By H Natarajan
Indian sport has seen some dramatic fall-outs.
Bishan Singh Bedi was so captivated by a young Sunil Gavaskar that he named his son Gavas Inder Singh. But in the years that followed, their friendship soured, which led to the Sardar publicly critical of Gavaskar.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi not only forged a great combination but also went on to become the No 1 team in the world. But an entire nation watched in aghast as their rift led to their parting of ways as professionals.
Jagmohan Dalmiya and Inderjit Singh Bindra shook the cricketing world when they got the World Cup out of England to stage the fourth edition of the championship in India. The very close allies then fell out. What followed was washing dirty linen – a public laundry that is still doing brisk business.
Dalmiya now finds himself losing another very close confidant in Sourav Ganguly – the trump card in his cricketing pack. The latest row threatens to uproot Dalmiya’s banyan-tree like cricketing roots in his own backyard and put an end to his days as an administrator. And even as Dalmiya and Ganguly are slanging it out, Bindra has joined the fray to heighten Dalmiya’s misery.
Indian cricket is mega power and both Ganguly and Dalmiya have unambiguously showed that they will do whatever it takes – fair means or otherwise – to retain their respective holds.
The aroma of the multi-million dollar business is just the kind of high politicians love, many of whom have taken strategic positions in Indian cricket. And heavyweight politicians are playing key roles in the July 30 elections Cricket Association of Bengal elections.
The Ganguly-Dalmiya fracas has caused fissures in Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya’s own party. The CM had openly asked Dalmiya not to contest – a plea that Dalmiya has ignored to challenge Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee for the CAB presidency.
West Bengal Sports Minister Subhash Chakraborty has also chosen to ignore the CM and throw his weight behind Dalmiya. That the cricket imbroglio has split the Left is evident with Ashok Bhattacharya, West Bengal's Urban Development Minister, coming out in support of Ganguly with a veiled attack on Chakraborty.
Dalmiya is bitter that Ganguly is not “loyal” because he is no longer the BCCI chief. Where is the question of loyalty and disloyalty? A player is there – or not there – in the team because of his performance or the lack of it and not because of his loyalty to the president. By talking of loyalties, Dalmiya has unwittingly conveyed the message that he has gone beyond his purported brief to aid Ganguly’s cause.
Having said, Ganguly has shown that he has learnt nothing from his past mistakes. Maybe Ganguly genuinely feels that Dalmiya is the brain behind leaking Greg Chappell’s sensational email that ripped him (Ganguly) apart. He has a right to think that the issue which snowballed into national furore eventually led to his ouster from the national side. But he cannot ignore the fact that he has largely himself to blame for the predicament.
The timing and the intent of Ganguly’s email from Northamptonshire is fooling nobody. "People who leak e-mails and sacrifice players' careers should be heavily punished. There are people in CAB who are playing with players' careers to suit them. They should not be allowed to go scot-free as it takes years of hard work to reach a certain level in sports." The point is: Why did Ganguly not react when heavyweights in the BCCI openly named Dalmiya as the man behind leaking Chappell’s mail? By waiting 10 long months to hit back at Dalmiya, and just days before the CAB elections, he has given clearly given the impression of a having a hidden agenda.
Ganguly wants a probe into the email leak. He is justified in asking for the probe, but that should have come soon after the leak. That was the time Raj Singh Dungarpur and Bindra were saying that Dalmiya himself was the man behind the leak. Whatever be the case, why has the culprit not been nabbed yet? If some sick mind, hiding somewhere on Planet Earth could be nabbed for sending out malicious viruses, why can’t an accused in a relatively tiny space like the top echelon of the BCCI be apprehended?
Ganguly says he is “happy that the Chief Minister and people concerned are addressing the issues and working towards the right path," but he has been a powerful voice in Indian cricket and for a very long time in Bengal, so why did he not voice his disapproval then? Dalmiya had almost the entire world against him, but Ganguly chose to side with Dalmiya. He saw nothing wrong then because it obviously suited him then.
With his international playing career hurtling down bobsleigh, the desperateness to get back into the team shows. If only he had learnt from many of his balanced team-mates. Anil Kumble finds himself out from the one-day side. VVS Laxman has often found been dumped, quite unfairly at times. Both players are still sore about the way they have been treated, but they have remained dignified in their public posture. So was Rahul Dravid when he was dropped from the one-day side a few years back. He got back in a manner that typifies champions – by performing as a player.
Siddharth Shankar Ray, former West Bengal CM and twice Ganguly’s legal counsel in his battles against ICC in 2004 and 2005, told newspersons that he has seen Dalmiya fighting hard for Sourav “as if he is fighting for his son." Ray’s statement shows his feelings for Dalmiya, but he stopped short of calling Ganguly ingrate. But Sports Minister Chakraborty was less diplomatic and slammed the former India captain as an “opportunist.”
Dalmiya’s Midas touch is legendary. Be it the BCCI or the ICC his financial acumen made these bodies cash-rich entities. But he is an administrator whose ran his administration like his personal fiefdom. He loves sycophancy. Naturally, his style attracted power enemies – within the ICC, within the BCCI and within the CAB.
He courted huge trouble. And much after the dust settles over the CAB elections, he still has to face the music over financial irregularities that landed him before the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Crime Branch in March early this year. The EOW is probing alleged misuse of funds to the tune of Rs 21.74 lakh (approx US$49000) from the World Cup 1996 account.
Dalmiya’s lust to hang on to power is as legendary as his ability to generate money. And it’s this lust that saw his appointment as the patron-in-chief of the BCCI - a post created with the solitary aim of keeping him in office after his present term as BCCI President ended in September 29, 2004.
The BCCI now in power is out to nail Dalmiya – and not without good reason. They formally suspended him in April from attending any board meetings while police are investigating complaints made against him.
Ganguly may seem as a Pawn in the whole game, but he is a Pawn that may well check-mate the King. If Ganguly’s revolt does see the fall of Dalmiya, then it would not come as a surprise to see him get a place back in the team – a reward by the powerful forces within the BCCI opposed to the former ICC chief even if it the coach and captain are opposed to the idea.
The stakes are very high. A defeat for Dalmiya would be a watershed in Indian cricket. Defeat for Prasun Mukherjee would be a heavy blow for Chief Minister Bhattacharya, who has left nobody in doubt whom he is backing in the elections. And victory for Dalmiya could possibly leave Ganguly neither here nor there.
Interesting and intriguing days ahead.