Former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly, president-elect of Indian cricket board, arrives to a rousing welcome at the Kolkata airport today. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: There was almost a sense of deja vu when Sourav Ganguly, the president-elect of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), returned to Kolkata on Tuesday evening amid a great deal of fanfare. For some, it was a throwback to nearly 25 years back when he returned to a tumultuous welcome from England after emerging as the Player of the Series in his debut Test series in 1996.

Then a callow youth in his early 20s, Ganguly is a mellowed man at 47 today, but the journey saw the completion of a full cycle — from a player to one of the best captains ever to the hot heat of BCCI. The official coronation will have to wait till October 23, but the dye has been cast, which would see Ganguly taking charge with a relatively young team to salvage the reputation of the beleaguered Indian board.

While the drama behind Dada’s elevation to the top job, even after former India cricketer Brijesh Patel’s candidature was virtually assured for the post, was well-documented over the last two days, the backroom story of his discreet visit to the New Delhi residence of Amit Shah, the all-powerful federal Home Minister, has set the tongues wagging. Shah, a former president of Gujarat Cricket Association who had high stakes in this BCCI elections with his son Jay Shah in the reckoning for one of the top posts, is known to be a tough bargainer — and there is no end to speculation if he has been able to extract any promise from Ganguly to be the face of Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) campaign in Bengal in the contentious 2021 assembly elections.

It is learnt that the meeting actually lasted about 45 minutes but informed sources told Gulf News that he did not make any commitment for an association with BJP — preferring to take time to "think over it."

“He presented his vision for the board before Mr Shah — but there was no trade-off as per the general perception. Interestingly, Ganguly had personally informed Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal (a fierce political rival of the BJP) about of his planned visit so that the latter had no misgivings about Ganguly’s inclinations. The Bengal CM, incidentally, was one of the first persons to congratulate Ganguly on social media on his nomination,” sources said.

While the cricketing fraternity is generally ecstatic about a cricketer of his stature taking over the BCCI top job, there is also a muted criticism if Ganguly has played into the hands of the BJP in his “haste” to realise the dream of his BCCI presidentship. However, past experiences say Ganguly has always played his cards right by managing to keep himself equidistant from the powers that-be in Bengal — be it the Left Front regime during his playing days, the ruling Trinamool Congress now and he is extremely cautious about not eroding his fan base by aligning with any political power.

In a politically correct gesture, Ganguly thanked Anurag Thakur, former BCCI president and now an federal minister — who was assigned by the BJP high command to control the proceedings in Mumbai. Posting a picture along with Jay Shah, Jayesh George, former BCCI president Thakur, Arun Dhumal and Mahim Verma, Ganguly tweeted: “The new team at BCCI...hopefully we can work well...Anurag Thakur thank you for seeing this through.”

While Jayesh will be appointed BCCI joint secretary, Arun and Mahim will take the post of treasurer and vice-president, respectively. Former India batsman Brijesh Patel is also set to bag the position of India Premier League chairman.

Lauding Ganguly’s idea of prioritising on improving the lot of first-class cricketers, Ashok Malhotra, a former Indian player, selector and newly-appointed president of the Indian Cricketers’ Association said: “As a former cricketer, Ganguly understands the needs of Indian cricketers and the need to improve their financial health. Yes, his term may be short, but surely Ganguly can set the things in motion,” he said in a telephonic chat.