Even as the cricketing world mourns the death of Jagmohan Dalmiya, one of the best administrators of the sport, different forces in the Indian cricket administration have started hovering around 'the iron throne' at the helm of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Dalmiya, who was admitted to the BM Birla hospital on 17 September after he complained of chest pain, succumbed to a "massive gastrointestinal haemorrhage" on 20 September, leaving the world's richest cricket body without a leader.
The 75-year-old's death throws the contest for the top job wide open, as the Indian cricket board begins the search for its new president while fending off the threat from the ousted IPL chairman Lalit Modi who threatens to challenge ICC with a new world cricket body.
According to the BCCI constitution, if the president's post is vacated mid-tenure "the secretary shall within 15 days convene a Special General Body Meeting (SGBM) to elect the president who shall be nominated by at least one Full Member from the zone which proposed the name of the president whose term was cut short prematurely. Such person who is so elected shall hold office till the next elections".
This would mean BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur will run the affairs until he convenes the SGM to elect Dalmiya's successor. An emergent working committee meeting is likely to be called in 15 days, following which a 21-day countdown will begin for the Special General Body meeting, which will select the president.
Though it is the East Zone's turn to nominate the president, whispers within the board suggest that former president Sharad Pawar and IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla have emerged as top contenders for the post while Srinivasan's faction in the BCCI could play a decisive role in the race.
As the Indian cricket board prepares to overcome the overwhelming uncertainty that looms large after the loss of Dalmiya and especially amid the ongoing legal tussle, here's a look at the top contenders and their chances to claim the most powerful position in the BCCI:
Ever since the ouster of N Srinivasan from the Indian cricket board, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) president Sharad Pawar has been waiting to get back into the BCCI top brass. And now, the 74-year-old is believed to be the top contender for the job.
Pawar's resume is decorated with experience during his reign as BCCI president from 2005 to 2008, while his tenure as the ICC president during 2010-2012 makes him more than just a suitable candidate for the top job.
What remains to be seen is whether he will get the backing of Srinivasan's faction. The two have been at loggerheads in recent times and with the majority of the East Zone members firmly behind the Chennai strongman, it would be interesting to see if Pawar gets sufficient support.
IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla is the only candidate who can give his rival Sharad Pawar a run for his money. Early indications suggest that the 56-year-old former BCCI vice president could very well emerge as an acceptable candidate to succeed Dalmiya.
In spite of presiding over the IPL 6 mess in 2013 as the chairman of the T20 league and his Congress background, Shukla could find backing from the Srinivasan camp which has no suitable candidate to field for BCCI's top post.
If that happens, he will surely have an upper hand over Pawar, who is expected to be turned down by the Srinivasan camp inside the BCCI.
The dynamic BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur was filling in for Dalmiya at crucial meetings after the latter's health took a turn for the worse. He will also be calling the shots in BCCI till the board is able to find a general consensus on its next president.
The key to electoral success for any candidate hinges on capturing a lion's share of the fragmented 'BJP votes' in the BCCI. And the 40-year-old is one person who can garner all those (eight) should he choose to throw his hat into the ring. The young BJP functionary was eager to contest for the BCCI top job at the board's Annual General Meeting (AGM) in March, but ended up settling for his present position after missing out on votes.
However, there is another line of thought that suggests that Thakur would not want to upset the BJP leadership, especially when it is believed that Srinivasan has the backing of a top BJP politician.
Although former BCCI chief N Srinivasan cannot return as the board's president, the fact that he is still the president of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) is something that could play a decisive role in the race for the top job.
As the TNCA boasts a crucial 12 out of the total 30 votes in the BCCI election, Srinivasan will be keen on fielding his loyalists Anirudh Chaudhary in the race. The fact that Anirudh had defeated Rajiv Shukla in March to claim the position of BCCIs treasurer makes a favourite from the Srinivasan camp.
His father, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, was also the president of the Indian cricket board in 2004 when Jagmohan Dalmiya's vote helped him edge out Sharad Pawar for the top job. With Srinivasan's backing, Anirudh could very well turn out to be the surprise winner in the race.