first_imgHogging the limelight: In his usual pugnacious way, Jagmohan Dalmiya took the issue of the match referee’s verdict to the brink, shocking traditionalists both at home and abroadIn Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street, the bad guy, bond-broker shark Gordon Gecko, is on the verge of ruining yet another firm. “Why,Hogging the limelight: In his usual pugnacious way, Jagmohan Dalmiya took the issue of the match referee’s verdict to the brink, shocking traditionalists both at home and abroadIn Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street, the bad guy, bond-broker shark Gordon Gecko, is on the verge of ruining yet another firm. “Why do you want to wreck this company?” he is asked by an agitated young and earnest subordinate.Gecko’s reply is simple: “Because it’s wreckable.”Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President Jagmohan Dalmiya would appreciate that kind of iconoclasm. Some would even accuse him of subscribing to it. He has made his name in the business of construction – but in cricket he has the reputation of being able to pull down what he has built without a single backward glance.The irony should escape no one at the International Cricket Council (ICC) but it probably already has: the entire structure and chain of command that is to-ing and fro-ing messages and strictures from London to Kolkata was in fact set up during Dalmiya’s years in charge.When he took over as president of the world body in 1996, the ICC had precious little in its account and had to ask its solicitors for a discount in fees. Dalmiya left cricket’s ruling authority rich enough to be able to send ultimatums to the wealthiest cricket board in the world.SPEED POSTWhat Dalmiya wrote to ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed on November 27″I can go to Australia, to America to settle the issue because there cannot be anything more important than settling this.””I strongly feel that this is not the time when personal egos should take centrestage, specially when the great game is facing such a crisis.”So the current crisis is not about whether Virender Sehwag served his ban at Centurion or he should do it at Mohali. It is about Malcolm Gray, president of the ICC, and Malcolm Speed, its chief executive, or any other white cricket administrator unwilling to see India’s point of view.advertisementDalmiya says Sehwag was left out of the team in the third match against South Africa and Dalmiya is a man who wants things to go his way. And he can be ruthless, cynical, persuasive.When Speed wanted a commitment from the BCCI that the Indian team for Mohali would not have Sehwag on the rolls, Dalmiya threw the book at them. “If the team is disclosed 48 hours before the Test, it will bring both Speed and me into conflict with the anti-corruption rules of the ICC,” he pointed out. The ICC was taken aback. A day later on November 29, it was in a more conciliatory mood. Gray and Speed offered to fly halfway round the globe to meet Dalmiya in Kuala Lumpur to sort out differences.The Indian Government, having supported the cricket chieftain all the way, now clearly thought that Dalmiya should reciprocate the peace gesture. He was told that the Government would like the crisis defused, now that India’s misgivings about Mike Denness’ actions had been so vigorously expressed. The England series should not be cancelled and any disputes, particularly on appealing, could be cleared up later.When Dalmiya made the first of his hundreds of phone calls over the issue, he spoke to the team management and told them he was in charge, that the team should continue to play, and that all the decisions were taken off their hands. The decision to have Sehwag sit out the Centurion match came from above and the team had no option but to obey. South African captain Shaun Pollock said that the players should have had a say in the entire business but no Indian would have wanted to be part of a process involving some of the toughest and most vain men in cricket administration.Malcolm GrayThey would certainly not want to be caught between two powerful bodies, one which fears losing control over cricket and the other which wants to redefine the meaning of control. Soon after the crisis in the cricket world began, Dalmiya is reported to have told a friend in South Africa, “We’re going to fight this.”And Dalmiya doesn’t often go back on his words. (Whatever else he may or may not stand for, Dalmiya’s word on the phone is usually cast-iron: when he called Gerald Majola, CEO of the South African Board, to say that the Indians would not play unless Denness was removed from the referee’s position, Majola had to ask him to put it down in writing. The fax was there in double quick time.) “Dalmiya is a tough guy, you can hear that even on the phone,” testifies a senior member of the Indian team. “He means business, specially this time.” And he has not budged.The world came down on the BCCI president for his stand and there were strong words for him – from the prime minister of Australia to the pony-tailed Hells Angel type rigging up television equipment at Centurion Park. Dalmiya is much detested in the British media and a journalist remarked at a formal dinner recently: “If Osama bin Laden and Dalmiya walked into the room now and I had a gun, I don’t know which one I would shoot first.”advertisementMore sensitive souls may shrivel at the sound of such criticism. But this is where Dalmiya is in his element – the battle for power and influence is his natural state and he has now assumed his most familiar role: the eastern administrator battling against Fortress Lord’s.ICC President Malcolm Gray, wary of the BCCI president’s unpredictable ways, offered to meet him in Kuala Lumpur and sort out the differences.So while the Marwari from Kolkata appears unperturbed, even bored, in front of the mikes thrust in his face, the adrenaline was surely rushing when the mandarins of English cricket chose to descend into the mud-wrestling ring. “We are not here to play a friendly match,” declared Lord MacLaurin, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, his aristocratic nose sniffing in disdain.He said that the touring Englishmen would pull out if the Indian board did not relent on Sehwag. There was even talk that the British Airways had been sounded out for emergency bailing out of the Englishmen from Indian soil. But for the Government’s advice, Dalmiya wouldn’t have cared less. His campaign earlier to become the ICC president was precisely to ensure that the subcontinent wouldn’t have to listen to hectoring officials in grey suits and ties. And he was content to fuel fears that he would use Denness and Sehwag to launch an Asian breakaway.Dalmiya has tried to keep the heat off the Indians during the Sehwag episode – though it has been unfathom able and hellish for the quiet and hardworking cricketer from Delhi’s Najafgarh who began the tour of South Africa with a blazing century and finished it sitting in the balcony, acutely aware of cameras focusing on him, even as his mates tried to josh around and make him laugh.The ICC gag order means he cannot speak but the 23-year-old cannot understand what he has done to deserve a ban and why the huge controversy centres on him, a player with two Tests under his belt and a lifetime of dreams in front. The Indian team is being briefed on a need-to-know basis (which means they need to know nothing). In Johannesburg, coach John Wright, hit with the Sehwag question in many guises, replied, “We would like, from my perspective, Sourav’s, the team’s, the Indian people’s to put our best possible team out for that match against England.”There was hope in that little speech that Dalmiya, Grey, Speed and company would eventually untangle the knots before December 3 and the lush green grass of Mohali would again have spikes crushing them. Punjab Cricket Association President Inderjit Singh Bindra echoed the feeling when he told INDIA TODAY, “The Mohali Test is very much on. We have had much bigger crises before.”advertisementThere is perhaps a hint of disapproval in Bindra’s voice at the confrontationist attitude of the board president when he says, “We can put forth our views on the controversy in the next ICC meeting in March 2002.” Dalmiya, on his part, knows he has been given a long rope with the executive committee of the BCCI deciding on November 27 to support the board president in any action he deemed fit to take on the issue.Dalmiya is clear on one point: Indian cricket’s voice – his, in other words – has to be heard on the world stage. The ICC does not want its authority eroded but is aware of the influence India exerts in cricket’s eastern hemisphere.There was yielding on both sides. The BCCI did concede Denness’ authority and deposited the fines imposed on the six players; the ICC accepted there were enough differences to warrant a dialogue. It also decreed that Sachin Tendulkar had not tampered with the ball, only failed to inform the umpires he was cleaning the wet ball.Perhaps it should be this way. In the classic way of politics and power, confrontations keep the public’s attention off what Indian cricket really needs: peace and planning, not war and words.-with Ishara Bhasi in London and Ramesh Vinayak in Mohalilast_img

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