Sri Lanka Cricket President, Thilanga Sumathipala took centre stage in paying tribute to the late Jagmohan Dalmiya on his 77th birth anniversary on Tuesday at the Crystal Room at Taj Bengal. Literally revered as the godfather of Indian cricket as well as redefining cash strapped world cricket as an administrator.
Delivering the inaugural speech at the solemn commemoration to a packed audience, Sumathipala paid a glowing tribute to Dalmiya, who was born on September 30 and died on September 20, 2015. The SLC President identified Dalmiya as the doyen who championed the cause of cricket as a whole by his highly articulating negotiating skills. It propelled him to be a great administrator who changed the economics of cricket. Such was his broad vision when he administered the game as the ICC chairman in 1997 and as the BCCI president in 2001. Dalmiya has left behind a lasting legacy that continues to nourish the hallowed game.
Sumathipala particularly recalled a passage of time when Jagmohan Dalmiya truly displayed his vast acumen in coming to the rescue of Sri Lanka by sending a combined Indian-Pakistan team for a show of strength cricket match during hosting of the 1996 World Cup when Australia and the West Indies refused to play in Sri Lanka following unrest after the country’s central bank was bombed.
As the SLC president put it, ‘that was a critical period for Sri Lanka during hosting of the 1996 World Cup when countries refused to play in Sri Lanka’. Dalmiya got the organising committee for the 1996 World Cup – PILCOM to put things in perspective for Sri Lanka by his spirited gesture of swiftly stringing that team to play in Sri Lanka. Mohammed Azharuddin, who led the Indo-Pak team, was present among the audience and pleasantly got to know the inside story behind his appointment.
Sumathipala described how deft Dalmiya was in getting Azharduddin to lead that team that included Wasim Akram.
“Jaggu called up Intikhab Alam and got him to agree that Akram would play under Azharuddin, while Intikhab would be the manager. I think he was a born negotiator. One who had the knack of getting everyone under one roof. His vision and extraordinary leadership skills always stood out. His legacy lives on,” recalled Sumathipala.
Among the audience were Syed Ashraful Haq, who served as the first and only CEO of the Asian Cricket Council, and Iftekhar Rahman, a well known official from across the border.
India’s 1983 world cup winning captain Kapil Dev was the other chief orator who held the floor in paying homage to Dalmiya whom he described as “my hero” to resounding applause. It was Dalmiya who paved the way for a good life for Indian cricketers, said Kapil who believed that Dalmiya was the best administrator of all sports in the last 50 years.
“When we were playing, we would always look at the wages of English and Australian cricketers and wonder when we would manage to come close. Twenty years later, they are the ones yearning to earn like Indian cricketers. The credit for this goes to my hero,” said Kapil.
The occasion was rounded off by Indian captain Virat Kohli presenting the late Dalmiya’s widow, Chandralekha Dalmiya with a bouquet.
By Srian Obeyesekere