The direct effect of India's Twenty20 World Cup triumph, the greater emphasis on India A tours and, probably, the emergence of the Indian Cricket League and the movement of players to that was seen on Thursday, when the Indian Cricket Board's list of contracted players was announced.
Last year, only 17 players made the grade. This year, that figure had more or less doubled, to 33, even as a fourth grade (D) was created to accommodate India A and Twenty20 stars.
Also, on the eve of the 79th AGM of the BCCI, Shashank Manohar unanimously emerged as the president-elect, to take over from Sharad Pawar in September 2008. This has rendered Friday's AGM a mere formality.
The pool of 33 cricketers, given contracts for the period October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008, has been split into four grades and the retainerships have also been increased.
While Grade A players will be given Rs 60 lakh (up from Rs 50 lakh); B will receive Rs 40 lakh (up from Rs 35 lakh); C, Rs 25 lakh (up from Rs 20 lakh) and the new D grade, Rs 15 lakh.
Pawar said that the idea behind a Grade D was to encourage players. "We are seeing a lot of new talent and want to encourage them. It is also a sort of incentive for a player to work his way up the grade and will bring stability in the life of players."
It is believed that the four senior players in the Indian team, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly, held discussions with the BCCI office bearers and gradation committee members in Delhi around the time of the launch of the BCCI's Indian Premier League early this month.
BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah said that a player not figuring in the contract list going on to play for India would be included in Grade D. "Also, a player from Grade D who plays five Tests or 15 ODIs in a year will be placed in Grade C from that date and would be paid the retainership on a pro rata basis."
On the Manohar issue, Pawar said: "We have practically copied the BCCI constitution from the International Cricket Council, which names a president-elect an year in advance. I will vacate my office sometime in June next year, as I will take over as the vice-president of the ICC. Chirayu Amin, the BCCI vice-president from West Zone, will be acting president for a couple of months before Manohar takes over."
Manohar said he would view this coming year as a "learning process". “I’ll have to look into all the departments of the game from now on,” he said.
He said while several plans were in the offing, he was pretty happy with the functioning of the Board. "One of the objectives will be to make India the number one team in the world. The domestic structure is not bad. I don't agree when people say we don't have competent players. The bench strength is very good at the moment."
If the widened pool is any indication, yes, it is.
Rajput retained cricket manager
Lalchand Rajput, who was the cricket manager in India's successful World T20 championship in South Africa recently, retains his post for the upcoming seven-match one-day series against Australia. This is an interim arrangement, said Shah.