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Back in the business of cricket.

As flashbulbs popped around him and the jostling began, Jagmohan Dalmiya wore a somewhat lost look at the Kolkata airport earlier this week. At 74 years, he had certainly made the most dramatic aACAycomeback' Indian cricket had ever seen, but then he looked past that stage when such victories energised him for another battle.

The last decade, which had seen the erstwhile strongman of world cricket go through a rollercoaster ride, has taken a lot out of him. It had seen him coming close to being prosecuted when the ruling clique at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) levelled charges of financial embezzlement, faced exit from his backyard at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), was given an interim presidency last year - only to be dumped by N.Srinivasan when the requirement was over.

As he settles down in his well-appointed office of the CAB headquarters at the Eden Gardens, the level of enthusiasm among his loyalists and old members of the core team look somewhat muted so far. If there is apprehension among the cricketing fraternity of the country as to how much he can be his own man, the other issue is whether his up-and-down health can take the stress of a chair whose credentials have been badly dented over last one and-a-half years.

"He may have slowed down because of the age factor, but Jaggu da (it's how he is referred to in his home city) is still mentally agile," remarked Chitrak Mitra, a former vice-president of the BCCI and a long term comrade of Dalmiya at the state level administration. Asked how could the master strategist possibly approach to disentangle the board's operations from the court rooms, Mitra told Gulf News: "During his tenure in the past, Mr Dalmiya has often fought cases with the Union government over imposition of taxes etc. However, there has been no single instance of an affiliate body asking for his removal in the apex court."

There are no prizes for guessing that it's his desire to see the wheel come full circle that has prompted the aging construction baron from Kolkata to agree to the compromise formula for one last hurrah. As the murky details of the Chennai AGM emerged, it was clear as to how Dalmiya and N. Srinivasan had worked out the plan to keep Sharad Pawar - the third heavyweight at bay - albeit for a period of seven months till next September.

"Those who dethroned me from BCCI are now busy celebrating my success. People thought I have camps, but the truth is I have always dedicated myself to cricket," Dalmiya said after the elections.

There is, of course, no questioning his aACAydedication' to cricket - or rather the business of cricket - if one is willing to give him an allowance for the hard bargains and vote bank politics that he indulged in during his undisputed reign of Indian and world cricket. For those tracking him from the mid aACAy90s till his exit from the BCCI in 2005, it was a wonder as to how he juggled his time between the family business empire of M.L.Dalmiya & Co and wear the many hats of the president of CAB, BCCI and subsequently ICC.

"To call him a workaholic during those days would be an understatement," recalled Kunal Ghosh, Dalmiya's Man Friday for years. Now settled in the US, Ghosh still marvels at how he could retain the finer points of all important correspondence, legalese etc of cricket administration as well as his business in his head - most of them stored in old-fashioned filing method rather than the safe confines of

hard drives of computers.

Dalmiya first came under international media glare when along with bureaucrat Inderjit Singh Bindra, he broke Australia and England's hold on the ICC to win the rights to host the 1987 World Cup on the sub-continent. The times were different then as India had neither the financial muscle nor the clout of present, but that didn't deter him from winning over Imran Khan to launch a massive charm offensive to again bring the showpiece back in the Indian sub-continent in 1996.

He went on to become ICC president from 1997-2000 and then returned as the BCCI president from 2001 to 2004 before his fall from grace. It was the quintessential businessman in him who saw the potential of generating TV revenues from cricket - opening the bids for telecast rights for the 1993 Hero Cup - a revenue stream which has become the game's lifeline today.

The '96 World Cup, under Dalmiya's chairmanship of PILCOM (joint committee of Pakistan-India-Lanka), was also a watershed event in terms of garnering sponsorship revenues. It was the event which spawned Pepsi's famous line: aACAyNothing official about it' as they engaged in an ambush marketing drive to fight official sponsors Coca Cola.

It was exactly a decade back that Dalmiya the administrator was ousted by Pawar, who took over as president. As he finds himself pitchforked into the hotseat again, the taciturn official said: "I am sure we wouldn't disappoint." The task before him is harder than ever, though!

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Mar 7, 2015
Words:865
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