by way of money or material. We get recognition for the work we do. It comes with goodwill and friendship. I have only tried to do the job to the best of my ability. Sometimes I received pats and sometimes brickbats.

Do you enjoy being in the spotlight?

There are some who manoeuvre and get into positions. If the spotlight is on an individual, it is a consequence. I have never played to the gallery.

Did you aim to become the President of the ICC?

No, certainly not. But there were reasons, which I have pointed out before, that got me into the ICC administration. Some unprecedented events might have happened, like I becoming the first Asian to be elected as ICC President and was featured by the BBC as one of the top five sports administrators along with Jose Havelange and Juan Samaranch. But I never worked towards a set goal.

The Board has been very proactive since the turn of the 1990s. The marketing of the game through television rights, team sponsorship and title sponsorship fetched the Board money in crores. To whom does this credit go, to Dalmiya or to I. S. Bindra or to the Board as a team?

Without doubt it was a team effort. In cricket there are players, umpires and match referees and they all need the backing and good wishes of their family members and friends. Similarly in administration, it's always a team effort. The leader is only as good as his team of administrators. So it can never be a case of one man taking all the credit.

Honestly speaking it was neither I nor Bindra responsible for the Board to become proactive on the marketing front. Money was always there, but the Board was denied it. Doordarshan said all the money belonged to them. During the 1987 World Cup, they appointed the Board as the agent when the Board was actually the producer of the event. They said we would be paid 20 per cent and the rest of the agents 15 per cent. What a contemptuous thing it was for the Board. They said they would be taking the money earned from the live telecast.

Then, when CAB was celebrating its Diamond Jubilee, Doordarshan asked Rs. 5 lakhs to cover the event. I said enough is enough and went to the court against the Government of India. Doordarshan made certain commitments in the Supreme Court, but did not honour it. Thereafter a three-bench comprising Justice Verma, Justice Sawant and Justice Mohan gave a landmark judgment, which the whole world is quoting even now.

I was also the Board Secretary then and Bindra was the President and we thought that the Board should also fight it out in the court. And we won the case hands down and the money started coming. Thereafter it was a question of only choosing working partners.

We might have found better ways to administer cricket in the country. There were so many patrons before the independence days, but things had changed and it was all about corporate sector support. They gave nothing ex gratia. If you give them a nice package, where there is mileage, they are in the queue. Fortunately we succeeded in creating a good package for the corporates. Cricket was always marketable.

Well, first it was the full Managing Committee of the CAB that backed me to fight the Government of India. So it's a team effort. When Bindra and me took the decision, the Board ratified it to fight the Government in the court. If people are giving credit to us, they are giving more than what is due to us.

Has the money factor attracted more people into the administration?

It's not the money factor. There is money in the game and life has become a little easier for the administrators. Earlier people had to probably administer and bring in the money. Now everything is centralised, the Board is marketing the game and giving money to the affiliated units for the betterment of the game.

Take my case. I was an administrator in 1993 and I am one now. My first innings was spent in bringing in the money and the development of the game was going at its own pace. In my second innings as President of the Board, I am not worried about the money. Ten years ago, I was anxious about meeting the budget, which was a modest budget. Now I don't bother about the budget, I am concerned only about the programme.

I think people are only concerned about proper administration of the game, creating opportunities at all levels and putting in place special programmes.

Did you ever imagine that cricket could be such a huge commercial success?

We always felt that there was money for cricket, but our hands were tied. We were very uncomfortable when we got the World Cup in 1987. The way we were treated by the then Director General of Doordarshan and the Secretary, Information and Broadcasting Ministry. We have seen people like Bhaskar Ghosh and Ratikant Basu. I still remember being called an anti-national, may be Bindra as well. The same man (Ratikant Basu) changed colours and went to Star Sports. These are the kind of people who criticised us and did not allow money to come for the development of the game.

It's true that it all started with ESPN, but people were there before, too, to support cricket. I would say that the Board was not allowed to deal with them.

The sponsors and television companies were there for the 1975 and 1979 World Cups. So we knew that money was there for cricket, and that it was only a matter of marketing the game properly.

Did stars, such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, play a role in bringing in the sponsors?

Yes, their performances might have been appreciated which must have resulted in personal endorsements. But to attract big sponsorship for the national team depended on various factors. The team had to perform consistently well. If the team was not doing well, an individual could become an USP, but only up to a point.

The proof for this line of argument has to be seen when the match-fixing allegations were at its peak. The media hyped it up, beyond proportions.

All the sponsors left us. No new contract was signed. The individual players stopped getting personal endorsements. But the corporates did not go to any other sport. They went to `Kaun Banega Crorepathi.' Today it's fashionable to say that cricket is killing other sports. Well, the fact is that two years ago, Indian cricket did not receive any support.

The game needs to flourish and it needs a strategy to market. And above everything, one has to come to the sellers market. Nothing succeeds, unless one is in the sellers market. And one must also know, when one is in the sellers and buyers market. And one must also know what is required to do to turn it from the buyers market to the sellers market. Secondly if you can take cricket to homes, then you don't have to look back.

Well the important thing is, one has to infuse interest in the sport. In Kolkata we bring the under-13 boys to play cricket at the Eden Gardens. By doing that, we make sure that the boys, when they become men, will be interested in cricket. He or she will make sure that the next generation also develops interest for cricket. One needs to be imaginative.

Are you convinced that the money the Board pays to the State associations is utilised for the development of the game and do you have some system to monitor this?

The second part is more important, but I can name at least five or six associations that spend more money on cricket than the amount they receive from the Board. They are Mumbai, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Bengal. They spend over Rs. 2 crores every year on cricket. But to say that money is not spent in the right direction is not correct.

Monitoring the utilisation of money is uppermost in the Board's mind and we are doing it. We have sanctioned an amount of Rs. 12 lakhs for each unit for a modern gym and every association has it.

The Board is subsidising activities and expenses of the units, but we are also asking them the balance sheets. Well, I do agree that a little more monitoring is needed. I cannot vouch for every association that they are spending the money in the proper direction because that monitoring system is not in place. But we are going to put that in place.

But one cannot assume that something is wrong with the system. The public of this country needs to know how each penny is spent. We are a public body. We are not even spending five per cent on administration, which no corporate sector is doing in India. We are going to make everything public after the AGM.

There are a lot of misconceptions in the minds of certain people. Someone said with a cunning look in his eyes that what's the Board doing with 74 per cent of the money after distributing 26 per cent to the players at senior and junior level. There could be a blacksheep, but to make a sweeping statement is wrong. The Board is proud of what it is doing for cricket. As the saying goes, one should not only be honest, but appear to be honest and that you should not only be transparent, but also appear to be transparent. That's what I think is necessary.

There seems to be groupism, especially during election.

Election is part and parcel of any democratic body. It's bound to happen, even if the term of office is for four years. Maybe the time has come to think of extending the term of office for a period of three years. Somebody has to be given a chance for at least two years. This is my personal opinion, but the Board has to think about it. I propose to throw this point for discussion at the AGM.

The general belief is that representatives vote for a group at the election only to receive favours in the course of the next year?

If one is talking about people being sent as managers, that's nothing. Every Tom, Dick and Harry can go abroad these days.

What's preventing the Board from employing a permanent manager?

How will it help? A permanent manager could develop likes and dislikes. He might sit in the selection committee meetings. A new man every time will leave it to the captain and the coach because he does not have likes and dislikes. If it's necessary to check out facilities abroad, we do it by sending a team of officials.

The Board members are trained in what they are supposed to do. And that's very limited. The Board representatives have handled the job competently. Certain decisions are taken at the top level only. It's easy to say we are not professionals. Do you mean to say Jaywant Lele was a bad Secretary because he was an amateur? Does it mean that if a man is not paid, he is a bad official, and that if a man is paid Rs. 2 lakhs per month, he is efficient in his work?

It is interesting to see that people like Prannoy Roy, Geet Sethi, Prakash Padukone and Narayana Murthy have lectured to the probables during the Bangalore coaching camp.

It's necessary. Take the case of psychologist Sandy Gordon who has interacted with our players. I personally felt that after the series in New Zealand, defeats weighed in the minds of the players. We felt that someone has to talk to the players and make them gain self-belief. Sandy Gordon's role was contributory to the team's fine performance in the World Cup.

Interacting with the media is an important role not only in India, but also abroad. That's why the session with Roy, last year Pritish Nandy had a session with the players. Geet Sethi and Padukone had gone through difficult times and overcame it.

So we thought that their experience would be useful to the team. I also requested Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev to talk about cricketing aspects. The idea was to provide assistance and advice from all angles to the probables.

The NCA was established three years ago. Is the Board happy with its progress?

We have to move ahead step by step. But we took a big jump this year in the spin department. The spinners' academy is going to follow soon. The NCA is going in the right direction. The most important thing is that the NCA has made aware of the importance of the physical fitness aspect in every single cricketer. The Talent Resource Development Wing is also contributing to the health of cricket.

Is Jagmohan Dalmiya a happy man after being in the administration for two decades and more?

I am a contented man. Things are in place and it is for the future administrators to take it forward and improve upon. I am happy with my contribution to the game of cricket. I am approaching the end of my innings.

What's Dalmiya's plan for the third year, if he gets elected again?

I am not a speculator. Let's wait and see.