BCCI should utilise funds for betterment of sport in India, not to hike salaries of top cricketers

The archaic BCCI contract system needs to be looked into and altered, but not in the manner proposed by ‘advisors’ to Indian cricketers.

Vedam Jaishankar May 26, 2017 14:34:31 IST
BCCI should utilise funds for betterment of sport in India, not to hike salaries of top cricketers

Cheteshwar Pujara must look like a 'cash cow' for some Indian cricketers’ advisors. Every time they seek a pay hike they invariably use his inability to get an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract as some sort of ‘ready-reckoner’ to demand more money for themselves. Another yardstick they have latched on to is Cricket Australia’s (CA) pay structure.

Ironically, these have a link, but for obvious reasons are not being mentioned by the ‘advisors’.

CA gives out an annual contract to only 20 players. A major consideration for being in that list is that players must be suited for all three formats of the game — Tests, ODIs and T20s. Consequently, one dimensional players, like Pujara, have a lower chance of being accepted as a contracted player.

BCCI should utilise funds for betterment of sport in India not to hike salaries of top cricketers

Representative photo. AFP

The ‘advisors’ are silent about this nicety. Instead, they have a simple straightforward formula: Demand a huge hike in contract money for everybody. The carpet bombing would ensure that Pujara too gets more money and — Eureka! His ‘pain’ would be lessened!

This is such a simple solution that its beauty is in the concept: a) Pujara does not have an IPL contract and hence earns less than some uncapped players b) He needs more money to make up for the ‘loss’ c) Give all contracted players a lot more money so that Pujara’s ‘loss’ is off-set!

Of course you could turn around and ask why these bleeding hearts who feel so badly for Pujara don’t set aside five percent of their IPL earnings for him. But that’s another matter altogether.

There are two issues to be considered. First, Pujara, brilliant as he is a Test batsman, simply does not have the skill to play other formats of the game. So since he does not have the skill to play IPL, others believe they ought to be rewarded with an enhanced contract!

The second, and more telling one, is of market forces. Test cricket is not the big draw it once was. There are barely one or two rivalries among Test-playing nations that attract huge, well-paying crowds. But these are far and few in between.

For example, every stadium struggled with attendance for the recent Tests at home. State associations considerably lowered ticket prices and offered numerous free tickets and freebees to schoolchildren and others in a desperate attempt to pack the stadium. They still fell short by a considerable margin.

In contrast, in the IPL matches at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, tickets were sold out at Rs 37,500 apiece for every single of RCB home match. The same stand tickets went at Rs 2,000 per day for the India-Australia Test and still failed to attract many buyers.

It is the same with TV advertisement rates. Thus, every way you look at it, Test cricket is simply not in the same league as T20 cricket. Hence unless a Test cricketer develops his T20 skills he will always earn less than a T20 cricketer.

While on the matter of mega bucks, it must be some sort of a first that coach Anil Kumble too wants a huge hike. Appraisals should be made after one solid year in the job. Pay revision too must be made after India completes at least two overseas series or multi-tournament wins.

Kumble, more than anybody else knows that it is easier to win at home and we have been doing it so easily and so often for so many years that Steve Waugh’s all-conquering Australians actually called India their ‘last frontier’.

Kumble, who was strong on process for return of injured players to the national team must use the same stringent process for appraisals and hikes too. The ideal way to earn these would be after a couple of overseas triumphs — wins over current West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh teams don’t count of course. And unless he can deliver those sought-after overseas victories he should not even be speaking of a hike. No wonder a peeved BCCI is spreading its net far and wide for another coach!

Meanwhile, a quick take on CA’s contract system is in order. The 20 contracted players get Rs 4.3 crore each, with the captain earning an extra 25 percent. The unspoken catch is that Big Bash League(BBL) offers very little by way of salary to its players. A franchise has a salary cap of 1.4 million Australian dollars that has to be shared among 18 players. To put this in perspective, Australian cricketer Shane Watson alone has been taking home a minimum of 2 million Australian dollars from IPL for the last 10 years! And even his IPL salary, humongous by Australian BBL standards, pales in comparison to India’s big guns, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, et al. Further, Indian cricketers’ multi-crore endorsements are another lucrative earning beyond the reach of Australian and other cricketers.

Importantly, unlike Australia or England, where the state provides infrastructure including cricket grounds to hundreds of villages and counties, funds stadiums, etc, most of these activities in India are carried out by state cricket associations through BCCI grants. (KSCA’s infrastructure development includes stadium-roof top solar power plant for energy, tapping sewage lines and setting up sewage treatment plants to meet cricket ground’s water needs, multi-crore Sub-Air system for drainage and kitchen waste treatment plant for cooking purposes. All these are provided for by the state in Australia and England).

BCCI also conducts 900 odd matches and looks after thousands of cricketers salaries, pensions, medical treatment, scholarships, etc.

In Australia, the state does all these and more, not their cricket associations. It does not have as many players or even teams. In fact they have a mere six state teams to India’s 30. The associated expenses towards travel, boarding and lodging, umpires fee, hosting of matches is substantial in comparison. This is just the men’s side of the matches. Thus the BCCI, instead of pampering its pampered lot, needs plenty of money to set up and oil India’s cricket machinery for now and for the future. Giving in to the ‘advisors’ demand will lead to the sort of crisis that dogs cricket in Australia, West Indies and other countries.

On the other hand, a case should be made for doing away with the contract system which is a relic of the pre-IPL days. Instead a massive hike in match fees would be a better bet than having 32 players in the list, many of whom hardly get to play a handful of matches.

Yes, the BCCI contract system needs to be looked into. But not in the manner proposed by ‘advisors’.

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