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08 December 2023

Dalmiya seals comeback as India cricket board chief


Jagmohan Dalmiya, who turned India into cricket's financial powerhouse before being unceremoniously dumped by his peers, returned as board president Monday in place of the sport's scandal-hit global supremo.

Dalmiya was elected unopposed as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as part of a deal which observers say will allow the embattled incumbent Narayanaswami Srinivasan to stay on as head of the International Cricket Council.

"Jagmohan Dalmiya has been elected as the president of BCCI," Gokaraju Gangaraju, who was himself elected vice-president of the board at the meeting in the southern city of Chennai, told AFP by phone.

"We look forward to working under his leadership."

The election caps a remarkable comeback for Dalmiya, who helped bring about a massive expansion in the BCCI's financial muscle in the 1980s and 90s by negotiating mega television deals before being ousted a decade ago over allegations of misappropriation of funds.

His return was made possible after Srinivasan's camp mobilised to thwart another former BCCI president, Sharad Pawar.

Pawar had been angling for a return but failed to persuade any regional association to nominate him.

Srinivasan had been forced to stand aside after the Supreme Court found him guilty of a conflict of interest over his ownership of a team in the Indian Premier League, the BCCI's money-spinning Twenty20 tournament.

His position had become increasingly precarious ever since his son-in-law was accused of betting on matches involving the Chennai Super Kings, a team owned by Srinivasan's company India Cements.

However observers say that Srinivasan, who cut his teeth under Dalmiya, will remain a powerful figure behind the scenes in the BCCI and the board will use its influence to ensure he can extend his tenure as president of the ICC, the game's Dubai-based world governing body.

The 74-year-old Dalmiya, who hails from the eastern city of Kolkata, is credited with helping to turn the game into a lucrative global sport.

He shot to fame when he, along with bureaucrat Inderjit Singh Bindra, broke Australia and England's hold on the ICC to win the right to host the 1987 World Cup on the sub-continent.

He went on to become ICC president from 1997-2000 and BCCI president from 2001 to 2004, a period which also saw him secure another World Cup for the sub-continent.

Television revenue expanded massively under Dalmiya's tenure and the boards of smaller Test-playing nations - desperate to attract tours by India so they could sell the television rights - would usually fall in line behind the BCCI when it came to key decisions within the game.

While Dalmiya effectively handpicked his successor, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, he was marginalised the following year when Pawar beat Mahendra to become the president after a bitterly-contested election.

Later the same year, Pawar got Dalmiya expelled from the BCCI for alleged misappropriation of funds and for his refusal to provide documents pertaining to hosting the 1987 World Cup.

Dalmiya challenged the decision and in 2007 both the Bombay High Court and Supreme Court cleared him of any irregularities.

He returned as president of the Cricket Association of Bengal in 2007 and was back in the BCCI fold.

Insiders say Dalmiya's elevation was also due in part to the fact that he was the preferred choice of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is a key powerbroker in the board.

Cricinfo editor Sambit Bal said on Twitter that Dalmiya's return as BCCI president "must count among the remarkable turnaround of fortunes".

Other commentators questioned whether he would really be his own man.

"Dalmiya's past legacy and credibility will be of great help to him in running the BCCI but most likely as a Srinivasan proxy," the veteran cricket commentator and journalist Ayaz Memon told AFP.

Cricket's status as the dominant sport among India's 1.2-billion strong population has led to regular power struggles within the BCCI.