NEW DELHI
Jagmohan Dalmiya, who turned India into cricket's financial powerhouse before being unceremoniously dumped by his peers, returned as board president Monday in place of the sport's scandal-hit global supremo.
Dalmiya was elected unopposed as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as part of a deal which observers say will allow the embattled incumbent Narayanaswami Srinivasan to stay on as head of the International Cricket Council. "Jagmohan Dalmiya has been elected as the president of BCCI," Gokaraju Gangaraju, who was himself elected vice-president of the board at the meeting in the southern city of Chennai, told AFP by phone. "We look forward to working under his leadership."
The election caps a remarkable comeback for Dalmiya, who helped bring about a massive expansion in the BCCI's financial muscle in the 1980s and 90s by negotiating mega television deals before being ousted a decade ago over allegations of misappropriation of funds. His return was made possible after Srinivasan's camp mobilised to thwart another former BCCI president, Sharad Pawar.
Pawar had been angling for a return but failed to persuade any regional association to nominate him. However one of his close allies, Anurag Thakur, narrowly won the contest for the powerful position of secretary of the board in a sign that Dalmiya and Srinivasan will not necessarily get to call all the shots. Srinivasan had been forced to stand aside after the Supreme Court found him guilty of a conflict of interest over his ownership of a team in the Indian Premier League, the BCCI's money-spinning Twenty20 tournament.
His position had become increasingly precarious ever since his son-in-law was accused of betting on matches involving the Chennai Super Kings, a team owned by Srinivasan's company India Cements.  However observers say Srinivasan, who cut his teeth under Dalmiya, will remain a powerful figure behind the scenes and the board will use its influence to ensure he can extend his tenure as president of the ICC, the game's Dubai-based world governing body, in elections later this year. The 74-year-old Dalmiya is credited with helping to turn the game into a lucrative global sport.
He shot to fame when he, along with bureaucrat Inderjit Singh Bindra, broke Australia and England's hold on the ICC to win the right to host the 1987 and 1996 World Cups on the sub-continent. He went on to become ICC president from 1997-2000 and BCCI president from 2001 to 2004. Television revenue expanded massively under Dalmiya's tenure and the boards of smaller Test-playing nations -- desperate to attract tours by India so they could sell the television rights -- would usually fall in line behind the BCCI when it came to key decisions within the game.
While Dalmiya effectively handpicked his successor Ranbir Singh Mahendra, he was marginalised the following year when Pawar beat Mahendra to become the president after a bitterly-contested election. Later the same year, Pawar got Dalmiya expelled from the BCCI for alleged misappropriation of funds and for his refusal to provide documents pertaining to hosting the 1987 World Cup.
Dalmiya challenged the decision and in 2007 both the Bombay High Court and Supreme Court cleared him of any irregularities. He returned as president of the Cricket Association of Bengal in 2007 and was back in the BCCI fold. Veteran cricket journalist Ayaz Memon said the power struggle between Pawar and Srinivasan would effectively continue even though neither man is now an office-bearer. He described Dalmiya as a Srinivasan "proxy". They will fight but within the four walls of the BCCI office," he told AFP.
Jayaditya Gupta, executive editor of Cricinfo, said Dalmiya was a consensus candidate but questioned whether he had the same clout as when he was in his prime. "He is a bridge between two very large and very powerful camps," Gupta said on the website. "Twenty years ago, 30 years ago, yes he was a man with a lot of energy and a lot of ideas and he really changed world cricket then but I think his time may have passed."
Cricket's status as the dominant sport among India's 1.2-billion strong population has led to regular power struggles within the BCCI. International news organisations, including Agence France-Presse, have suspended their on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI after the board imposed restrictions on picture agencies.