Ethically speaking, if nothing else, should an academy promise someone a chance of making a place in the state side or an IPL team if they don't have the right to make that promise?
It sounds somewhat odd perhaps, but that's exactly what the Mumbai-based World Cricket Academy is offering youngsters. In writing.
Its contract reads, “WCA will provide assistance in finding and securing all opportunities arising out of his career as a professional sportsperson, including first class (if the player has not played first class cricket) and international cricket as well as IPL."
Very interestingly, on signing the contract, the player is bound to the WCA for 10 years and through that period, is required to pay them a fee in the form of 20 per cent of his gross income.
The immediate question here is how can a private academy, well known or otherwise, help someone get a place in a first-class team or IPL team? After all, that's a job for the BCCI/state association/franchisee management.
The academy, very well known in cricketing circles, was somewhat vague when this question was put to them. "We will spot talent and after training them, we will present them to the franchisee," the WCA's Zubin Mehta told the Hindustan Times. This, incidentally, is a practice not encouraged by the Indian cricket board.
The BCCI has been quick to react to what they call 'a new trend". The Board's treasurer, MP Pandove, told HT this was happening because of the popularity of the Indian Premier League.
"The IPL is a new phenomenon and some people are trying to exploit the situation. Earlier, only players who were on the verge of India selection were targeted but people have now started looking into the interiors and trying to get hold of junior players who show potential. They see it as a kind of investment," he said.
He added that Board had already taken steps to discourage such academies. "It was discussed in the Board meeting and also in the IPL organizing committee meeting. The IPL committee has decided not to take any player (directly) from any private academy and each state association has been issued a circular that they need to warn players to not to sign any such contract," said Pandove.
But for players from the interiors, with no contacts in the cricketing world, and hope in their hearts and dreams of glory in their eyes, just the promise of opportunity is enough to sign the contact. "I signed the contract in a hope that one day I will be able to land a contract with some franchisee. They are giving me a scholarship for one year. Besides, these persons are also the recruiting agents for an IPL team so if I perform well this year they might help me get into an IPL team," said a player who has just signed a contract but cannot be named.
For the young cricketer's sake, let's hope some "recruiting agent" somewhere will help out, whatever the BCCI feels about it.