Shashank Manohar: High on integrity, tough on principles

Shashank Manohar is known for his integrity and regains control of the country's richest sporting body at a time when cricket's image has been tarnished by the spot-fixing scandal and intense factionalism.

Shashank Manohar: High on integrity, tough on principles

New Delhi: Shashank Manohar, who on Sunday took over as the 36th president of the BCCI, is known for his integrity and regains control of the country's richest sporting body at a time when cricket's image has been tarnished by the spot-fixing scandal and intense factionalism.

The reticent 58-year-old Nagpur-based lawyer in the past decade, has been known as someone, who bears a tough, no- nonsense attitude and at the same time is accommodating towards the needs of the players.

A shrewd tactician and someone who knows implications of any policy decision like the back of his hand, Manohar has been a trouble-shooter since 2005, when he became the vice- president and 'Man-Friday' to Sharad Pawar, who became the president that year.

Once he was through in 2011 with his first presidential tenure, Manohar stepped away from the limelight, rarely voicing his opinion on cricketing matters until the spot- fixing scandal broke in 2013.

From then, Manohar and N Srinivasan became adversaries with the former sticking to the principles that need to be followed urging the Tamil Nadu strongman to relinquish his post. Srinivasan, on his part, kept claiming that it was a case of pure vendetta.

That he stuck to his principals was proved when he made it clear that he is not in favour of Pawar aligning with Srinivasan in the presidential battle following the demise of Jagmohan Dalmiya.

In a Cricket Board riddled by scandals, factionalism, money-power and heavy politicking, the need of the hour was a man, whose image could restore the faith and credibility of the sporting body whose revenues runs into millions of dollars.

While mulling on a replacement for Dalmiya, the majority of the influential decision-makers in the BCCI including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley could come up with only one name that could be befitting to the stature of a body like the BCCI and that was Manohar.

Some of his ground-breaking decisions during his first tenure (2008-11) include suspension of erstwhile IPL commissioner Lalit Modi on allegations of financial irregularities, calling for fresh bids for new teams after allegations of rigging, and advising BCCI to encash the bank guarantee of Kochi Tuskers Kerala after they defaulted on franchisee fee.

It was in Manohar's first presidential tenure that India regained ODI World Cup after 28 years and players were rewarded with a cash prize of Rs 2 crore each after it was decided that they would be given Rs 1 crore each.

When IPL spot-fixing scandal broke in 2013, it was Manohar, who was the original whistleblower as he demanded Srinivasan's resignation urging him to take moral responsibility of his son-in-law's actions.

Such has been his integrity that even Lalit Modi, who has been a constant thorn in the flesh for some of the BCCI bigwigs including Srinivasan with his twitter-tirade, could not find reasons to badmouth him on social networking sites.

A fiercely private man, some of the nuggets of information about him in all these years have reached legendary proportions -- he still does not have a mobile phone, only way to get through to him are the two landline numbers of his office and residence, his personal e-mail communications are done through his wife Varsha Manohar's e- mail account, his first passport was issued when he was 51 years old.

His relationship with the fourth estate has been one of indifference rather than a love-hate one like his predecessor Dalmiya as he has always believed in airing his views to a chosen few on even fewer occasions.

The only two aspects where he has been criticised are his silence when Srinivasan as the treasurer of BCCI was allowed to bid for an IPL team in 2007-08. The second was when the zonal rotation policy of the BCCI was done away with which Srinivasan tried to use albeit unsuccessfully to his own benefit. Manohar had later said that the amendment was done not for Srinivasan but for the then DDCA chief Arun Jaitley.

Before Umesh Yadav burst into the national scene, Vidarbha only had Prashant Vaidya, whose international career was a blink and miss one.

Therefore, it was difficult for a Vidarbha administrator to gain foothold -- especially for someone who was not power hungry.

However in 2004, the western bloc of BCCI was slowly going against Dalmiya as they thought that the CAB president was running the board in an autocratic manner -- something Srinivasan would be accused of in later years.

The Indian cricket fraternity warmed up to Manohar during the last days of October 2004 when hard bouncy green top was provided to the home team against an Australian pace attack that had Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie in their ranks.

Skipper Sourav Ganguly pulled out at the last moment after the curator, on Manohar's instructions, decided against shaving off the grass. The decision was considered to be one with greater ramifications in BCCI politics -- teaching Dalmiya a lesson through Ganguly.

A few days later, when Pawar lost 15-16 to Ranbir Singh Mahendra at the Kolkata AGM of BCCI, Manohar came into prominence.

The spotlight that day at the Taj Bengal in Kolkata, was very much on the NCP supremo as very few people observed a middle-aged man wearing an ordinary kurta-pyajama, in the bevy of politicians and business magnets.

A few did though, went up and spoke to him as he opened up about how the BCCI should function, need to understand the constitution and implement the by-laws.

In the year upto the next AGM in 2005, Manohar was Pawar's Go-To Man. It was Manohar's brain, Srinivasan and Modi's money power, IS Bindra's experience topped by Pawar's political clout that formed the core team which inflicted a humiliating defeat on Dalmiya's 'dummy' candidate Mahendra , who lost 11-20 during that year.

One of Manohar's key decision prior to the election that year was that the opposition faction should stay at Grand Hotel rather than Taj Bengal, so that their masterplan, documents and voters are all in one place.

There was no looking back for Manohar but he rarely used the opportunity to promote himself while remaining Pawar's most trusted ally in the sporting arena.

Manohar's tenure will be of just under two years before the BCCI goes into AGM in 2017 but he does have his work cut out.

He has to decide on whether Srinivasan would be BCCI's representative in the ICC till June 2016 and whether the already suspended franchises CSK and Rajasthan Royals deserve a harsher punishment.

Besides tightening the anti-corruption tools of BCCI, which in turn will help IPL, Manohar will also have to prepare a roadmap with cricket experts which will enable India to do well abroad. 

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