After Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag let the opportunity pass, there was little hope that Indian cricket would witness a powerful, working cricketers’ association.
In what is being regarded as a masterstroke, the Supreme Court-appointed RM Lodha Commission has gone ahead and given a voice to Indian cricketers, who have had little say in deciding the direction of the game in the country.
If the recommendations are implemented, we will witness a cricketers’ association with a defined role in the BCCI set-up. Two of them will be on BCCI’s apex committee and one on the IPL governing council.
It looks like a game-changer, not only in safeguarding the interests of cricketers, but also from world cricket’s point of view. The Indian cricket board has attained much financial muscle power that it brooks no opposition in any form, anywhere.
Only top cricketers have the profile to match the men in top positions in the BCCI. To make a point forcefully against an N Srinivasan or Shashank Manohar, you needed a Tendulkar, Ganguly, Gavaskar or Kumble.
Hence, the fraternity looked up to the players from Ganguly’s era.
Maybe the BCCI was too strong and successfully neutralised any attempt at formation of a players’ body. There were a couple of failed attempts by players to come together, one in the 1980s and the second in the early 2000s.
“The main aim of the players’ groups was to negotiate their demands or contracts, once that was settled the body would become defunct, that is what happened both times,” said a former India captain, who closely monitored both the associations.
Never comfortable, the BCCI smartly dealt with the situation. Player appeasement has been done from time to time to keep the fraternity happy and quiet. With the pension scheme for ex-cricketers, it has silenced a few strong voices also.
Till now, it has been a free run for the Board, and it can be seen in the disciplinary action taken in the numerous cases of betting and spot-fixing. While the Board took no time to make scapegoats out of players, when team officials of the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals were under the scanner, all was done to shield them.
If the players’ association is formed, player contracts, BCCI as well as IPL, will be better scrutinised by lawyers of the association; the share of revenue that the players are entitled to from the BCCI’s income will be properly calculated.
What the BCCI will be most wary of is the Indian cricketers’ federation, whenever it happens, coming under the umbrella of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), which is a natural step.
The Board has been averse to dealing with players’ associations from other countries or the FICA. So far, FICA has found it tough to deal with the ICC because of the BCCI’s influence, but the equation is likely to change if the Indian cricketers join the FICA ranks.
While for the health of any organisation, a strong opposition is a must, opposition to the BCCI can only come from within, and the only body with the potential to take a stand against it would be an Indian players’ association.
A committee headed by former union home secretary GK Pillai, with Mohinder Amarnath, Anil Kumble and Diana Eduljee as members, will help form the players’ body.