It is nice to see my colleagues becoming richer, especially those who played in the fifties and sixties. It is great even for those who played in the 70s, although for people who played in the nineties and thereafter, it is okay because for them the financial returns have been much higher.
I felt happy that Chandu Borde, Bapu Nadkarni, Salim Durani, Nari Contractor and other greats have got some share of the profits which their parent body makes even if what they have got is peanuts compared to the money today’s players earn. For instance, it is wonderful that someone like Ravindra Jadeja is getting around Rs. 12 crore for his IPL deal.
However, even when we talk about players like Erapalli Prasanna, BS Chandrasekhar and Farokh Engineer, and so many more from that era, I think they are financially just okay.
Those days they used to get Rs. 2000-3000 for a Test. The money, by standards prevalent then, may not have been too little but when I started playing I used to feel bad because they were my heroes; these names were much bigger than their lifestyles.
I know people want to know what I feel about the BCCI not including me in this list of beneficiaries. I feel odd to talk about myself and would rather keep quiet.
If the Board in its wisdom feels my contribution to Indian cricket does not merit my name being there, so be it. Why should I lose sleep over it?
I have done what I believe is best for cricket and it does not bother me whether I am rewarded financially or not. At this stage of my life, or whatever stage I have been in, I have always wanted to be positive and not be engulfed by negative thoughts.
I made up my mind as a young cricketer how to approach my career and life. When I was in school, playing with Ashok Malhotra, I had seen some famous senior players sell cricket equipment. We too thought of buying a bat once and almost bought it for Rs. 500 - it was a Gray-Nicolls. When I say this, I don't look down upon them because I understand there was little money in the game then and there was nothing wrong in selling the extra equipment they used to get to be more comfortable in life. But incidents like those, and the one that happened when once as India captain I saw the great Chandu Borde — he was a national selector then — waiting outside the BCCI secretary's room for almost three hours to collect his allowance because the official was taking a nap after lunch, have shaped my thoughts.
I decided that day that I would not, after retiring from the game, be reduced to getting this kind of treatment. By God's grace, I am today in a position where I don't have to compromise in my life for a few more rupees.
If they don't want to recognise my game, I would like to say thank you and move on. Yes, I was connected with the Indian Cricket League, but if someone gives me a job, I would love to do it, especially when it is for the promotion of the game and when I am not an employee of any other institution.
A common cause
There is one common thing in what the Board does and what I did, and that is promoting the game. If by doing that I have hurt someone, what can I do? All I can say is that I have no intention of hurting anyone, but it is too bad if it has been taken that way. In any case, it is not my style to hit someone below the belt.
Leaving aside my personal thoughts on this, the larger issue needs to be addressed. The Board and the cricketers are like a huge family, it does not look nice when one part gets richer and the other stays poor. If the Board is making profits to the tune of a billion, it needs to take care of those players who played in an era when there was not much money in the game. And if there is dissent, if it doesn't agree with a player's stand or his views, there are ways to deal with it.
The BCCI should realise that to resolve any situation, one must sit and talk. When the BCCI has given cricketers a job, they have willingly done that. But when a player does an honorary job, the BCCI has no right to take an arbitrary decision. It should realise that only those cricketers — present or former — who are contracted with it and are paid salaries, like selectors or coaches, are accountable to it.
But not all cricketers are answerable to the Board. So you can't deny that player his due, which he is being given for the services rendered during his playing days. If you are taking money from the Board — like the late ‘Tiger’ Pataudi and Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri to be in the IPL board — then the Board or any organisation has a right to question you. But say a Dilip Vengsarkar is not answerable because he is not holding any post today where he is drawing money from the Board.
Take for instance the pension from the Board. If a banker retires, he can’t be denied pension just because he has taken up a consultancy post-retirement. These are issues which the Board needs to think about carefully before taking any action. It may be a private body but it should not forget that with mega bucks pouring in, and the sport being larger than life in India due to the support of the masses, it must be answerable to the public, and the government has the right to intervene and make a law which forces the Board to be more transparent and accountable. We are a democracy and no one can be above the law.
That is why I feel the Board, if it is unhappy with the comments made by Kirti Azad against the IPL, should have reached out to him. Like it happens in a family, it should have heard his views and sorted out the issue.
In the loop
He was an India player and is now an MP. Ideally, the BCCI should have ensured he becomes a voice for it in Parliament. It is the duty of the Board, as patron of the cricketing fraternity, to find out why he spoke against it and resolve the issue.
I am proud to see cricketers entering Parliament — Kirti, Azhar, Sidhu and Sachin. The Board should ensure they become its backbone where national policy is being made.
And is there a rule that there can't be any criticism of the BCCI? The Board should behave in a benevolent way and realise that there are better and democratic ways to deal with things.
Since the game has grown many times, there is nothing wrong in seeking transparency, which the sports minister is doing. He wants the BCCI to come under the RTI Act. The Board may today argue it is not answerable to the government or the people.
But it should understand that if it does not set its house in order, the government can ultimately change things and step in if it is convinced it needs to do that in public interest.