Kolkata unlikely to be BCCI’s focal point again

Alone, Jagmohan Dalmiya had trudged towards the lobby of the hotel that November day in 2005. Sharad Pawar had beaten his candidate Ranbir Singh Mahendra to the presidency of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and was addressing the media in the hotel’s cavernous discotheque. That day, Kolkata stopped being the heart of Indian cricket administration.

Nearly 14 years later, another man who calls Kolkata home is BCCI president; the fifth from the city after JC Mukherjee, AN Ghosh, BN Dutt and Dalmiya. Starting from when he learnt to bat left-handed despite being a natural right-hander, Sourav Ganguly has made a lot of adjustments as cricketer but shifting to Mumbai, where the BCCI has its headquarters, is unlikely to be one of them. But though Ganguly will continue to be based here, Kolkata is unlikely to be the BCCI’s focal point anymore. “There has been a fundamental shift in how the BCCI is run now,” said Deep Dasgupta, former India player and Bengal captain. Dasgupta has also served as chief selector of Bengal in the recent past.

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“Time was when the BCCI president would be rotated among zones. Now, even the process of having a selector from each zone has been discontinued. The Duleep Trophy doesn’t have zonal representation anymore and the Deodhar Trophy is not an inter-zonal competition. So, the idea of zones is either out or on its way out,” said Dasgupta on Thursday.

“Also, now the BCCI has a structure in place, one where the board president and secretary do not have to sign cheques anymore. You have general managers looking into departments and one of the things the new constitution has mandated is that meetings have to be in the BCCI offices in Mumbai,” said Dasgupta.

Under five divisions—logistics, operations, finance, domestic cricket and the digital team—the BCCI now has nearly 80 full-time employees in its office in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium which was inaugurated in November 2006. The new constitution of the BCCI mandates the appointment of chief executive officers, ethics officer, ombudsman, professional managers and having a single point of contact to deal with issues pertaining to players’ logistics.

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“The day to day management of the BCCI shall be conducted by professionals in both cricketing and non-cricketing matters,” says the constitution. A full-time CEO has to be appointed, it says. When Dalmiya helmed BCCI from 2001-04 and again from March 2015 till his death in September 2015, things were different. “There would be five or six employees in an office at Brabourne Stadium with (former India captain) Polly Umrigar as the executive secretary,” said Gautam Dasgupta, the BCCI general secretary in 2005.

Gautam Dasgupta would therefore operate out of Kolkata where he is based. “Often from the office of Mr Dalmiya’s company with a couple of his employees helping out,” he said. Since Dalmiya was also the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB)—a post Ganguly had to relinquish because no one is allowed to hold more than one post—cricket then was run from Kolkata. Dial 033 for deliverance was said to be how it worked. 033 was the subscriber trunk dial code for Kolkata at a time when mobile telephony was not as widespread as it is now.

“It used to be said in Indian cricket circles those days that if I ever had the smallest problem, I would pick up the phone, dial 033, the Kolkata code, and get through to the hotline to reach Jagmohan Dalmiya,” Ganguly says in his book ‘One Century Is Not Enough’. Ganguly says the claim is not correct and that he would call Dalmiya only if it was very urgent. But with Dalmiya being the ICC president from 1997 to 2000 before heading the BCCI, there was no questioning Kolkata’s prominence in cricket matters beyond the boundary.

It was from where Dalmiya fought against the ICC—after match referee Mike Denness punished six India players during a Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth in 2001 — often addressing the media at Eden Gardens near midnight. And it was from Kolkata that Dalmiya got Siddhartha Shankar Ray, the former Bengal chief minister, to defend India captain Ganguly when match referee Clive Lloyd had banned him. In his 10-month stint, it is unlikely to be the same for Ganguly.

(With inputs from Sanjjeev K Samyal in Mumbai)

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