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Pots of cash but no silverware
by Sunil Gavaskar
May 04, 2007
The one disadvantage of writing a fortnightly is that often, some important events happen the day after you have submitted the column. Since different newspapers have different deadlines and use it on different days, sometimes the column seems a little less relevant or a couple of steps behind certain happenings. But then, it has a deadline of its own and has to be delivered on a specific day. The Captains and Coaches Conclave was only a day after the last column was given, so it could not feature in that column, and now that the training camp for the Indian team to Bangladesh has started, it may not be as relevant to bring up some of the issues that the captains and coaches brought up, not at the Conclave, but privately after it officially ended.

That showed that the first-class players are still scared to voice their opinion in front of others, fearing retribution from their state associations, and even though the administrators present agreed that there are some associations which are being run like personal fiefdoms, there is not much the BCCI can do about it, unless some person uses the PIL method to ensure that there is a regular change in these associations. That some of these associations are still not giving their Ranji players the full amount due to them, though they may be showing it in their reports to the BCCI, is a shameful thing indeed. That some of the captains and coaches asked if the BCCI could directly give them the allowances due to them, shows how much there is a need for transparency at the state level. As always, it was a very good meeting, with just about every skipper coming prepared with issues that were important not just for their state, but also for the good of Indian cricket, and many were pretty much the same, like the quality or lack of it of the pitches, balls or umpires.

It was good to have the Board President attend the meeting, and he stayed for more than two hours of the three-hour long meeting, and was asking his officials why certain actions had not been implemented whenever a skipper brought a point up. He would have understood how there is a lot to be done to get the system in India up to the mark to ensure that players at all levels and not just at the international and first-class level get the infrastructure and opportunities to show their full potential. With India’s inglorious early exit from this World Cup and the hue and cry that followed, the BCCI has the perfect opportunity to bring about changes in its constitution if need be, to ensure accountability and good operating systems in Indian cricket, and since they have no opposition to challenge them, it should not be difficult at all, and if anything, it will show whether those in charge of the BCCI have the desire and will to change Indian cricket for the better or not. It’s no good having pots of cash in the bank and no silverware in the display cupboard.

The sad part is that there is talent, but it needs not just the chances, but facilities to develop and show how good it is. With the next World Cup in the subcontinent, there is an urgent need for many of the associations to look hard and seriously at the infrastructure that they have and do something to make it world-class. There certainly won’t be any shortage of funds, for apart from the Services and the Railways, every other association gets a hefty amount from the BCCI every year, but the Board in turn doesn’t ask for how that largesse is utilized by the associations. This is not exactly the smartest thing to do, for commonsense demands that if anybody is to be given funds, then it needs to be ascertained how the earlier funds were utilized, and whether they were used for the purposes for which they were given. If not, then prudence says that no more funds should be released, though they may be kept in abeyance till the previous funds are fully used for the purposes given, and that is development of cricket. Here, one has to be careful in ensuring that the cost of cricket equipment like nets, balls and bats is not included in the funds that may be shown as used, for that should be normal for any association and will also go up every year according to inflation. The problem as always will be verification, for just as associations have shown expenses on travel, match fees and other allowances as directed by the BCCI, they have not always given the full amount to the players, unless the BCCI has its own team of people that will actually find out if the amounts stated as used are actually used or not. The BCCI will never get the true picture and the first-class players or even state coaches will get the full brunt of their association if they squeal and spill the beans.

There have been reports in the media recently that the BCCI is not going to share 26% of its revenues with the players, but only % of the media income with the players. This could well be one of those kite-flying stories, and hopefully that is the case because irrespective of the performances of the Indian team in this year’s World Cup, there is not the slightest doubt that every paisa that comes in to the BCCI coffers is because of the players. If sponsors come forward with fat cheques, it’s simply because the Indian team is the star attraction and gets the brands the visibility and exposure that it wants. The BCCI administrators need to be complimented too for making sure that they don’t undersell a valuable property like the Indian team, and that’s why when the BCCI decided that in all fairness, 26% of its revenues should go to the players, it was lauded by all concerned.

True, it was 1% more than what Cricket Australia shares with its players, and maybe it was deliberate, but it was appropriate and necessary. Even more impressive was when it was announced that half of that would go to the international players, 11% would go to first-class players and the remaining to junior cricket. With jobs drying up as no companies are willing to hire international players on a full-time basis as they are hardly available to play for their companies, it is the Ranji cricketer who has suffered, as he is no longer getting a job, but is being hired on a contract basis for just six months or so.

That’s why it is so crucial that the fees for the Ranji player be increased and that can happen when they get 11% of the BCCI revenues. Otherwise, many a good player will prefer to leave the game and do another steady but permanent job than take a chance with cricket.

This is the first time one has heard that the BCCI is going back on its commitment to share 26% of its total revenue with the players. In which committee was it decided if it was decided at all? That’s why one ardently hopes that it is just a speculative story and not a true one.

 
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