By Nadim Memon | Opening Doorz Editorial | December 16, 2016

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The year was 2000. Shri Manohar Joshi was stepping down as President of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA). The former Chief Minister of Maharashtra had served the MCA in the capacity of Vice-President for eight years and another eight years as the President.

Decks were now being cleared to infuse fresh blood into the functioning of the MCA. The health was not that good of the premier cricket body. There were lots of issues to be looked into.

Former India Test captain Ajit Wadekar, who was also the Vice-President of the MCA at that time, was contesting the President’s post. Throwing his hat in the ring was Shri Sharad Pawar.

Game on: Wadekar had the support of both the groups within the MCA—the Manohar Joshi Group and the Bal Mahadalkar Group. Pawar Saheb was all alone!

But the veteran of many a battle was not perturbed. He began his campaign with his friends and well-wishers. They amounted to 60 votes, plus, he was assured of 40 office votes. He needed 160 votes to win the elections. Every member he met promised him votes in the figures of 30, 40 and 50. The shrewd politician was shocked. Simple mathematics revealed that these votes amounted to 700 of 300 legitimate votes!

Dal mein kuch kaala hai, thought Pawar Saheb.

I still remember the day he called me and asked me: “How many votes will you give me Nadimji? Shripad Halbe, Prakash Kelkar and Ravi Mandrekar have told me that only you can help me win this MCA Election. Today is the last day to file the nomination form and I am still not confident about my win.”

I told him I would have to meet him. “Come over,” he said. I took my friends and well-wishers from the MCA (a strength of almost 32 votes) and went to meet Pawar Saheb at his resident at Silver Oak, Breach Candy. He was shocked to see the support. After a brief discussion, he made up his mind to file his nomination and won the election by 17 votes against Ajit Wadekar!

Later, at the press briefing, one of journalist present, probably peeved that a cricketer had lost the election, asked the politician point blank: “Now that you have won the elections, what will you do in cricket by defeating a cricketer?” The smirk and challenge in the tone was evident.

Pawar Saheb was quiet. In his own inimitable way, with a soft voice, he responded: “Meet me after two years; you will see the change in MCA.”

Within two years, he had sorted the legal dispute with the Garware Club; all members of the MCA also got membership to the Garware Club. The demand for membership of the Club started increasing and everyone was happy. MCA became famous all over India and its status rose up several notches higher. Later, he was elected as the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). He then got the BCCI headquarters to Mumbai and also the IPL office. This was followed by his stint as the Chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC), when he also got the World Cup to India in 2011. Wankhede Stadium also got a face-lift.

Then, in 2002, MCA acquired almost 13 acres of land from MMRDA for Rs 2.70 crore. Pawar Saheb converted that space into a Club House in 2007, with an international cricket academy at the Bandra Kurla Complex.

In 2003, he got another 16 acres of an open BMC plot in Kandivali and named it the Sachin Tendulkar Cricket Club. All those who have seen it and witnessed its hospitality know what a fabulous ground it boasts of and the lovely Club House for members.

Today, all Clubs are in sound financial health as demand for membership to these clubs has risen. From lakhs, the figures have now moved into crores of rupees. The balance sheet tells the story.

As Pawar Saheb took control of the MCA, the ones instrumental in helping him win in the year 2000, slowly distanced themselves. They wanted the right man as the top boss. Their job was done. Those who opposed him tooth and nail, took the best out of him and are still with him! One man who was vehement in his opposition, stood at the entrance with a garland in his hand to welcome The Boss after his win!

Thank you Pawar Saheb, and belated Birthday Wishes (December 12)!

Also read: BCCI send cricketers on Bharat Darshan; Curators learn from ‘experts’

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