Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Blunt and Straightforward: Shashank Manohar


    He doesn’t use a mobile phone
     He doesn’t indulge in corruption and doesn’t allow others to do it.
        He adheres to the rules and regulations and insists that others too must follow them strictly.
      He doesn’t avail himself of a single rupee, direct or indirect, while working for the organisation he represents i.e. not even expenses for travel or car…..and not even his honorarium.
-      In spite of being born with a silver spoon in the mouth and in spite of being a highly reputed lawyer occupying a dignified position he can find time to spend with his friends at a roadside tea stall also.
-      Once he feels convinced of any idea, he doesn’t yield to any external pressure whatsoever.
In short, he has the courage of his convictions and lives life on his own terms. He doesn’t bother about what the world thinks of him.
He turns his hair back, has a slightly plump figure and a unique style of speaking by parting his upper lip. He displays a defiant, ruthless attitude towards anybody who attempts to dominate him. The name of this man is Shashank Manohar.
-      He has become the president of the Indian Cricket Control Board, known to be one of the richest bodies in the world, for the second time. He didn’t even possess a passport till the time he became the president of this organisation for the first time!

I could withstand the taxing nature of news compilation from judiciary at the beginning of the 1980s, thanks to the co-operation extended by two close friends from lawyers’ fraternity viz. Avinash Gupta and Subodh Dharmadhikari (who have now become names to reckon with). I made several new friends in the Bar because of their close company. One of them was Shashank Manohar. Shashank was younger than all three of us, but right since the beginning he started dealing with me as jovially as he dealt with the other two. Right from our first handshake he too started addressing me as ‘Pravya’, following the example of Avinash and Subodh. This dashing boldness which often appears to be outright bluntness is a distinct tradition of the Manohar family.
V.R. Manohar holds the exemplary status among the prominent names, such as Sorabji, Jethmalani, Rajendrasingh etc. associated with the contemporary legal fraternity who have achieved an awe-inspiring position in their profession by leaving an indelible imprint of their calibre. His fathomless memory and defiant adherence to principles have accorded him a legendary identity. No wonder, the Manohars are one of the stalwarts of Nagpur city. It must be mentioned that in spite of being affluent and highly educated, the Manohars are highly sophisticated family prominent in the realm of culture. Yet it is also known for its extremely down-to-earth approach of dealing with people. Outspokenness is both a striking characteristic and a distinct essence of this family. At the same time, it is a modest family that actively offers support to all types of activities pertaining to art, sports, literature and music in Nagpur and yet it can scarcely be said that it hankers after limelight. Avoiding headlines or craving for attention is a yardstick of this family across two generations. Like his father, Shashank has been batting with dash and verve on both the fronts viz. his profession of being a lawyer and also playing cricket. His younger brother Sunil too has stepped into his father’s shoes by being a rising star on the horizon of their family profession. He had been appointed as the Attorney General of the state but he opted to resign from that glamorous office. ‘Quit the place your conscience doesn’t permit you to occupy’ is a pledge written in the preamble of the constitution of the Manohar family. (Now Shrihari Ane has succeeded him). V.R. Manohar’s daughter too is a Justice of the Bombay High Court.
At one point of time I was active in the politics of the High Court Bar Association almost as if I was a member of it. As a result, I was in day-to-day contact with Shashank. During my stay at Nagpur we were putting up at the ground floor premises of a small bungalow apartment in the cosy locality of Vasant Nagar. After crossing the courtyard of that small bungalow there is a street adjacent to which is the Cricket ground of Dhanavate College in Nagpur. After his cricketing years were over Shashank became a well-established lawyer and started batting for the Viderbha Cricket Association and eventually landed on the battlefield of cricket politics of this country. Even today Shashank Manohar comes to the playground to pursue his hobby of being a pace bowler, perhaps to quench his thirst for making a fierce attack on his opponent. I have nostalgic memories of our meetings on this playground.
Abiding by this intimate friendship I would like to state that ‘Perfect in his Work and Straightforward in his Behaviour’ is a resolute characteristic of Shashank. An excellent example of this is the superb stadium of international standard built by the  Viderbha Cricket Association at Jamtha. It is a living example of the perfectionist and fastidious approach, Shashank is outstandingly known for. It is difficult to believe, especially during the modern times infected by the epidemic of vested interests and corrupt practices, that a massive project of this size that meets all the international paradigms can be constructed at such an unbelievably low cost and yet on schedule. No wonder, this stadium is but a dazzling example of a project soaring high in an exceptional manner sharply contradicting the prevailing notions of filling coffers first before fuelling inspiring designs of impressive architecture. The jaws of several Australian and West Indian cricketers fell when they first stepped into this stadium. Frankly speaking, it would have been easily possible to pilfer tens of crores of rupees while constructing this stadium but it must be admitted that indulging in such practices is indeed not in the blood of this noble family.
I must share one unforgettable experience of Shashank when he became the president of BCCI for the first time. BCCI approved the idea of allocating a substantial fund as a scholarship to the promising stars of sports activities other than cricket. There were two candidates competing in the race for winning this coveted scholarship from among the list of players deemed worthy of it viz. Saina Nehwal, now renowned as a ‘Shuttle-Queen’ and one another Maharashtrian-Marathi speaking sportswoman. Of course, I was completely ignorant of all this. One day, my senior colleague said to me, ‘Will Mr. Shashank Manohar do us a favour?’. I replied, ‘I will try. Unless there is a genuine reason Shashank will not refuse me. That is not in his nature!’. I communicated to Shashank that I would be making a personal request to him soon. A few days later, the documents of the concerned sportswoman were delivered to me. Uday Ranganath, my senior colleague who belonged to the Sports beat of my newspaper, in turn delivered them to Mr. Shashank Manohar.
Very soon, I received a phone call from Shashank. He firmly said, ‘Pravya, I cannot do this for you’.
-      With all the earnestness and sincerity at my command, I urged him to consider my request: ‘Why? For the first time my boss has sought some help from me, man’.

-      Shashank replied, ‘Saina Nehwal is far superior, in terms of merit, in comparison with the name of the other sportswoman being vouched for by your boss and I will never spend my goodwill for someone else by setting aside someone who truly deserves!’.

-      ‘What will my boss say Shashank?’, I asked Shashank anxiously. Hearing this, Shashank laughter uproariously and said, ‘Both, you and your boss, go to hell!’.

Everybody is aware of what history Saina Nehwal made after this incident.

Yet another happening, is in fact, far more sensitive. ICC served a notice to one of my colleagues for indulging in a seriously offensive behaviour. ICC sent a copy of the said notice to him as well as to the management of the Indian Express group of newspapers. This colleague of mine had directly attested the said notice by obtaining the signature of the chief editor of the Mumbai edition of our newspaper. I was unaware of anything in this matter. But the management of our newspaper sent that notice to me for further action since I was not only his ‘Boss’ but also the ‘Reporting Authority’. This way, the trick played by the said accused colleague of mine was exposed. The matter was very serious and my colleague was on the brink of being fired from his job. There were tears in his eyes when he met me but he was ignorant that even I had received that notice. He begged before me that only Shashank Manohar or Sharad Pawar could rescue him from this serious matter. Because I had campaigned aggressively against Sharad Pawar receiving a coveted award equivalent to D.Litt. (proposed to be conferred on him by an agricultural university), Sharad Pawar and I had not met each other and verbal communication between us had stopped even after I had made attempts to resume it a few times in the recent past.
So, I sought to speak with Shashank Manohar about this. When I mentioned the name of this colleague, he instantly said that he was expecting a call from me and revealed a treasure-trove of information before me about this offender colleague of mine. He had been captured in the prying eyes of a CCTV camera for accepting a paper from a foreign sportsman and delivering it to a spectator. This was a very serious matter. This incident which had happened in Nagpur had been captured by the CCTV camera and communicated straight to the ICC headquarters in Dubai. My colleague had been traced using the photograph attached with the application sent for attestation and therefore the evidence against my colleague was formidable.
When I shared this information with that colleague of mine he told me that he had simply sought an autograph of that sportsman on a piece of paper and delivered it to the spectator on being requested by him. Several other issues got revealed through that conversation with my colleague such as he had been given an opportunity to defend himself before the said notice was served on him but he had not mentioned all this to anybody since he had felt confident of being able to handle this matter entirely on his own during the course of the said investigation.
I sought to speak with Shashank once again. He said, ‘Pravya, the matter has long ago gone beyond my ability and jurisdiction to handle it. Instructions have been issued to the security guards to arrest this journalist if he is found to be even roaming around anywhere in the vicinity’. I said to Shashank that I wish to save my colleague from being fired from his job by informing the management that my colleague had submitted an unconditional apology and ICC had cancelled the further course of punitive action against him after talking with the concerned authorities. He calmly reacted by saying, ‘Do whatever you want!’ and refused to retract his decision to invoke a punitive action. In reality, neither did I demand a letter of apology from the said colleague of mine and managed to buy time by informing the HR that I would send the said letter of apology later. Instinct told me that this matter would die soon after the world cup tournament got over. Besides, I had made up my mind already to step down from the office of the Chief Editor of Nagpur edition of my newspaper which meant that I could not have been held responsible for the failure of saving someone from losing his job.
Spicy stories of Shashank’s defiant approach of managing affairs started circulating very fast when Shashank was the president of the Viderbha Cricket Association. Certain elements may have been hurt because of that but his image in the domain of cricket at national level acquired the aura he deserves. There is no doubt at all that it is this very image which proved to be useful for him to stake his claim on the presidentship of BCCI for the second time, rather than the whispermongers’ tales that he was ‘Pawar’s man’. This chair of the president of BCCI fell vacant after the death Jagmohan Dalmia. I was appointed in Delhi when Dalmia had first occupied that chair. At that time, majority of the Bengali, Hindi and English newspapers were propagating the name of Shashank as an eligible candidate for becoming the president because of his defiant and incorruptible approach toward managing the affairs of BCCI. I felt proud of him after reading these news items which were showering lavish praise on him consistently for over a week. So, one day early morning I sought to dial his phone number and expressed my admiration and pride toward him. He calmly enquired as to what has happened so early in the morning that had induced me to make a phone call and I informed him about the overwhelming praise appearing in the print media about his proposed candidacy for contesting against Dalmia. Anyone else would have felt flattered after hearing this but Shashank calmly said to me, ‘I am not at all interested in becoming the president of BCCI. I have already made it clear to the concerned authorities. I know they do not approve of my defiant and straightforward approach. They are showering praise on me only because they want to pull the rug from under Dalmia’s feet’.
Malpractices in IPL, Spot fixing and blatant commercialisation of the game are some of the grave issues affecting the health of cricket in India. Yet another controversial matter is the cricket tournaments with Pakistan and I am eager to see how Shashank, who has a formidable reputation for his ‘Bold and Straightforward Approach’, finds a way out of the puzzling maze of this situation.
Wish you best of luck Shashank

Original Article http://goo.gl/i0LRt5

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