The King is dead, long live the King!
It is, perhaps, fitting that Sourav Ganguly, Jagmohan Dalmiya’s erstwhile blue-eyed boy, succeeds him as president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).
The deal was sealed when the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, threw her weight behind Ganguly’s candidature on Wednesday.
Ganguly was only recently elected to the CAB serving as a joint-secretary.
With Didi playing kingmaker, Dada has been fast-forwarded to the corridors of power within the BCCI.
Ganguly had always enjoyed a special relationship with ‘Jaggu’—as Dalmiya was fondly known.
The southpaw ‘Maharajah’ was recalled to the Indian side in 1996 allegedly at Dalmiya’s behest.
It is also believed that Ganguly managed to hold on to his post as skipper through all the early turmoil because he enjoyed his benefactor’s support much as N Srinivasan is believed to be MS Dhoni’s champion.
It was also during Ganguly’s tenure as skipper that the BCCI under Dalmiya introduced centralised annual contracts for Indian cricketers.
Ganguly’s exit as skipper coincided with Dalmiya’s departure from the echelons of power.
The elegant former all-rounder is 43—still a relatively young man for the job.
It was six years ago that the former India skipper made known his ambitions of becoming the BCCI chief by 2014.
Speaking to Times of India then, the left-hander said:
“I am convinced that I can play a positive role. Having played the game at the highest level and being part of the system, I know what it takes to make a difference. At some point, I will find a way to get into the CAB where people have known me since I was a kid. I have respect for them and I am sure they will appreciate my concern for Bengal cricket and the difference I can make. I am in no hurry.”
It’s been six years but Ganguly has already taken a giant leap towards fulfilling his new dream.
It’s not that Ganguly is a total novice at this game of musical chairs.
His father, Chandidas, was a member of the CAB serving as assistant secretary, treasurer, secretary, vice-president and member of trustee board.
In turn, Ganguly has a chance to play kingmaker at the BCCI elections when they meet to elect the new president. It will be interesting to see how he plays his cards.
Ganguly is loyal to a fault. Dalmiya’s scion Avishek replaces his deceased father in the CAB as the joint secretary.
Mamata Banerjee denied that it is at her interference that Bengal’s favourite son ascended to the throne.
“We are going through a big crisis after his (Dalmiya) unfortunate death. Someone has to head CAB. Dalmiya loved cricket so much. So it’s important that the people closed to him (should run the show)… cricket family is most important. My only request to all of you that be together, remain united and take the Jaguda’s legacy forward. It’s not fair for me to interfere. I just want them to do well, I’m there with them like a deputy or colleague. It’s what they have decided together.I should not be announcing this but since all of them are requesting I feel that as someone (Sourav Ganguly) who had led India so many years should now take charge of the role and they should form the set up with Abhishek, Subir, Biswarup and all other senior members.”
“Please don’t involve the state government here. I am nobody. It’s what they decided. Please don’t bring any controversy here. It’s their decision as they all are cricket lovers. After Jaguda’s death, CAB is without a head now and they have decided that Sourav will become the president and in his place Avishek will become the joint secretary till the next elections in July.”
“Anything in life is a new challenge. I am particularly happy that Avishek is coming into administration as it is a very emotional time for him. Myself, Biswarup, Subir would all work together and there won’t be any problems. We have 117 (actually 121) members and we will decide the way forward. Like she said, it is not her decision. She had spoken to the members. For me this is not everything. I will do whatever I can, whatever they want me to do. Will take over immediately as we have a game on October 8. These are big shoes to fill.”
Former India cricketer and Ganguly’s teammate VVS Laxman welcomed his elevation to the post.
“It’s Sourav who brought me here and I’m seeing him as an administrator for last one year. He’s trying his best to take Bengal cricket forward. It’s a great selection and a positive sign for the Indian cricket.”
Laxman is the batting consultant with the state’s Ranji side.
Ajay Jadeja was more circumspect in his reaction.
“Ganguly has been a good leader but administration is a different ball game. At the same time, being a former cricketer, it is beneficial for him. Have faith in him. Wait and watch. It is his new innings and I wish him the best.”
Ganguly, however, will not have everything going his way.
He has already ruffled feathers within the CAB by seeking the chief minster’s blessings sidestepping the democratic process. The Prince of Calcutta was probably well aware that he might not be able to command the majority required.
Derek Abraham, writing for the DNA, commented:
“Two years ago, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had accused the Union sports ministry of trying to ‘assume control’ of sports federations by bringing in the National Sports Code. Soon Ajay Maken, the sports minister, was shunted out by all those politicians controlling various federations, including the BCCI.
However, when Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee threw her weight behind former India captain Sourav Ganguly on Wednesday, virtually anointing him president of the Cricket Association of Bengal, none of the so-called custodians of the BCCI’s autonomy came forward to slam the move.”
“The CAB is an institution dating back to 1928. Ganguly has, quite shockingly, made a mockery of the institutional process that ought to have been followed. By using his good offices with the most powerful person in the state, India’s second-most successful skipper has subjected himself to scrutiny both within and outside the cricket fraternity.
A joint secretary serving his first term, Ganguly has bypassed many veteran administrators who have been serving the association for decades. Worse, he got Avishek Dalmiya, the deceased president’s son, to become the joint secretary. For the record, Avishek never been a part of a sub-committee of the CAB. If Ganguly is a novice in cricket administration, then Avishek is a fledgling.
To quote a CAB insider, the ‘new president’ has done exactly what his predecessor never wanted — play into the hands of the government of the day. ‘He has disappointed us all by sidestepping the democratic process of the CAB. But there is nothing we can do because he has Madam’s support.’”
Boria Majumdar, blogging for the Economic Times, raises similar points in his post.
He is , however, optimistic that Ganguly may just be the ‘breath of fresh air’ the Board needs.
“The BCCI needs men of credibility and integrity after what it has gone through the last few years. Ganguly should come as a breath of fresh air for the board’s mandarins. He is a face they can thrust forward as a diplomatic shield in many uncomfortable situations. His presence in the board’s special general meetings (SGMs) and annual general meetings (AGMs) should result in him making tangible contributions to improving Indian cricket both at home and abroad.
Can we add another feather to the many that he already wears? With Sourav Ganguly you just can’t tell.”
While the political patronage sought by Ganguly is to be deplored, why do members of the BCCI (and other sports bodies) not take issue when politicians such as Sharad Pawar and Arun Jaitley make the BCCI an extension of their political masters’ rivalry? We also have to ask ourselves that if it had not been Ganguly but some businessperson who sought the Trinamool Congress’ leader’s support, would there have been such a hue-and-cry? If the answer’s no, then why the hypocrisy?
It’s time that the national sports federations revisited the provisions of the Draft National Sports Development bill which they rejected and added clauses that would bolster their independence. Till then, the kind of politicking and ad-hoc decision-making process typical of Indian sports bodies will continue to be a feature of the national landscape.