It is easy to forget that Raj Singh Dungarpur has played cricket for 16 years. That’s not because his Test record is far from illustrious. It’s just that, to most, he is the quintessential administrator – always in a powerful office, always in the news, and frequently in controversy. In the last elections to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), he threw his lot behind Sharad Pawar, who was defeated by Ranbir Singh Mahendra, who was backed by Dungarpur’s long time associate and rival, Jagmohan Dalmiya. However, not for Dungapur the clichés about taking letting sleeping dogs lie or taking defeat in one’s stride. In a chat during the first India-Pakistan Test in Mohali, he bowled a flurry of bouncers and beamers that Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya, first referred to here as "one man", would struggle to fend off.
Q. How do you assess the working of the BCCI?
A. The working of the board these days is very sad. It used to be the best run sports organisation in the country. That has gone out of the window. All because one man does not want to loosen his grip. He wants to do everything, interfere in everything from cricket to television channels to who is selected to play to who keeps the score.
Q. You have had a long association with Mr Jagmohan Dalmiya…
A. I have nothing against Mr Dalmiya. He supported me when I was the president of BCCI. But I fell out with him when he toppled Dr Muthiah (A.C. Muthiah, former BCCI president and Chennai-based industrialist) when he had completed just two years as the BCCI president. Mr Dalmiya had given me a promise that he will let Dr Muthiah complete his term of three years. I am given to understand that an event management company played a role in Dr Muthiah’s ouster and the company was given an assignment (by the board) immediately afterwards.
Q. Where do you come into the picture?
A. Dr Muthiah was a very good president. He wanted to do several good things. For instance, he wanted to set up a corporate governance committee. Besides, Mr Dalmiya is supposed to have said behind my back that he was not getting rid of Dr Muthiah but of this evil influence that was Raj Singh Dungarpur, because Dr Muthiah consulted me on every issue. The truth is that Dr Muthiah consulted me only on matters related to cricket. I wouldn’t dream of advising him on something like, say, finance, or other matters. Still, I supported Mr Dalmiya when he wanted to be the chief patron of BCCI. But the problem is that he wants to do everything. He does not want to let go.
Q. You have yourself been the president of the Cricket Club of India (CCI) since 1992…
A. CCI is a company and there is no fixed tenure for its president. On the other hand, the BCCI president has a fixed tenure of three years. But I have been wondering how long I can go on. Just because I go unopposed every time does not give me the licence to continue forever.
Q. What would you like to change about the working of the BCCI?
A. The board, for the last five years, has been vote-oriented, not cricket oriented. How can a cricket board in 2005 not have a CEO? Even Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have one. We must have a CEO. How can someone like me, for instance, be expected to take decisions related to finance, or law? But, the bottom line is that a CEO does not generate votes. Then, people who have never held a cricket bat in their lives, are occupying key positions with the board.
Q. Would you prefer more cricketers in administration?
A. No, I’m not one of those. We have had excellent presidents who never played cricket. Anthony DeMello, N.K.P. Salve were great presidents. Mr Salve, for instance, wanted to unify the board after he was elected president and not count who had voted for him and who against.
Q. How about the television rights and the notional losses?
A. Immense. The board has suffered a big financial loss because of the way it has handled the television rights. Now, that money belongs to the state associations, not to the board. But such is the awe of the man that no one is raising these questions.
Q. Why should anyone be afraid of Mr Dalmiya?
A. He is a very vindictive man. If you (a state association) support him (with votes), you will get subsidies for stadiums and lights, and you will get to host matches. If you don’t, your funds allocations get cancelled. Look at this India-Pakistan series. The matches, by and large, have gone to venues whose state associations had voted for Mr Dalmiya. Except Mohali, about which not much could be done. That is how the opening match of the tour went to Dharamsala, because the Himachal Pradesh association had supported Mr Dalmiya.
Q. Does Mr Dalmiya still control the board, even though the president is Mr Ranbir Singh Mahendra?
A. No, I don’t think so. I have known Ranbir for a long time. He likes to discuss the issues at the working committee. I am looking forward to a clean board. I hope Ranbir will bring a breath of fresh air. And whenever Mr Pawar comes back, winds of change will come and restore BCCI to its past glory.