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Former Indian federal finance minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley (right) with former Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir during the latter’s induction into the party in New Delhi earlier this year. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: The cricket fraternity in India was dealt a big jolt by the death of Arun Jaitley, the former federal finance minister, as he was often considered to be the best possible presidential candidate in the past decade for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) — the president who wasn’t to be.

Jaitley, who was one of the five vice-presidents of the BCCI and one of the longest-serving presidents of the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) between 1999-2013, was tipped to take over the hot seat from N. Srinivasan till the match-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League broke in 2013 and threw the board’s administration in a permanent state of turmoil.

Even after the judiciary stepped in, Jaitley was once set to step in as an interim president, but a technicality stopped him as he was not the ‘senior-most’ among the vice-presidents — with former Indian spinner Shivlal Yadav stepping into the role for a short period.

A part of me is gone with my Father Figure Shri Arun Jaitley Ji. RIP Sir.

- Gautam Gambhir, Former India cricket and BJP MP

For the cricketers hailing from the Indian capital, Jaitley was more of a father figure and he played a key role in persuading a normally reticent Gautam Gambhir — the former Indian opener — fight the elections for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) earlier this year. Now a BJP member of parliament from East Delhi, Gambhir tweeted: “A father teaches u to speak but a father figure teaches u to talk. A father teaches u to walk but a father figure teaches u to march on. A father gives u a name but a father figure gives u an identity. A part of me is gone with my Father Figure Shri Arun Jaitley Ji. RIP Sir.”

A grieving Virender Sehwag, another former Indian player, said on social media: “Pained at the passing away of #ArunJaitley ji. Apart from having served greatly in public life, he played a huge role in many players from Delhi getting an opportunity to represent India. There was a time when not many players from Delhi got a chance at the highest level but under his leadership at the DDCA, many players including me got a chance to represent India.

“He listened to needs of the players & was a problem solver. Personally shared a very beautiful relationship with him. My thoughts & prayers are with his family & loved ones. Om Shanti (sic).”

The biggest strength of Jaitley, according to insiders in Indian cricket, was his acceptability to the feuding factions within the BCCI. “Late Jagmohan Dalmiya, the strongman of Indian and world cricket, always believed in his prudence while he was hugely acceptable to Sashank Manohar, the current president of International Cricket Council and Srinivasan. However, with the BJP government coming to power in 2014, he [Jaitley] got busier and was increasingly reluctant to throw his hat into the ring for the top job,” a BCCI insider said.

Rajat Sharma, noted journalist and current DDCA chief, paid glowing tributes. “#ArunJaitley, my dear and close friend for 5 decades, is no more. In his passing away, #India has lost an able administrator, a fine jurist and an incorruptible politician. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Om Shanti. @arunjaitley,” he commented.