When Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar announced his candidature for presidentship of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, his opponent Ranbir Singh Mahendra, a former secretary of the BCCI and current secretary of the Haryana Cricket Association, was a bit apprehensive.
In private conversations he expressed resentment about the manner in which the Punjab Cricket Association had nominated the Maharashtra strongman as its candidate from North Zone.
Came the elections in Kolkata on October 29, and it was a neck and neck battle. The two candidates were level 15-15, till outgoing president Jagmohan Dalmiya cast his vote in favour of Mahendra.
Associate Editor Onkar Singh spoke with the newly-elected BCCI president.
How does it feel to be elected president of the BCCI?
I am delighted. It is a great honour to become the chief executive of the Indian cricket Board. I am indebted to all those who voted for me. I am pleased that, finally, it is all over.
When you jumped into the fray did you visualize winning the battle for presidentship?
I was very clear in my mind that I would be contesting to win. I had to work hard to convince the delegates to vote for me. After all, there are others as well who would have liked to become president of the BCCI. I would say that I was confident of victory.
When Sharad Pawar entered the fray did you say to yourself, 'My God, it is not going to be easy any more'?
When Sharad Pawarji announced his candidature I thought the contest would be a tough one and it would no longer be the cakewalk had there been any other candidate.
On the day of the elections how confident were you?
Let me put it this way: I had no fear in my mind about the outcome of the result. We had canvassed amongst the delegates the night before and a large number of them attended our dinner meeting. We counted every single vote that could go one way or the other. In the end, it was a neck and neck race.
Had Dalmiya not cast his presidential vote in your favour, Ranbirji, you would not have been elected president?
You are right. Dalmiya only exercised his right. He did not do anything against the rules. The elections of the BCCI office-bearers were held strictly in accordance with the rules of the Board. In every institution, if there is a person in the chair, and there is a tie in the elections, then he exercises his vote as the chairman. To my mind, Dalmiya has done the right thing.
Are you apprehensive about your election being challenged in court by the Maharashtra Cricket Association?
The elections are over and it is time to get on with the game of cricket. We have the India Australia series on hand and, thereafter, we have the South Africa and Pakistan teams coming to India. We have our hands full. I hope no member of the Board will go to court, because the elections were held in accordance with the rules of the BCCI constitution.
Did the Punjab Cricket Association do the right thing by nominating Pawar?
As far as the nomination of Sharad Pawar from North Zone is concerned, this is for the Punjab Cricket Association to decide what they ought to have done and what they ought to have not done. I do not want to comment on that. The elections are over and I do not want to think about it.
An impression is being given that it was you who had raised this issue?
No, I never raised this issue with anyone at any point of time. For me, what mattered was that I was a candidate for the post of presidentship of the BCCI. If some has been giving the media this impression -- that I was against the nomination of Pawar -- that is wrong.
They allege that you had set the precedent by nominating Madhavrao Scindia from the Haryana Cricket Association even when he did not belong to your state?
I am glad that you have asked this question. Madhavrao Scindia was our patron-in-chief. He was associated with affairs of the Haryana Cricket Association for more than a decade. Whatever was done was the decision of the Haryana Cricket Association and not mine alone.
Though the Indian Union has a large number of states and Union territories, only a handful of them are represented on the Board. Shouldn't you be broad-basing your Board?
As per our constitution, only a state can be enrolled as a member, and not Union territory. We are trying to broad-base the BCCI and we have decided to give associate membership to the Bihar, Chattisgarh and Uttaranchal cricket associations.
Some of the states have more then one association, and legal wrangles prevent either of the two factions from getting the nod from the Board to become its member. They have to sort out their differences and then come to us for affiliation.
Is India's cricket coach John Wright being replaced by Greg Chappell?
S K Nair, the honorary secretary of the Board, has informed me that there is no official contact with Greg Chappell. Since we have a heavy schedule before us, there is no plan to change the coach. As of now, he will continue till the end of the Pakistani cricket team's tour to India in 2005.
Is the India-Australia series being telecast?
The Board has decided to seek the help of Ten Sports in telecasting the series. It is our arrangement for internal production. And Sony will have the marketing rights. As the matter is pending before the Supreme Court, every arrangement will be subject to the order of the honourable court.