Jagmohan Dalmiya: The man who made cricket rich!

Departed BCCI president will be remembered for his drive and determination to get things done

Kerry Packer is credited for players getting paid what their skills demanded when he took world cricket by storm in 1977. But it is Jagmohan Dalmiya who took the financial health of the game to a new level when he became International Cricket Council's (ICC) chief two decades later. BCCI president Dalmiya (75) passed away in a Kolkata hospital yesterday, following a cardiac arrest.

Also Read: BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya passes away

Jagmohan Dalmiya. Pic/AFP
Jagmohan Dalmiya. Pic/AFP 

Dalmiya made cricket super rich and along the way, did everything to ensure the playing side of the game was integral. The late Jaywant Lele, who was BCCI secretary when Dalmiya headed world cricket, told me how Dalmiya ensured the ICC would never struggle financially.

Also Read: Cricket fraternity's Twitter reactions to Dalmiya's passing away

That phone call...
Lele received a phone call at his Baroda residence from then ICC chief executive David Richards in early 1997. Richards requested Lele to release the Board's annual affiliation fee of $15,000. When the BCCI secretary asked Richards why was the fee needed when it was due only in April of that year, Richards admitted that the ICC was in urgent need of funds to pay the salaries of their employees.

Also Read: Jagmohan Dalmiya worked hard for cricket: Sachin Tendulkar

The next thing Lele did was to phone Dalmiya, who requested him to release the funds with a promise that the ICC would never be in such a situation. Soon, Dalmiya announced an ICC Knockout tournament involving the world's top cricketing nations. The first mini World Cup – which later came to be known as the Champions Trophy — was held the very next year in Bangladesh. When Dalmiya's mind was set on doing something, nothing in the world could stop him. In fact, he had the world of cricket at his command.

The late Raj Singh Dungarpur, who didn’t exactly get along with Dalmiya especially when the Kolkata-based administrator became BCCI president for the first time in 2001, recalled one night in 1989 when the BCCI officials were wondering whether they could get all the Test-playing nations to visit India for the 1989 Nehru Cup. Dalmiya left the meeting, assuring his fellow administrators that he would get all teams to grace the event. “By next morning, Jaggu had got all the nations to agree. He was incredible. Only Jaggu could have pulled it off” remarked Raj Singh.

For coaching positions, he wanted the best names. And once he got them, he demanded results. When the Indian team was fumbling on the 2001-02 tour of South Africa, he sent a fax to then coach John Wright asking him why the team was so inconsistent and what was the reason behind batsmen not converting ones into twos.
On his return, Dalmiya gave Wright the team personnel and facilities he wanted and in turn, the coach assured him accountability. The following year, India entered their first World Cup final since 1983.

Dalmiya’s tough ways did not attract acceptance in the Western world. To his detractors he was too powerful and mean. In Indian Summers, Wright mentions one county chairman calling Dalmiya “that awful man from India.”

Jagmohan Dalmiya was not awful, after all but did an awful lot of good for cricket.

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