Jaywant Lele, the former BCCI Secretary who died of cardiac arrest at his Vadodara home on Thursday night gave his heart and soul for cricket for nearly five decades from 1957. He was a professional newsman’s delight. His daughter in law Ashwini said: "He was down with viral infection and since his birthday he was not consuming normal food. He seemed to be okay doing things on his own in the last two days. He sat on the `jhoola’ for a while yesterday evening and played cards, but collapsed in the bathroom around 11. 30 p m and died. We could not even take him to the hospital."
The heavy viral infection did not diminish his jovial spirit to celebrate his 75 birthday on September 13 in a grand manner with his kith and kin and cricketers Aunshuman Gaekwad, Kiran More and Nayan Mongia. "He looked in good health when he visited me at Baroda on Sept. 11. He telephoned me yesterday at 7. 30 p m and wanted to know why there was no telecast of the Champions League Twenty20 matches. Aunshu informed me first about his passing away at midnight; I am very sad," said the Pune-based Raju Mehta, a former Baroda Ranji Trophy player.
Lele was the Secretary of the BCCI from 1997 to 2001 and it was during his tenure that the first major broadcast agreement worth Rs. 230 crore was signed with Prasar Bharti. Not so familiar with the commercial nuances he was surprised that one company offered Rs. 120 crore for five years and another Rs. 400 crore. The BCCI then headed by Jagmohan Dalmiya accepted the public braodcaster’s bid. Lele was also in the thick of things when the Delhi Police revealed the match-fixing scam, but he --- like the late Raj Singh Dungarpur --- never believed that someone like Mohammad Azharuddin could be part of the notorious nexus between cricketers and the bookies.
He became a member of the Baroda Cricket Association, its managing committee member in 1963 and Secretary in 1970. He was appointed manager of Indian teams (under-19 and national teams) in the 1980s and thereafter he was elected Jt. Secretary of the BCCI in 1990. Lele belonged to the old school of administrators like S. Sriraman, Anant Kanmadikar, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, Jyoti Bajpai, V. Nagaraj and S. K. Nair who managed the game with modest means. He got along with Dalmiya, Inder Singh Bindra, Raj Singh and A. C. Muthiah.Unfortunately he was thrown out as a member of the BCA ten years ago on charges of financial irregularities.
"It’s a personal loss to me. He was a good friend and many BCCI officials of his time would cherish the good times spent with him at meetings in India and while traveling abroad," said S. K. Nair former BCCI treasurer and secretary.
Known to make bold statements and retract, Lele turned out to be a hit with a cub reporter and editor alike; he was ready to take a call from 6 am to 11 pm, especially when he was the BCCI’s jt. secretary and secretary.