All those who followed Sourav Ganguly closely are not surprised at the recent turn of events in his own life and that in the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).
Kolkata journalists, who keep a track of his cricket and business interests, had an I-knew-it-was-coming look when he was “elected”/”appointed” president of the CAB. The question now asked is does he have the time to do all that he has lined up in the years after his retirement from playing cricket.
Cricket politics runs in the Ganguly family. Sourav’s father the late Chandidas Ganguly, who ran a thriving printing business, was a former CAB joint secretary and vice-president.
Chandidas was not exactly on the same wavelength as the more powerful Jamohan Dalmiya, who passed away earlier in the week, necessitating Sourav’s elevation.
To buy peace in the CAB, Chandi Ganguly was made chairman of the Trustee Board of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) and some uncharitably even suggested that Ganguly getting into the India team after his disastrous 1991-92 debut tour Down Under and also his becoming India captain was part of the deal between the elder Ganguly and Dalmiya.
Sourav’s elder brother Snehashish, who many thought would play for India before the younger Ganguly, was part of a group of CAB rebels who unseated Dalmiya a decade ago when Sharad Pawar had staged a comeback to take over as Indian cricket board chief.
Sourav is believed to have told his close confidantes after retiring from international cricket that his aim was to get into cricket administration. Yet, even he may not have imagined he would be at the helm of CAB so soon, for all his wiliness and articulation. But he sensed his timing a couple of months ago when Dalmiya’s health started deteriorating and he started taking keen interest in the association’s working.
Sourav worked his way through, smartly playing his cards. Ever since he got into CAB he handled cricket affairs and not only came up with some innovative ideas for the improvement of Bengal cricket but also appeared to be serious about implementing them. Some of his actions did not go well with the veterans at Eden Gardens.
His status as one of the biggest icons of Bengal in recent times came in handy. He knew he will get Bengal’s support whatever he does. He is also proving to be a politician par excellence. He kept every political party guessing and every one of them tried to get him into their fold.
First it was the CPI-M. Exploiting his proximity to then chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya he is alleged to have extracted some favours from the government. When Mamata Banerjee had launched her no-holds-barred Singur land agitation, Sourav issued a statement why the Tata’s should be allowed to go ahead with the production there of their Nano small car.
As a Tata Steel employee, Sourav issued the strongly-worded statement exhorting the people of the state to stand up for the project as it would “revolutionise the industrial prospects of West Bengal”.
Then the Baratiya Janata party (BJP) desperately tried to rope him in as part of its plan to attract celebrities before the 2014 general elections and for public consumption he held talks with their leaders and said so publicly before rejecting the offer, cleverly sending out a message to Mamata’s Trinamool Congress in the process.
Even the Congress party approached him, more not to be left alone than seeing any serious possibility of his joining up. He kept his counsel and meticulously followed his mind, not his heart.
Even as captain, Ganguly could get the team he wanted thanks to Dalmiya’s support. When the selectors wanted to replace him, Dalmiya put his foot down, though when he was eventually sacked as he bore a grudge against the Boss.
Like a good politician he made up with both Mamata and Dalmiya as if nothing had happened. He knew it was not easy to step into Dalmiya’s shoes without treading on the feet of other dadas in the CAB.
First, he gave the impression that he was least interested in the job, saying it is too early to talk of it even as he came out of a meeting with Mamata after chalking out a plan that would help both. For an emotional quotient, two agreed to keep Dalmiya’s son Avishek in the scheme of things.
Both changed the rules of the game. It was not CAB that announced Sourav taking over as Bengal cricket chief, Mamata, did it in a triumphant proclamation that Sourav is the man for the job, driving down to Eden Gardens.
Sourav got what he wanted and Mamata the halo effect. He can claim credit for smooth transition and the chief minister can go about saying that the new CAB chief is her protege!
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)