Last Thursday, Indian cricket lost a committed servant and media lost a big source who, unlike the present lot of officials, spoke from the heart. Jaywant Lele was a bit of an enigma. The man, as honorary secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) unabashedly predicted, in 1999- 2000, that the Indian team would lose to Australia 3- 0 in the series. And it turned out to be the same!
That was typical of Lele, open, straight and simple. His straight from the cuff comments often ruffled the feathers of his peers and colleagues in the BCCI, making him deny or cover up what he had said straight from his heart — prompting parts of the media to label him as a joker or a buffoon. His book, ‘I was there — Memoirs of a Cricket Administrator,’ brought out many dealings within the BCCI and contained some hilarious encounters like the reason why Navjot Singh Sidhu returned from the England tour of 1996.
A true grass root worker, Lele saw his dream of taking Baroda (Vadodara) to the top rankings in Indian cricket by backing local players like Anshuman Gaekwad, Kiran More, Nayan Mongia as well as mentoring Irfan Pathan when he was finding his feet as an under-19 player. Whether it was yanking the BCCI president N. Srinivasan’s chain or calling (in his opinion) the former president I.S. Bindra bluff or wanting Virendra Sehwag back in the Indian team, Lele said what he believed in — all making great copy (read: news) for the media.
Lele was one of the last of the generation of cricket officials, who was completely connected with the game. While in the current generation of officials, it’s more about showing power in the BCCI elections like the one which are going to be held on September 29.
Speculation has already begun whether Srinivasan, the current president, will retain his ‘seat’ and get an additional one-year term or will his game plan be disrupted by the lobby (yet unnamed) that wants former president Shashank Manohar to make a comeback to ‘save’ the august organisation and free it of malaises.
The BCCI elections have always been complex and political and have given even the country’s national elections a run for its money. Consider this; the only election that Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar ever lost was when he ran for the position of the president of the BCCI in 2004. The new rule of proposing and seconding the nomination of president has made it difficult for factions to challenge the present incumbent.
The week before the BCCI elections will see parleys by various factions to garner votes for their candidates. Regardless of which faction prevails, in the end those are men like Lele, with their passion for the game, who matter. They are the men on the ground who know the issues faced by clubs and bodies that promote the game at the grassroots level. The problem is that these same administrators eventually rope in powerful and influential persons (read: politicians and industrialists) who keep ruling the roost.
(The writer is a former Cricket Club of India captain and Bombay University cricketer)
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.