The Indian team leaves for Australia in two days. Interestingly, not one of the 16 players in the squad (15 of who are on the BCCI's announced list of contracted players) has signed any contract with the BCCI as of now.
It's like this: More than 75 days ago, 33 players were awarded graded contracts by the BCCI for the 2007-08 season. In an interesting gesture, the BCCI had almost doubled the number of players it had on retainerships and even included a new "D" category, of players who the Board thought would probably play for India in the near future. Unfortunately, the Board simply didn't find the time to get around to sending the players copies of their contracts or getting them signed. "They'll probably do it at some stage," said a top player, "but when, we're not sure."
Well, here's some happy news for them, possibly. BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah says the contracts "will be signed in the next couple of days". "There is no problem here, as the clauses were the same, the contracts are a formality."
Asked why it took two and a half months to send off unchanged contracts, Shah said "delays happen" and that "members had to be consulted". But consulted about what when there were no changes is rather unclear.
Shah, incidentally, also said the players would soon be receiving their (delayed) 13 per cent share of last year's revenue. "We take it from September to September (the cricketing year), so when they've signed the contracts, we'll send them the money," he added.
Perhaps the signing of contracts is a formality, but if there were no changes to be drafted, then the delays just reflect an utter lack of a system (or perhaps, interest) on the Indian Board's part. As the players have been in India for the last couple of months, there was no reason to not send them the contracts to look through properly, instead of hurriedly insisting they are signed - which is what will probably happen - just before they fly off to Melbourne.
The players are also not happy with the fact that the Board is yet to appoint a long-term media manager. "Given the overwhelming presence of the media, the kind of interview requests we get and the controversies generated over small things, it would really help if someone handled everything and accompanied the team on a long-term basis," said a player.
Unfortunately, that's not happening as yet. On the three-month long tour of Australia too, ad-hocism will prevail: Assistant manager MV Sridhar will double up as media manager.