Mumbai: Will Dilip Vengsarkar be able to snap the near two-decade-old stranglehold of politicians over the Mumbai Cricket Association, is the big question as the former cricketer goes into a toe-to-toe contest with Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in the elections on Friday.
MCA had been led by political biggies Manohar Joshi and outgoing president Sharad Pawar since 1992 and its going to be a tough task for former India captain Vengsarkar to prevent Deshmukh from continuing the domination of politicians at the helm of the association`s affairs for the next two years.
Deshmukh has the backing of Pawar`s supporters after the Union Agriculture Minister was ruled out of contesting the polls by becoming ineligible following a change of his permanent residence status from Mumbai to Baramati.
If Vengsarkar does win the biennial polls and become the new MCA president, he would be bucking the trend that started in 1992 when Shiv Sena leader Joshi became the chief and then was followed by Pawar who defeated former India skipper Ajit Wadekar to wrest control of MCA`s reins in 2001.
The ex-chief selector has the active support of some of his erstwhile India and Mumbai teammates like Karsan Ghavri, Balwinder Sandhu and Chandrakant Pandit who are contesting the polls for 11 managing committee posts as members of his panel.
Also fighting from Vengsarkar`s side for one of the two vice president`s post is former Mumbai captain Milind Rege. The fate of the two candidates would be decided by 329 voters representing 211 maidan clubs, 81 offices and 37 schools/colleges, according to MCA sources.
Barring a period between 1987-88 and 1991-92, when former India stumper and ex-Mumbai captain Madhav Mantri headed the cricket body, it has been piloted by politicians since 1963-64 when S K Wankhede became its president and held on to post till Mantri took over.
The battle between Vengsarkar, who has been the vice president of the MCA under Pawar for the last eight years, and Deshmukh has generated interest outside Mumbai too with 1983 World Cup-winning skipper Kapil Dev yesterday backing him openly at a gathering of his supporters here.
The cricket legend wondered why former cricketers could not be found heading cricket associations in the country.
"I don`t understand why cricketers can`t head a cricket body," said Kapil flanked by Vengsarkar and his panel members Pandit and Sandhu to give a fillip to the cricketers` campaign.
"I`m confused sometimes why people who are associated with the game shouldn`t come forward for contesting elections. If Finance Committee can talk about finance, can`t cricketers talk about cricket," he wondered.
Referring to the Vengsarkar panel, he said, "These people have served the game for many years. They have given their life and blood for the game. They have been in MCA for eight years. There is no reason why they can`t handle further."
Among supporters of Pawar who are backing Deshmukh and also contesting the polls is BCCI`s Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty, the treasurer in the outgoing committee, who is contesting for the vice president`s post along with Rege, Shripad Halbe, Ashish Shelar and Vijay Patil.
Former Test cricketer and ex-coach Lalchand Rajput, who has formed his own panel, is fighting to retain his post as the joint secretary in a three-way contest with Nitin Dalal and Dr P V Shetty, both members of the Pawar panel, for two seats.
Pravin Barve, Ravi Mandrekar and Ravi Savant - the last two fighting as members of the Vengsarkar and Pawar panels respectively - are contesting for one treasurer`s post. T here are 29 nominations for 11 managing committee posts and the list includes - other than Ghavri, Sandhu and Pandit - the lone woman candidate, Hema Phadke.