Tokenism served as transformational, is what the BCCI’s announcement of ‘pay equity’ among its male and female players actually is. In fact, if the messaging wasn’t so directed at pulling off an eyewash, one could possibly have celebrated the board’s announcement which is a step in the right direction, and not exactly 'paving the way' like many big names on social media would have you believe.
To start from the top, in a post on social media on Thursday afternoon, board secretary Jay Shah wrote, ‘I’m pleased to announce BCCI’s first step towards tackling discrimination. We are implementing pay equity policy for our contracted women cricketers'.
Sounds like a perfectly grand move by the board, you'd think. Only, it's not the grand gesture it was made out to be, instead, it was the bare minimum that was long overdue.
India’s contracted male and female cricketers get money from the board in three parts. Their match fee, their central contracts and then from a portion of the board’s annual revenue.
Only one component has been changed.
Same Match Fee as Men
Credit where credit is due- India's women cricketers will now get Rs 15 lakh for a Test, Rs 6 lakh for every ODI and Rs 3 lakh for every T20I they play. Same as the men.
While you celebrate this, you may need to ignore the fact that the BCCI hasn’t had the women’s team actually play a Test match in the last one year. In fact, they’ve played just two Tests in the last eight years!
So there’s no way of actually even earning that Rs 15 lakh a Test match fee if you’re not really playing any Test cricket is there?
Since October 1, 2021, the Indian men's team has played 8 Test matches, 18 ODIs and 40 T20Is while the women's team has played no Tests, 18 ODIs and 23 T20Is, including matches from the ODI World Cup and the Commonwealth Games this summer
And while match fee has seen a rise, there has been no change in the income the women cricketers will generate from the their annual contracts or from their share of the annual revenue.
Big Discrepancy in Annual Contracts
The biggest source of income from the BCCI for an Indian cricketer is the central contract. A player is contracted to the BCCI on a per year basis for which the board puts them on a retainer. If the player gets injured on the BCCI's time and can’t avail the match fee, or if they are away playing the IPL and don’t have any match fee to avail - there’s the central contract that has them pulling a salary.
How much is it? That’s the clincher.
The highest category in the women’s contracts is half of the lowest category in the men’s contracts.
Meaning? Harmanpreet Kaur brings home Rs 50 lakh a season while according to current contracts Washington Sundar takes home Rs 1 crore.
The Indian women’s cricket captain earns from her central contract Rs 50 lakh a season, while the men’s captain earns Rs 7 crore.
Does that sound like 'pay equity'?
Players Get Share of Annual Revenue
BCCI has crores of rupees being added to it coffers every year, the value of which stands at Rs 9,629 crores to be exact, according to Arun Dhumal who was the BCCI’s treasurer since 2019 till last month.
Now every year, the revenue of the board’s has to also be passed down to the players.
26 precent of the revenue is divided among the cricketers. 13 percent is given the men’s team players, 10.3 per cent to domestic cricketers and 2.7 percent is divided between women cricketer and junior cricketers. Meaning, Harmanpreet Kaur and the captain of the under-19 team will be ‘rewarded’ the same at the end of each season.
So when you believe Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan as they tweet about BCCI ‘paving the way’ you should also remember that this match fee move was made by New Zealand earlier this year. The BCCI isn't even the first. The cricket body that had to cut jobs during lockdown due to cash crunch led the way and announced equal match fee for not just international cricketers, but domestic cricketers are well!
So no, this is no path breaking move, this is no historic initiative, it was the least that could be done.