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By Sunil Gavaskar
What a privilege it was to meet up with India’s cricketers of the 1950s onwards at the felicitation ceremony in Pune's magnificent Subrata Roy Sahara stadium. The full house also gave the occasion just the noise it needed, though it is safe to say that not many in that young crowd would have known those, who were being felicitated. No matter, for it is truly a wonderful gesture by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. To see the smiles on the faces of those, who played simply for the pride, glory, honour and privilege of representing the country, was worth going many a mile. They played in an era when there was hardly any money in the game, but it is because they played the game so well and kept the public interest alive is the reason that some of today’s players are able to earn much more than their qualifications deserve. To be able to once again meet up with these legends, who inspired us to take up the game was even more inspirational and the only sad part is that I had to return to the commentary box and not sit with them.
They would have come up with some great old stories and there would have been laughter and leg pulling around and it really would have been nice to have been with them than in the commentary box that day.
There will be more such presentations till the IPL finals and while quite clearly every player cannot be invited, they will all get their cheques sooner and be able to spend the rest of their lives with not just a sense of comfort, but of belonging to the Indian Cricketing fraternity. The BCCI gesture in also recognizing the part and sacrifices made by the life partners of those dear departed cricketers is also a terrific one. Some of these players were a touch resentful that some current players, who have not even played a Test match for India, were getting millions through the IPL, but am sure that it will now go away and there won’t be much negativity from them about the BCCI again.
Some outstanding names have missed out on the BCCI largesse. Kapil Dev, the skipper of the 1983 World Cup winning team and India’s greatest match winner has not been in the list, as also Mohinder Amarnath, Dilip Vengsarkar, Gundappa Viswanath and Syed Kirmani. The latter four had a BCCI sanctioned one day international game as their benefit match and so have been left out of the list, while Kapil's name doesn’t figure because of his association with the ICL and because there is a court case against the BCCI, which he is part of. However I am of the firm belief that once the hurly burly of the IPL is over and there is time to sit back and reflect over the season, the BCCI will realize that holding back seven and half crores when they have paid out 70 is being a bit hard on these players, who if they had an inkling that there would be a tournament like the IPL in the future would not have taken a benefit match then.
Kapil and the others have been absolute legends of the game and have contributed in other capacities to the game even after their retirement and so holding back their purse is just bad publicity for what is otherwise a wonderful gesture by the BCCI. As far as Kapil is concerned it is just a matter of opening a communication channel with Mr. Srinivasan and am certain that all issues will be sorted out and he will get the recognition that he so richly deserves.
As for the other four they got their benefit when one day internationals barely got about 25 to 40 lakhs as gate and advertising receipts, while today a one day international would easily fetch anywhere between 8 and 10 crores. In a way therefore by giving those, who have played more than 100 Tests 1.5 crores the board's affiliates will not be deprived of a one day international being allocated as a benefit match for the 100 plus Tests player. Even if some are not inclined to give those four players who have had a one day international as a benefit game the benefit amount that the players got from those games could be deducted and give them the balance. Frankly I don’t think it will come to that and that by the time the new season begins all these issues will be sorted out and no player will feel deprived. It makes eminent sense to give the former players the one-time benefit which otherwise would have been part of BCCI profits and thus up for tax. This way the BCCI has saved loads of tax and also got the former cricketers smiling to have their selfless services to Indian Cricket recognized and have come out smelling like roses.
The other aspect which the BCCI should take up strongly at the ICC is about the VJD system. While the D/L method is the one used in international cricket, the VJD system has shown that it is better than the D/L method which sometimes can be skewed in favour of one team. The ICC should have tested the methods through an independent authority, but by giving it to an Englishman the element of neutrality went out of the window, since D/L are English too. That the person who has done the evaluation of both methods also sits on the ICC cricket committee is even more of a problem for he can influence the others, who will decide on the two methods. Since the ICC World Cup is two seasons away the best way forward would be to try the VJD method from the ensuing season and then take call after consulting the captains and coaches of all the teams in the next cricket committee meeting in 2013.