NEW DELHI: Indian cricket supremo Jagmohan Dalmiya, who oversaw the country’s emergence as the game’s financial powerhouse, died on Sunday only months after his comeback at the helm of the national board.
The 75-year-old president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) died in a hospital in his hometown of Kolkata after falling critically ill with a heart condition last week.
“The greatest sports administrator of India has passed away, an era ends,” BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur said on Twitter.
His death triggered an outpouring of tributes, including from the legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“My thoughts are with the family of Shri Jagmohan Dalmiya in this hour of grief. May Shri Dalmiya’s soul rest in peace,” Modi said on Twitter.
“Worked hard for the game of cricket and excelled as an administrator,” Tendulkar wrote on Twitter.
Dalmiya, who was also a former head of the International Cricket Council, presided over a dramatic increase in India’s financial muscle during previous stints at the helm of the BCCI after negotiating mega broadcast deals.
He returned to the post of BCCI president in March but was subsequently dogged by health problems and had been absent from a number of recent board meetings.
Dalmiya was unceremoniously dumped by the BCCI in 2004 over allegations of financial irregularities but made a comeback earlier this year after his predecessor Narayanaswami Srinivasan was forced out by a corruption scandal.
He first 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 and 1996 World Cups on the sub-continent.
He went on to become ICC president from 1997-2000 and BCCI president from 2001 to 2004.
Mega TV deals
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 in 2006 when Sharad 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.
A wily politician, he surprisingly emerged as a compromise candidate to head the board as Srinivasan tried to cling onto power.
But after his election in March, the once ubiquitous administrator was seldom seen in public and left the day-to-day running of the board in Thakur’s hands.
In comments to the CricInfo website, Thakur hailed Dalmiya as “a visionary and a father figure of Indian cricket.”
“His untiring efforts will be remembered for generations to come and his contribution to Indian cricket will remain unparalleled.”