BCCI, State Boards Together Letting India’s Domestic Players Down
Domestic players are made the sacrificial lamb as BCCI and its subsidiaries play the blame game over unpaid dues.
The ordeal of cricketers gearing up for the season ahead is no less than that of a soldier preparing for war. Countless hours hitting the nets, bowling-machine sessions, lung-pumping sprints, the gruelling grind in the gym.
It takes blood, sweat and tears for a player to put themself in pole position to perform when the opportunity comes knocking at the door.
The spadework not only takes a toll on the body but also punches a mighty big hole into their pocket, given the expenditure on equipment, training, injury rehab, nutritious food and dietary supplements.
However, such is the sorry state of affairs that even after putting their heart and soul into the sport and making themselves qualified to represent their state in List-A competitions, players are, in turn, denied the bare minimum: timely payment of match fees.
The buck is conveniently passed to and fro from the state associations to the BCCI, the cash-rich uber alles, as domestic cricketers are made to wait for annoying spells to get their due.
Reports had recently surfaced that the Board is yet to disburse the women’s team the runner-up prize money for the T20 World Cup held in Australia. When the cream of the crop awaits the ‘credited’ notification nearly 15 months after they finished second best at the global event, one could draw cues to imagine the sort of abysmal treatment meted out to those at the bottom of the ladder. The boys and girls belonging to the lower cadre of Indian cricket, for whom fat IPL paychecks are still a distant dream.
They are the stars of the future, keeping their nose to the grindstone sans the glitz and glamour. But the system that is in place for looking after their financial well-being, and thereby inculcating a favourable breeding ground for them to realize their vision, is allegedly guilty of processing payments at the pace of a snail.
Clearing Payments Timely Not The Norm
Lakhan Arjun Rawat, a first-class cricketer hailing from Uttar Pradesh who plies his trade for Manipur, pinned the blame on state units for holding up the payment of match fees.
‘’The funds granted by the BCCI are not channelised as they should be, and fail to reach the players. There is a clear lack of accountability. All the expenses pertaining to cricket and its smooth operation – hospitality, ground maintenance, travel costs – are fulfilled first and then the remains are distributed among players. It must be the other way round, ideally,’’ the right-hander told The Quint.
‘’Cricket is quite a demanding sport and those striving to play at the highest level rarely have the time or energy left to pursue a job or a coaching gig on the side. We don’t have the safety net of an IPL contract. There is nothing to fall back on. For most of us, domestic cricket is the solitary means of livelihood, and hence, it is imperative that payments are deposited as soon as possible,’’ Lakhan added.
It has come to light from conversations with various players that the remuneration was slow to be dispensed in the previous few seasons. A settled member of the Jammu & Kashmir camp said, ‘’It was a tough time. We had not received our match fees for the 2018-19 season on time and those from humble backgrounds had started to struggle a bit. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief when the lump-sum amount was finally obtained last year after what was an irritating delay,’’ he revealed, on the condition of anonymity.
‘’The office-bearers of our state board told us that invoices had been forwarded from their end and it is the BCCI who are at fault for not releasing the payments in quick time,’’ the senior pro highlighted, bringing into focus the perennial game of onus-diversion that leaves the players caught in the crossfire.
Ranji Trophy Omission Exacerbates the Issue
The curtailed domestic season of 2020-21 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The prestigious Ranji Trophy last year fell prey to the virus and was cancelled for the first time in 87 years.
The BCCI has been dragging its heels on the compensation package for the red-ball tournament, the chief source of income for its domestic players, the lesser-known of whom are now struggling to make ends meet in a COVID-stricken world.
Another player, who represented Uttarakhand in the 2018-19 Ranji campaign, pressed home the monetary value of the longer format.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of red-ball cricket. A player cannot lead a decent lifestyle just on the basis of white-ball stipends. The money earned through Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali leagues won’t be adequate to stretch over twelve months. Things have gone from bad to worse due to the pandemic and the BCCI should lend the players a helping hand by fast-tracking the compensation scheme. What purpose will it serve if not announced at the earliest, at a point when many players are in the middle of a crisis with family members contracting the infection,’’ he pleaded.
Capped Players’ Invoices Delay Payments
The first-class cricketer also mentioned that senior players on national duty oscillating to the domestic domain prove to be a stumbling block in the swift facilitation of payments. The framework laid down by the BCCI asks state associations to file the respective invoices of players in a single batch.
This dynamic is disturbed when a capped Indian barges onto the scene, plays a domestic match or two, and makes a hasty exit.
The formalities of that particular invoice hang in limbo, and the rest of the contingent has to bear the brunt as an incomplete bunch of receipts cannot be moved towards the BCCI for approval.
The concern of compensation wasn’t paid much heed in the BCCI SGM conclave on 29 May, wherein a state official did raise the matter but saw his appeal turned down.
“The SGM was regarding IPL 2021 and T20 World Cup that has been discussed. But the compensation part needs a separate meeting. We have to discuss that with state associations before coming to a decision,” BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal told InsideSport.
The scope for course correction is immense. Players unanimously feel replacing the current regime of work-and-pay with annual central contracts would give them a further sense of security.
Injuries are part and parcel of the sport, but those on the treatment table are not entitled to match fees, or a certain fraction of it, under the status quo. Greater transparency in payment procedures is the need of the hour.
Also put forth were suggestions of a players’ body but that seems a long shot when even the senior men’s and women’s team are bereft of its benefits.
These grievances call for immediate and efficient redressal to assuage the plight of domestic cricketers, the stakeholders without whose services cricket in this country would come to a screeching halt.
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