Champion & a friend | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 22, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 22, 2015

Champion & a friend

President of Board of Control for Cricket in India, a former president of the International Cricket Council and the first Indian to be elected to that position are indeed impressive references and credentials. 

However, on the very rare occasions that the name of an individual towers above these exalted positions and commands even greater respect, we know we are in the company of greats.

Jagmohan Dalmiya, Jogu-Da to those who had the privilege of knowing him personally, an inspiring visionary and an outstanding leader, has etched a place for himself as one of cricket's most able administrators, ever.

Not only has he fashioned and revolutionised the administration of the game and taken it to new heights, he transformed the business of cricket and through skillful and astute management established it as a global sport, thanks to leveraging the power of television and strategic bundling of event rights.

A tested friend of Bangladesh cricket, steadfast and unwavering in his support, patronage and commitment, Jogu-Da also always stood by the side of the smaller nations and promoted their interests. To him, Fiji for instance was as important in the greater scheme of cricket's interest and fraternity as Australia.

Bangladesh's elevation to Test status and full membership of the ICC owes much to Jogu-Da. The journey began in earnest in 1998 when we were able to establish Dhaka as a centre of international cricket through the successful hosting of the first ever Champion's Trophy or the mini world cup, as it was then known.

Bangladesh experienced one of its worst and most prolonged floods prior to this tournament and there was considerable nervousness and uncertainty as to whether we would at all be able to host the event. My conversation with him as president of BCB was short. He simply asked me, can you do it and I said yes and that was it. The tournament went ahead and he too shared in our challenge and ensured that this was one of the most well organised and managed events ever.

A major milestone in our quest for full membership of the ICC was the support of the Asian Cricket Council. How could we after all realise our Test status aspirations without the support of our own region? The cause of Bangladesh cricket thus became that of Asia and he was fully supportive as ever.

The solidarity of Asian cricket and its emergence as the power house of world cricket was energised by his leadership. It was Australia and New Zealand's turn to host the 2011 Cricket World Cup. It was during a meeting of the ACC in Dubai in 2000 that I discussed the possibility of having this event in the sub-continent instead and thanks to the unity of Asian cricket that he helped to promote and cement, we were able to have the 2011 World Cup in this part of the world.

I believe he stood by Bangladesh cricket and that too at a time when we had few, if any, backers not because of his West Bengal base but due to the fact that he realised and sensed the potential we had as a cricketing nation and was able to connect and relate this to his global vision for the game.

Bangladesh's on-the-field successes of recent times is a testimony to his wisdom and foresight and a vindication of his abiding belief in our bright future.

His vision of globalising the game and courage in challenging the domination of the established nations in the global administration of it, earned him respect and administration across the board. As President of the ICC from 1997–2000 he was at his prime as were the likes of Dr. Ali Bacher of South Africa, Denis Rogers of Australia, Sir John Anderson of New Zealand, Ehsan Mani of Pakistan and the debates they had as to how cricket should be taken forward were of the highest standard and level -- inspiring, stimulating and challenging for us all.

World cricket is fortunate to have had a Jagmohan Dalmiya to lead and shape it. Bangladesh, too, owes him a huge debt of gratitude. As we try to come to terms with the shock and sorrow of his demise, we mourn the loss of an outstanding administrator, a true friend of Bangladesh and a wonderful human being.

Through decades of dedicated service, Jogu-Da has left global cricket in far better shape than many could have thought possible and his star will always rightly shine as one of the brightest. In the years to come, many distinguished individuals will no doubt serve in the positions he had held but they will all perhaps be successors, not a replacement in the true sense of the term.

Saber H. Chowdhury MP was President of Bangladesh Cricket Board 1996-2001. He is currently the President of Inter Parliamentary Union.
twitter @saberhc

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