With N. Srinivasan guaranteed of a year's extension as Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, much of Saturday evening in a seven-star Chennai hotel was spent discussing a probable candidate for the Indian Premier League chairman's post. Powerful positions in the BCCI usually go to the president's colleagues who earn 'loyalty' bonus over a certain period of time. This was eloquently clear when Srinivasan picked his 'cabinet' and dropped Niranjan Shah and Sudhir Dabir as vice-presidents. Backed by Karnataka's Anil Kumble, former Indian batting star Gundappa Viswanath is suddenly a top contender for the IPL job.
BCCI sources reveal that there is an intense battle for the IPL chairman's position. After Rajeev Shukla quit this job in the wake of the betting and spotfixing scandal, this high-profile spot has been lying vacant. With his immense political connections, Shukla has always been Srinivasan's go-to man in case of government dealings. Shukla (representing Central Zone) has been suitably 'rewarded' and will now remain in Srinivasan's Team BCCI as one of the five vice-presidents.
If Srinivasan has sailed over his rivals this time, it's largely because his South Zone colleagues have shown tremendous solidarity. Andhra Pradesh's support turned out to be decisive for Srinivasan. It is learnt that G. Ganga Raju, the Andhra Pradesh Cricket Association secretary, 'switched' camps after 'pledging' his support to Shashank Manohar, whose name was doing the rounds as Srinivasan's rival. Raju is likely to be awarded the chairmanship of the high-profile finance or marketing committees.
But the IPL chairman's position will be under the spotlight. It is learnt that Kumble has been given the job to scout the next man-in-charge. Kumble, who is the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, is likely to propose Little Master Viswanath's name. A former Indian under-19 captain and a close confidant of Srinivasan from Orissa, Ranjib Biswal, is also in contention.
Jagmohan Dalmiya, who was baby-sitting the BCCI for the last four months when Srinivasan went into 'exile', is also in the frame but with age not in his side, the 73-year-old former BCCI chief may lose the race. The BCCI, of course, has a younger option in Haryana's Anirudh Chaudhary, but with former BCCI president Ranbir Singh Mahendra's son set to become the Board treasurer, the options look limited.
In terms of qualities, former batting star and a former chief national selector Viswanath has the credibility, but whether he has the administrative capabilities to run a million-dollar international product is a matter of debate. Biswal has been in Srinivasan's core group and with East Zone's turn to 'vote' a president after 2014, the Orissa official may just win the vote-bank politics.
BCCI sources say Sachin Tendulkar has expressed his desire to play his 200th Test in Mumbai. That probably rules out Eden Gardens as a venue. The Cricket Association of Bengal had written to the Board saying it wanted to host the milestone match at the historic Eden. But Mumbai is likely to be awarded the match out-of-turn and due to sentimental reasons.
A lot of equations seem to have changed since Friday night's dinner party hosted by Srinivasan in Chennai. Bengal, which had backed an embattled Srinivasan in the last four months, seem to have lost out in winning prime positions. Srinivasan's 'cabinet' has only one position 'reserved' for Bengal, that of vice-president Chitrak Mitra. The way Shah and Dabir have been 'dumped' by Srinivasan, BCCI politics can really be ruthless and bizarre.