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Bigger than Sachin Tendulkar

He sailed through the worst Indian cricket scandal and turned the cricket board from a deficit concern to a Rs 100 crore-plus juggernaut. He’s in the thick of a messy telecast deal but he’s also installed himself as lifetime czar of the game in India. He’s a Marwari who barely strings together a straight sentence in English but he’s lorded over Lord’s. If you get on his wrong side anywhere in the cricketing world you run the risk of being reduced to a nobody. How does he do it? Why can’t anybody stop him from getting what he wants? Hartosh Singh Bal on the rise and rise of Jagmohan Dalmiya

In the 1960s, House No. 46 in the Pathuria Ghat locality of North Calcutta was well known as the residence of the aristocratic Ghosh brothers — Manmath, Bhaben and Sonathan. Manmath, the eldest, was a patron of the arts ,and eminent musicians such as Bade Ghulam Ali Khan were among the regular visitors to the house. Classical music performances would often be held on the vast premises.

Among the less conspicuous visitors to the house was a young Marwari who would often drop by to play billiards with Manmath’s son Babai. He eventually fell in love with his friend’s cousin, Bhaben’s daughter Chandralekha. It was not a match ACCeptable to either family. Marrying outside the community was unknown then and while the Marwaris may have controlled the financial destiny of Bengal, for aristocratic Bengalis such as the Ghosh family they still remained upstarts. A friend of the family recounts, “There was a great deal of opposition. But Jagmohan is a go-getter. When he wants to go and get something, there is nothing to stop him.’’

It is a phrase that always comes up when people talk of Jagmohan Dalmiya. A man who knows his mind, and will let nothing stand in his way. It has made him a figure unsurpassed in the cricketing world, a man without a challenger in the Indian cricketing administrative set-up and a man who has barged in and thrown open the closeted white man’s world that was once the International Cricket Council (ICC).

It was a career that began at the Rajasthan Club, still very much the same ramshackle structure in the Kolkata Maidan that it must have been when Dalmiya first became a member in the 1950s. Joint secretary S. Sankar Narasariya, a contemporary of his, repeats the assessment, “Ziddi type hai. Jo karna hai to karna hai (He is stubborn. He does what he wants to do, come what may).’’

September 25, 2004
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