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Priceless Dravid, Prize-less Matches
by Sunil Gavaskar
Jun 01, 2007
One of the reasons Rahul Dravid is such a great ambassador not just for India but the game of cricket is the way he remembers to thank all those who make a contribution to the game. At the presentation ceremony in Dhaka after the conclusion of the Test series, he gave the mandatory interview to the TV presenter and after that had finished, he thanked all the spectators and sponsors and the Bangladesh Cricket Board officials and groundstaff for having made the effort to support the series. The crowd responded with applause, even though their team had been beaten in three days and had lost the series. The spectators would have been disappointed, especially after the World Cup deeds of the Bangla team had raised expectations that they would give India a good fight and maybe even surprise them in the series. That didn’t happen simply because India were not the complacent, overconfident team they were in the World Cup, but were looking to show that what happened in the World Cup was one of those days when the opposition plays better cricket than you, even though you are the better team on paper.

India did show that they were the better team in the Bangladesh series, but that is not good enough for the Indian fan who seems to have been turned off after the debacle in the World Cup. India can win back the favour of their fans if they win convincingly in England and later in the year put up a good show against world champs Australia, not only when the Aussies come to India for a seven-match one-day series, but over the next year when they go down under as well.

Rahul’s misfortune is that he gets compared to his immediate predecessor Sourav Ganguly, who was a much more in-your-face kind of captain, and while there is nothing wrong in that in the modern world of cricket, Dravid’s style is a lot more respectful of the opponent and the traditions of the game. In the irreverent world in which we live, that kind of attitude is not necessarily admirable, but to old-timers, the respect that Dravid gets is something that has a ‘feel good’ factor to it. Not for one moment am I suggesting that Dravid is a softie, for no player can score the mountain of runs he has in both forms of the game without being tough, and just like Adam Gilchrist comes across as a breath of fresh air in an Australian side that gives no quarter nor asks for any, so does Dravid with his innate charm and adherence to the values of the game.

However, Rahul Dravid and his team are entitled to feel let down by the measly prize money that was on offer for the Test series. If one goes by media reports, and in today’s world, that’s not entirely reliable, the Bangladesh Board has signed the rights to telecast cricket in Bangladesh for a fee of US $ 51 million for four years. The deal was reached with the understanding that India would tour Bangladesh at least thrice over those four years, and since most of the advertising space on cricket telecasts is taken by Indian sponsors wanting to advertise their products, most Boards who sell their cricket’s TV rights do so on the basis of India’s tours to their country, and so get a much higher value than otherwise. There are also other commercial opportunities that come with title sponsorship, ground advertising, etc. which make the pie much bigger overall. Therefore, when the Indian team tours that country, it is only fair to expect that the home board would have prize money commensurate with the benefits that it gets with India’s tour. There is no guarantee that India will win all the prize money and so even the home team can benefit if they have played well and done better than the Indians. That’s why it was such a disappointment to see the prize money offered for various categories.

The Man of the Test match got US $ 1,000, the Man of the Series got US $2,500, the Indian team for winning the Test series got US $2,500, the same as the Man of the Series. Then Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan got US $1,500 for being the highest scorers and highest wicket-takers in the series. Add to that the Man of the Match award of US $1,000 that Mashrafe Mortaza got for the drawn first Test, and it all comes to a grand total of US $10,000 for slogging out in that heat and humidity in the month of May, when really there should be no cricket in our part of the world. Wonderfully generous, isn’t it? Not that other Boards are any different, for they will all get maximum on the backs of the players’ appeal and drawing power, and give peanuts back to them by way of prize money.

Sure, the players get match fees, but even taking that into account, there is plenty left in the kitty to show appreciation to the men who bring those amounts in. When one thinks of the winners’ cheques in tennis and golf, to name just two other sports who also get the big bucks by virtue of the quality of the players participating, one sees how cricket is mingy in comparison. The winners’ cheque in football is also a huge one, and though the soccer players earn many times that figure through their individual contracts with their clubs, it is still good to see that their efforts are recognised with millions in prize money.

Rahul and his men got US $2,500 for winning the Test series against Bangladesh. Theirs was a squad of 16 excluding the support staff. You decide if that’s good enough or if the players are horribly underpaid.

More Views by Sunil Gavaskar
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  National duty comes first
  One-day game is alive and well
  Dhoni bears the fury of the media
  Spirit of Cricket
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