As the Eden Gardens gears up to host the India-South Africa Twenty20 International on Thursday, late cricket czar Jagmohan Dalmiya — for whom the ground was his second home — seems omnipresent in pictures, banners and recollections. Associated with the Eden Gardens-headquartered Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) as a cricket administrator since the 1970s, Dalmiya passed away on September 20 while he was helming the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Amid a flurry of activities to make the match a success, the CAB mandarins seemed nostalgic as Dalmiya’s name cropped up in their discussions time and again.
Dalmiya, who held on to the CAB president’s post from 1993 till his death, except a 19-month hiatus between December, 2006 and July, 2008, used to be the central figure whenever any cricket match was played at the Eden. Be it the 1987 Reliance World Cup final, or the historic return of South Africa in 1991 to international cricket after the apartheid era, or other top flight international matches over the past four decades — Dalmiya was more often than not responsible for the matches being awarded to Kolkata. He would always lead the organising efforts from the front, from resolving the numerous knotty issues through his legendary negotiating skills, to playing the perfect host to the invitees from the world of cricket, politics or other vocations who trooped into the colosseum on such big occasions. It was also from the Eden that Dalmiya for years controlled the game in India as the BCCI secretary and president, and even globally when he headed the International Cricket Council (ICC) between 1997 and 2000 as its first Asian chief.
“Yes, we do miss Jaguda (as Dalmiya was affectionately called). But at the same time we are trying hard to maintain the high standards that he had set as an organiser. That only can be the fittest tribute to him,” CAB trustee board chairman Goutam Dasgupta told IANS. Sourav Ganguly, who is tipped to take over as the CAB president on October 15, concurred. “We have to pass this litmus test through teamwork. When Dalmiya sir is no more, our main resource is teamwork.”
CAB has ensured fans who will come to watch the game get to pay their tributes. They have also printed Dalmiya’s photo on the match tickets for Thursday. On the road opposite the famed ground, huge banners with pictures of Dalmiya in different moods have been put up. The players of the two teams were seen taking a look at the pictures when they came to the ground for the practice sessions on Wednesday. At the pre-match media conference, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh said Dalmiya would be missed.
“We will be missing Dalmiya sir. He won’t be here with us but I am sure he will be blessing us from somewhere,” said Harbhajan, who rated the Eden as his favourite ground. Preparations are on to place Dalmiya’s portraits in front of the entrances for spectators to show their respect. “In every gate there will be large portraits of Dalmiya, so that fans and spectators coming for the game can pay their last respects,” CAB treasurer Biswaroop Dey said. “We will have a short film on Dalmiya after the toss. We will also observe a minute’s silence in his memory,” Dey added.
While former Indian skipper Ganguly will be filling in the shoes of Dalmiya as the CAB president when he officially takes over at the October 15 Special General Meeting (SGM), the late administrator’s only son, Avishek is also all set to formally enter cricket administration with his expected anointment as CAB joint secretary on the same day. Incidentally, Ganguly submitted his resignation from the joint secretary’s post on Tuesday, as per the CAB regulations ahead of the SGM.