The IPL was Lalit Modi’s Baby: Niranjan Shah

A throwback photograph of Niranjan Shah. Source (X)

Niranjan Shah has been an integral part of cricket administration for decades. A former secretary of the BCCI, its vice-president and part of various committees, he knows Indian cricket administration inside out. Days before the stadium in Rajkot is named after him, Shah spoke to RevSportz on his long journey. Excerpts:

Q: Congratulations Mr Shah for having a stadium named after you. How do you describe this feeling?

A:I thank the members of Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) for supporting me in my endeavours for close to four decades. We were a small unit, and to have become a prominent one over the years for so many reasons is a tale of achievement. We are a Test venue and a major force in domestic cricket. Winning the Ranji Trophy is the biggest success. We created the infrastructure which made this possible. We have five first-class grounds, some 20-30 practice pitches. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja are our players, who became India stars. I have fulfilled the aspirations of our SCA.

Q:How great is the concept of naming stadiums after administrators? SCA is not the first one to do it of course, but how appropriate is the practice?

A:We must remember the role of the administrators in the evolution of Indian cricket. This goes back decades. India is on the top of the cricket ecosystem. This means that administrators have also played a key role. Like the cricketers have. India has shown that it can call the shots when it comes to cricket. We flourish as a cricket nation and destination. It’s a combination of factors — achievements of the players as well as the administrators which has made this possible. I think the administrators have played as big a role as the cricketers.

Q:You have seen the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for years, been its secretary. What has been the most significant achievement of the BCCI?

A:We have made the International Cricket Council (ICC) a democratic body. If you remember, the boards of England and Australia used to enjoy a power of ‘veto’ when it came to voting rights. That has changed. Now, everybody in the ICC has an equal voice. It’s not the hegemony of one or two countries, like it used to be. The BCCI under the leadership of various persons has played a huge part in changing this order. Today, India generates around 80% of the game’s revenues. This has been the most significant change that I have seen.

Q:Who is the best Indian cricket administrator you have worked with?

A: I must say Sharad Pawar. He had a distinct style of functioning. He gave a free hand to everybody. I was the secretary when he was the president. I have seen that whenever there was a problem, he would be first person to step in and solve it. Otherwise, he was totally non-interfering. He allocated responsibilities and expected the persons concerned to deliver. If there was a problem, he would come into the picture. After him, N Srinivasan played a major part in taking the BCCI to the top of the ICC. He ensured that India had its rightful say in the world body. Before them, Jagmohan Dalmiya and IS Bindra were also pivotal in establishing the BCCI as a force in the ICC.

Q:People sometimes say that the BCCI is actually a ‘bully’, and not a friend of the other boards in the ICC. What do you think of this? 

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A:This is obviously fabrication. Some are still to come to terms with the fact that the BCCI is the most important cricket board in the world. It’s not without reason. No other board has taken marketing of the game to the level that we have. Our players are millionaires. It didn’t happen by chance. We invested in infrastructure like no other country did. We paid attention to junior cricket. Let others do this and then point a finger at us.

Q:How do look back at the Lalit Modi era? Was he as instrumental in making the BCCI what it is, likesome others?

A: We can’t overlook what Lalit did. I don’t want to get into what’s happening now, but his role in launching the IPL was a game-changer. I was the BCCI secretary when this idea was floated and we all fully backed Lalit. It was a democratic process and we gave him full freedom. The IPL was his baby and he delivered. At that time, we obviously didn’t know how big a success it would become. We know now. Credit goes to Lalit for it.

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