A fierce back-room 'battle' among East Zone representatives on Saturday and Sunday morning was the backdrop to Ranjib Biswal pipping former Indian Test star Gundappa Viswanath and Haryana Cricket Association's Anirudh Chaudhary to the high-profile Indian Premier League chairman's position. Biswal is a former under-19 India captain and a well-known face in cricketing circles having been the manager of the senior national team for several seasons now. (BCCI AGM updates)
Son of former Orissa deputy chief minister, the late Basant Kumar Biswal, the 43-year-old Ranjib is also the president of the Orissa Cricket Association and is a close confidant of Board of Control for Cricket in India president N. Srinivasan. According to sources, Biswal was 'rewarded' with the IPL post after the BCCI's treasurer position went to Chaudhary, son of former BCCI president Ranbir Singh Mahendra.
It was a hectic day of lobbying for 'positions' on Saturday and Sunday morning. Srinivasan played his cards very well considering the fact that it will be East Zone's turn to nominate a presidential candidate in 2014. After knocking out Sudhir Dabir and Niranjan Shah as vice-presidents, Srinivasan had two coveted positions to offer to his well-wishers. The IPL chairman's post was one of them. With the Supreme Court expected to decide Srinivasan's BCCI future on Monday, the Tamil Nadu strongman was keen to have his "inner circle" holding key positions. Biswal was all set to be the treasurer but equations changed dramatically.
Sources reveal the Cricket Association of Bengal 'objected' to Biswal's elevation as BCCI treasurer. On Saturday, Bengal felt denied at not having won a single key position - Chitrak Mitra was retained as one of the five vice-presidents though - especially since it was Jagmohan Dalmiya who stepped in as baby-sitter after Srinivasan stepped aside as BCCI president in June after the Indian Premier League spotfixing and betting scandal broke.
Bengal's 'objection' turned out to be Haryana's gain as Chaudhary was given the treasurer's job. That left the IPL chairman's job essentially a three-horse race with Biswal and Viswanath as hot contenders and Dalmiya, a long shot. Even on September 25, when the Board expelled Lalit Modi after a special general meeting, it was a foregone conclusion that 73-year-old Dalmiya, a former BCCI and ICC president, would take over as IPL boss. But the script changed dramatically in the last 24 hours. Age and the demands of a job that involves a lot of travelling probably went against Dalmiya.
Board insiders said Srinivasan was in no mood to award Bengal with easy loyalty points. BCCI politics can be ruthless and bizarre. Biswal fell slighted when he learnt that Bengal had objected to his appointment as treasurer. On Sunday, the BCCI AGM initially failed to arrive at a consensus on Biswal, but after Bengal were awarded two fairly important positions, the 43-year-old former Orissa all-rounder, who has had a stint in Indian politics, got the nod as the new IPL boss. CAB joint secretary Subir Ganguly was made part of the IPL governing council while Bengal treasurer Biswarup Dey was inducted into the powerful finance committee.
Biswal has been part of cricket administration. In 2011, he started an Orissa Premier League with 10 teams. The OPL was aimed at making cricket in Orissa attractive to young players. It was a decent success with bidders paying as much as Rs 55 lakh base price to buy a team. But handling a million-dollar baby like the IPL will be some ask, especially when high-profile team owners and players are facing allegations of corruption and of course, a conflict of interest. Can Biswal afford to take some hard decisions?