Jagmohan Dalmiya made both the BCCI and, later, the ICC extremely wealthy bodies when he presided over the fortunes of these two premier cricketing bodies in the world © Getty Images

Jagmohan Dalmiya was a fearless administrator whose financial acumen made both the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and, later, the International Cricket Council (ICC) extremely wealthy bodies when he presided over the fortunes of these two premier cricketing bodies in the world. In 1996, the BBC declared him to be one of the world’s top six sports executives. It was he and IS Bindra who ensured that the World Cup moved out of England and into the subcontinent. He dared the white-dominated ICC and even the Indian government as Jaywant Lele, his Man Friday in the BCCI, narrates a stunning anecdote involving the BCCI and the Sports Ministry. This jaw-dropping exchange right inside the minister’s den, shows the kind of power Dalmiya wielded. The incident is especially relevant now, at a time when the Sports Ministry is challenging the BCCI autonomy.

I worked with Jagmohan Dalmiya for almost three years from 1993, when he was BCCI secretary and I was joint secretary. Later, when I became BCCI secretary, he was president of the Interna­tional Cricket Council (ICC) for three years. We got along very well.

Dalmiya was a force to reckon with in BCCI. Today, BCCI is ICC’s richest affiliate, thanks to Dalmiya’s dynamic vision. He took a couple of measures that kick-started the inflow of big money into BCCI’s coffers including entering into a five-year contract with Pepsi and Trans World International (TWI) in 1993. When Dr. AC Muthiah was BCCI president and the contract was due for renew­al, we expected a reasonably big increase in amount.

With the advent of live telecast of cricket matches, Doordarshan earned huge revenues from advertising, without paying BCCI anything at all. In 1998, when BCCI floated a tender for the rights to telecast matches for five years, Doordarshan (Prasar Bharati, Broadcasting Corporation of India) made a bid of Rs 45 crore per year, as against TWI’s Rs 3 crore.

Doordarshan had to pay BCCI Rs 22.5 crore at the start of each season, Rs 11.25 crore on the day of commencement of the first Test match or One-Day International (ODI) of the season and the rest by the season’s end.

Managing the inflow of money was a stupendous task, but SK Nair, and subsequently Kishore Rungta, did a fine job of it.

Dalmiya and IS Bindra once argued with ICC that it was un­fair that whenever a foreign team visited India, we paid them $1,00,000 per ODI and $5,00,000 per Test match, but when India went abroad, they did not pay us an equal amount. ICC agreed and from then on everyone had to pay an equal amount.

Dalmiya strikes again! 

Dalmiya’s ultra-sensitive Marwadi brain stood BCCI in good stead right through and gained us an advantage once again in 1999-2000, when the five-year sponsorship contract with Pepsi was up for renewal. We had asked Pepsi to increase the amount. Muthiah and I met the company officials, and Suman Sinha, Pepsi’s chairman in India, agreed to increase the amount from Rs 40 lakh to Rs 55 lakh per ODI, and from Rs 60 lakh to Rs 75 lakh per Test match. Muthiah wanted to finalise the deal, but I sought time be­fore we gave the final nod.

I told Muthiah to get the approval of our marketing committee, which was to meet that afternoon. Dalmiya announced the new terms and sought approval.

Raj Singh Dungarpur felt we should have asked for more. Dalm­iya thought over it for a few seconds and said, “Doctor (Muthiah), we must get more. I have spoken to a business house. They are ready to offer Rs 80 lakh per match. You tell Pepsi to pay more. If you want, I am ready to come with you.”

That afternoon, Dalmiya accompanied us. Sinha welcomed us – after all Dalmiya was ICC president. Dalmiya told them confident­ly, “We have a better offer of Rs 80 lakh per Test match or ODI. If you want renewal, you must pay at least Rs 85 lakh per match. You have the first right to refuse and then we shall have to turn to others.”

I was apprehensive as I awaited Sinha’s response. Surprisingly, he agreed! He requested us to wait for 10 minutes. The papers were ready, with the amount left blank. Muthiah and I signed on BCCI’s behalf and Dalmiya signed as a witness.

Within 30 minutes, we left with a copy of the contract, thanks to Dalmiya’s negotiating skills and attitude.

Dalmiya fearlessly confronts government

One incident is engraved in my memory. It was almost a year after I had taken over from Dalmiya as secretary of the Board, after his election as ICC president. Rajbhai was BCCI president at that time.

BCCI had received a ‘very important’ letter from the Govern­ment of India’s sports ministry. BCCI’s secretary and main office-bearers – past and present – were ‘instructed’ to meet the Sports Minister at his office. No agenda was mentioned and the language of the letter was far from decent.

I immediately informed all concerned about the letter. Almost everyone, including NKP Salve, PM Rungta, Dr. AC Muthiah, AW Kanmadikar, IS Bindra, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, Jagmohan Dalmiya, Raj Singh Dungarpur, Kishore Rungta and Sriraman, con­firmed attendance.

With people coming from different parts of the country, we de­cided to meet at Delhi airport at about 10.00 am and then proceed to the minister’s office.

Unluckily, Dalmiya’s flight was delayed and we left the airport without him.

We reached at exactly 11.00 am and Sports Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa welcomed us, with his deputy, Shahnawaz Hussain, by his side. Everyone settled down and for the next five minutes we ex­changed pleasantries.

Someone noticed Dalmiya’s absence, so I told him that Dalmi­ya’s flight was delayed.

A gentleman then entered and introduced himself as NN Khan­na, Secretary for Sports, and an Indian Administrative Service offi­cer. He described the ministry’s role in the development of sports and then suddenly started abusing BCCI.

He alleged that BCCI had not done anything for the country and sports. He said the government had thought of taking over BCCI. All of us were taken aback.

Salve, Raj Singh, Bindra and Ranbir were too stunned to react.

At that moment, there was a gentle knock on the door. As it opened slightly, I saw Dalmiya standing outside. I immediately went over to receive him. Without looking back, I closed the door and we were both outside for a few moments.

Dalmiya asked me, “Jaywant, kya chal raha hai (Jaywant, what’s going on)?”

“Apni dhulai chal rahi hai! (They are trying to crucify us),” I whispered. When I told him that they were threatening to take over BCCI, he put a reassuring hand on my shoulders, and said, “Come.”

We entered, as Dalmiya excused himself and sat down. I intro­duced him, but he was accorded a frosty welcome. The minister requested Khanna to briefly appraise Dalmiya about the pro­ceedings. The secretary repeated – with masala – his abuses and threats and for a few moments there was an awkward silence. I wondered whether the ministers supported Khanna, as neither ut­tered a word.

Dalmiya stood up and told Salve, Bindra, and Raj Singh to follow suit. He told Khanna, “Hum aapka yeh bakwas suanne yaha nahi aaye hai (We have not come here to listen to trash from you).”

He continued, “The honorable minister called us here. We may talk to him in decent language only if he wishes to. I challenge you and your government to apply maximum strength at your dis­posal and take over BCCI. For your kind information, we are an autonomous, registered body, affiliated to ICC. Hum koi ghaas nahi katate hai (We are not a useless bunch of people here)! We have been running the Board for over 50 years. I am confident you can­not touch us. Thank you very much, we are leaving!”

As he moved towards the door, we followed.

“Oh, don’t get up­set, Mr. Dalmiya. Please sit down. We want to talk to you people,” one of the ministers said.

Dalmiya paused for a moment and re­turned. “Okay, we have come here to talk with you and we mean it. We can continue our talks provided this gentleman leaves the room.” The minister hesitated and then glanced at Khanna, who got the message and left.

The minister ordered water and tea and then spoke amicably and argued that the cricket Board had a lot of money, while other sports in the country were starved for funds. He felt BCCI should help, and that was why he had convened the meeting. Both minis­ters looked at Dalmiya expectantly.

Dalmiya did some quick thinking and replied, “Mr. Dhindsa, I fully agree with you and appreciate your concern. We are pre­pared to help them systematically. However, we shall not donate money, either through your ministry or directly. No, sorry! We are not sure about the use of the money in a deserving manner. You tell us, for example, that a team of four badminton players has to be sent for an international tournament. We shall take on the expenditure, right from coach, manager and an official or two. We shall provide them air tickets, and even pay hotel bills. We are prepared to pay them a reasonably good daily allowance… No problem. But this must be planned. Except for the daily allowance, nobody will be given cash. The expenditure may be Rs 5 lakh, Rs 10 lakh or Rs 25 lakh! We are ready to spend. If our proposal is acceptable, the sports body can approach us directly or through your ministry. But if you mean that because we are rich, we are obliged to pay even Rs 1 lakh to the government or to the minis­try, sorry, we shall not pay a single rupee! You may proceed with your plans of acquisition of BCCI…”

An awkward silence followed. Our heartbeats stopped for a few moments. The ministers were stunned and everyone present was thunderstruck by Dalmiya’s offensive.

Nearly 12 years later, I have yet to hear about any follow-up ac­tion.

Excerpted from “I was There – Memiors of a Cricket Administrator” by JY Lele

Paperback. 13 x 21.5 cms. 196 pages. Illustrated in colour. Rs 295.

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(Jaywant Lele is a former secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India)