Realising their salary is way below global standards, Indian cricketers have urged the world’s richest cricket board to fatten their purse.
The Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), which in the current fiscal (2016-17) has a budgeted surplus of Rs 509.13 crore, has been taken aback by the demand but the Committee of Administrators (COA) didn't turn it down.
BCCI officials aware of the development said the COA, which summoned the current set of BCCI office-bearers for a meeting in Hyderabad on 5 April, has asked the cricketers to wait till the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was over.
A official speaking from the office of former CAG head and top COA official, Vinod Rai, said “It was too premature to comment on the issue. The agenda for the 5 April, 2017, meeting has already been set."
So what did the players demand?
BCCI officials said the demand was raised by Virat Kohli soon after the series win against the visiting Australian team. The Indian skipper, it is reliably learnt, was made aware of how lowly Indian cricketers were paid by their board as compared to cricketers in other countries. A spreadsheet note that reached Kohli explained in details how Indian cricketers were ranked number fourth after England, Australia and South Africa. Kohli immediately consulted with some of the key members of the side and sought a meeting with the COA to discuss the players contract.
Initially, the COA did not budge because members of the COA — all appointed by the country’s apex court — had almost doubled the salaries of the players under a new contract where grade 'A' cricketers like the skipper and former skipper MS Dhoni were under a Rs 2 crore annual retainer fee, while the retainer fee for grade 'B' cricketers was Rs 1 crore and that for the grade 'C' cricketers Rs 50 lakh.
But Kohli, claim officials, has insisted that he and his teammates are not happy with the contracts, because they weren't as per their wishes. They are now seeking a minimum rack rate of Rs 5 crore retainer for grade 'A' and Rs 3 crore for grade 'B' and Rs 1.5 crore for grade 'C' cricketers.
Kohli argued that cricketers like Steve Smith, David Warner (Australia) and Joseph Edward “Joe” Root (England) earn much more from their respective cricket boards, pushing Indian cricketers — on the basis of their earnings — to a lowly fourth spot.
“Kohli — supported by coach Anil Kumble — argued that while cricketers in England, Australia and South Africa could pick up a purse worth Rs 10-12 crores (inclusive of retainer fee and match fee), a top Indian cricketer would earn a maximum of Rs 4-5 crores (inclusive of retainer fee and match fee). The Indian skipper made it clear it was grossly unacceptable, at a time when the BCCI earned the maximum and was lobbying for a lion’s share from revenues of International Cricket Council (ICC),” the official said.
“Kohli and his men, along with Kumble, even talked about bonus for the cricketers and how Indian cricketers earned less than some of their counterparts.”
The official said Kohli and Kumble, along with members of the national selection, have asked the COA to sign up two annual contracts, one for Tests and one for limited-over cricket and offer Rs 5 crore for grade 'A' cricketers in both the formats.
“It is an interesting move, and a well-planned one because Kohli has kept the interests of some of the seasoned campaigners in the side. He has not annoyed anyone, nor he has gone overboard to please some.”
For example, Dhoni, now playing only ODI and not Tests, would be entitled for a Rs 5 crore kitty and someone like Cheteshwar Pujara, only in the Test format and not in the limited format of the game, would also feel honoured and happy.
And players like Kohli, Ajinkey Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin could earn a neat Rs 10 crore if they retain their form and place in both formats of the game. Similarly, others with grade 'A' in Test and grade 'B' in ODI could pocket anywhere between Rs 7-9 crore.
“He (Kohli) has even thought of forming a players association to keep alive interests of those in various formats of the game.”
Interestingly, the Supreme Court had once asked Kumble to form a players association modelled on the lines of those in Australia and the West Indies. These associations do some hard talk with the cricket board for finalising annual contracts.
The officials said though Kumble was conveying the point of view of the cricketers to the COA, there are chances that a small committee of players could be formed in the future with Kumble, Ashwin and Kohli.
The chances of a salary hike are high, ostensibly because the COA seems convinced about the demand of the cricketers, it is also aware how the BCCI routinely disbursed extra cash to state associations to buy votes — the scandal a part of the Deloitte India report on BCCI — but did precious little for those who help win the game for India, and its billion plus supporters.
But the 5 April meeting will have a different agenda. BCCI senior vice-president CK Khanna, joint secretary Amitabh Chaudhary and treasurer Aniruddh Chaudhry, who are all expected to be in Hyderabad for opening ceremony of the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), will meet (Vinod) Rai and Vikram Limaye to ensure smooth conduct of the cash-rich league.
The COA will discuss another serious agenda: the 9 April, 2017, Special General Meeting, where the coterie backing former BCCI president N Srinivasan coterie will try to push the Tamil Nadu strongman’s name as BCCI representative at the ICC Meeting.