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There was a time when the world cricket scene was dominated by Britain and Australia. India was just another nation trying to stake its claim to the game and hosting the World Cup was but a distant dream. It was at this time that Jagmohan Dalmiya did what many before him had only imagined.
Dalmiya was born into a Marwari Bania family in Kolkata. He studied at the Scottish Church College and started his career as a wicket keeper, playing for cricket clubs (including his college team) in Calcutta. He joined his father’s firm ML Dalmiya and Co. and made it into one of India’s top construction firms. His firm constructed Calcutta’s M.P.Birla Planetarium in 1963.
He joined the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) in 1979, and became its treasurer in 1983. As the treasurer, he got an opportunity to use his acute business sense to tip the balance and shift the focus of the game towards South Asia. Along with bureaucrat Inderjit Singh Bindra, he helped to win the right to stage the World Cup in South Asia in 1987 and 1996, while making the 1996 World Cup one of the most profitable tournaments.
With this, he had made his mark internationally and was now eyeing for the big prize: Chairman of the International Cricket Council. In 1996, though he received 23 votes to 13 for Australia’s Malcolm Gray in an election, Dalmiya failed to attain the two-thirds majority necessary under the ICC Constitution.
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However, in 1997, he was unanimously elected President of the ICC, an office he held for three years. During his tenure as President, he turned the game around to make India the hub for world cricket.
Jagmohan Dalmiya was no stranger to allegations and controversies. From the ‘Denness Affair’ to him being ousted for alleged misappropriation of funds, Dalmiya always managed to bounce back like a true sportsman.
In June 2013, he was appointed as the interim president of the BCCI after N. Srinivasan stepped aside following his son-in-law’s alleged involvement in spot-fixing in the 2013 Indian Premier League. On 2 March 2015 Dalmiya returned as BCCI president after a 10-year gap replacing N. Srinivasan.
He was known as a daft businessman and shrewd ‘politician’ when it came to playing the power game of both national and international cricket. He was largely responsible for making BCCI one of the richest cricket boards in the world and for shaping the game as we know it today.
Jagmohan Dalmiya succumbed to massive cardiac arrest late on Sunday Sept 20, 2015 but he will always be remembered in the annals of cricketing history as someone who took Indian cricket to the world stage and made BCCI a force to reckon with.