RE­VERSE SWEEP TURNS THE GAME

By prop­ping up Jag­mo­han Dalmiya and per­suad­ing N. Srini­vasan to step aside, Arun Jait­ley has se­cured his own chances of head­ing cricket’s rich­est or­gan­i­sa­tion

India Today - - SPORT - By G. S. Vivek

Lean­ing back in his black leather chair at his home- cum- of­fice in Kailash Colony, south Delhi, Arun Jait­ley steals a minute from some im­por­tant pa­pers and glances at the 81cm LED screen broad­cast­ing the In­dia- Aus­tralia Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy warm- up match on June 4. “From a hope­less sit­u­a­tion at 55 for 5, ( M. S.) Dhoni and ( Di­nesh) Karthik have helped us cross 300. It’s a great re­cov­ery,” he says, with a sat­is­fied smile. Off the field, the BCCI vice- pres­i­dent tried to script a sim­i­lar re­cov­ery in the past week while ne­go­ti­at­ing be­tween an adamant pres­i­dent who failed to see logic and board mem­bers who sought N. Srini­vasan’s res­ig­na­tion af­ter his son- in- law was ar­rested for al­leged bet­ting and spot- fix­ing.

Yet, his han­dling of the cri­sis has not won him any brownie points, ei­ther with the cricket- loving pub­lic or within po­lit­i­cal cir­cles. He didn’t bother to at­tend the emer­gency work­ing com­mit­tee meet­ing in Chen­nai on June 2, pre­fer­ring to com­mu­ni­cate via video­con­fer­enc­ing from a Delhi five- star ho­tel. Ad­dress­ing the work­ing com­mit­tee, he spoke about how the re­cent ar­rests had af­fected the cred­i­bil­ity of the board and asked Srini­vasan to “step aside” in a bid to pla­cate the war­ring fac­tion led by Pun­jab Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent I. S. Bin­dra and os­ten­si­bly backed by for­mer BCCI pres­i­dent Sharad Pawar. It was not enough. Bin­dra recorded his dis­sent in the meet­ing, say­ing there was no rule in the con­sti­tu­tion for the pres­i­dent to step aside. “Srini­vasan should re­sign and come back if ex­on­er­ated. I said this sham will not sat­isfy the pub­lic,” Bin­dra said af­ter the meet­ing.

To pacify Srini­vasan and his group, Jait­ley propped up the name of 73year- old Jag­mo­han Dalmiya, the for­mer BCCI and ICC pres­i­dent who had been kept out of the board for em­bez­zle­ment of 1996 World Cup funds and slapped with a re­cov­ery no­tice of Rs 47 crore. Dalmiya was ac­cepted back into the board in 2010 af­ter a com­plaint against him re­gard­ing the World Cup ac­counts was with­drawn, and has been soft on Srini­vasan over the en­tire is­sue, given their com­mon ri­valry with Pawar.

Jait­ley says peo­ple are wrongly in­ter­pret­ing his ac­tions, and in­sists he has no vested in­ter­est. “I just saw a role for my­self in putting the board back in place with Srini­vasan step­ping aside to en­sure a free and fair probe. That is all I wanted from all of this,” he tells IN­DIA TO­DAY. But 1983 World Cup win­ner and BJP leader Kirti Azad says he is “ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed” with the way Jait­ley han­dled the is­sue. “The events have proved that BCCI is ac­tu­ally Brother­hood for Con­trol of Cricket in In­dia.”

Al­though Jait­ley has said he wanted for­mer board chief Shashank Manohar at the helm— that pro­posal was shot down out­right at the meet­ing by Camp Srini­vasan— BCCI of­fi­cials be­lieve that by turn­ing down the of­fer to step in as in­terim head and throw­ing the ball in Dalmiya’s court, Jait­ley has played a mas­ter­stroke. As some­one who sees him­self as a pos­si­ble prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date and a BCCI pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee in Septem­ber 2014, Jait­ley, leader of Op­po­si­tion in the Ra­jya Sabha, wasn’t keen to take over a trou­bled board at this junc­ture, es­pe­cially with the Gen­eral Elec­tions next year. “Sport, es­pe­cially cricket, is my pas­sion. But my pri­or­ity right now is pol­i­tics. This is elec­tion year, so I de­clined, say­ing I have no in­ter­est in tak­ing up any re­spon­si­bil­ity at this time,” he says.

“MY PRI­OR­ITY RIGHT NOW IS POL­I­TICS. THIS IS ELEC­TION YEAR, SO I HAVE NO IN­TER­EST IN TAK­ING UP ANY OTHER BOARD RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY NOW.” Arun Jait­ley BCCI VICE- PRES­I­DENT

Sources in BCCI say the sud­den el­e­va­tion of Dalmiya has an in­trigu­ing back story to it, and Jait­ley merely ex­ploited it to ev­ery­one’s ben­e­fit. In Septem­ber 2012, Srini­vasan had mooted an amend­ment in the BCCI Rules and Reg­u­la­tions clause 15 ( iii), which al­lowed any two af­fil­i­ates of a zone to pro­pose a can­di­date from an­other zone, to re­port­edly al­low Jait­ley’s can­di­da­ture for pres­i­dent from east zone in 2014. Dalmiya, who al­ready had two votes of his own as Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion of Ben­gal and National Cricket Club pres­i­dent, apart from wield­ing clout over the east bloc, had al­ready agreed to pitch in for Jait­ley, who oth­er­wise would have to wait un­til 2017, when it will be the north zone’s turn to nom­i­nate a pres­i­dent.

BCCI of­fi­cials be­lieve that by propos­ing Dalmiya’s name, Jait­ley has ce­mented his good­will with the east zone, and by coax­ing Srini­vasan to ‘ step aside’, he has pro­vided a face- sav­ing for­mula, thus se­cur­ing votes from the south. Within the 30- mem­ber body, Jait­ley has se­cured 16 votes, in ad­di­tion to five from the north. Bin­dra says Jait­ley had his way in the meet­ing. “Most of the sug­ges­tions came from Jait­ley, in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment of Dalmiya,” he says.

Jait­ley, who had pub­licly asked for res­ig­na­tions of cen­tral min­is­ters on moral grounds in re­cent weeks, claims he re­it­er­ated his sen­ti­ments pri­vately to the BCCI pres­i­dent over the phone at least thrice be­tween May 27 and 29. On May 31, af­ter Sec­re­tary San­jay Jag­dale and Trea­surer Ajay Shirke quit, Jait­ley di­alled Srini­vasan again at 11.30 p. m. Srini­vasan said he would get back to him the next day. It was the first sign of Srini­vasan melt­ing. Srini­vasan called back with two con­di­tions— of re­tain­ing his po­si­tion in ICC and de­cid­ing who would fill in as BCCI sec­re­tary and trea­surer— but later re­lented to ‘ step aside’ un­con­di­tion­ally.

Af­ter 15 years, Jait­ley’s sup­port­ers feel the BCCI pres­i­dent’s post is a log­i­cal con­clu­sion for his ca­reer as a cricket ad­min­is­tra­tor. He de­clined it, per­haps be­cause he knew the op­por­tu­nity would come again. In 2014.

SU­BIR HALDER/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

JAG­MO­HAN DALMIYA

YASBANT NEGI/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

ARUN JAIT­LEY

SU­BIR HALDER/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

N. SRINI­VASAN

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