Just like the India versus Bharat narrative two dramatically different worlds exist in Indian cricket.One occupied by the elite, dazzling duniya of rich international cricketers.The other, on the fringe of this celestial system, is inhabited by impoverished domestic first-class players who live on the edge of the proverbial poverty line
International players deserve their central BCCI/IPL contracts and their life of extraordinary privileges.These players are the axis on which the cricket universe spins, the key drivers of an amazing economy that is recession and notebandi proof. Players are magnets that attract fans and sponsors.
The problem is, cricket’s economic continuing boom has bypassed the 1000-odd domestic players who represent 28 first class teams. Earlier, cricketers secured regular jobs with government departments and corporates, but these are now gone and their only source of earning is match fees from playing Ranji Trophy. This means the BCCI is de facto employer of domestic players.
This dependence, of living on match fees alone, comes with a deadly catch. Ranji players get paid only if selected and the lucky ones who play all matches in all formats stand to earn approximately Rs 10-12 lakhs. But without annual contracts (as in England, South Africa, Australia) Ranji Trophy players have zero financial security.
Worse, match fees is paid through a bizarre arrangement which makes Ranji Trophy players glorified daily wage earners.The system works like this: each player receives Rs 10,000 per day if in the playing eleven (which means 40,000 per game) plus an uncertain sum which is linked to BCCI’s annual revenue. The first (fixed) amount is disbursed immediately, the other usually after one year.
So, players don’t know what or when they will get paid.The arrangement is so flawed that Ranji Trophy players have not received their dues for matches that concluded in March 2016!
Reason for this spectacular mess is the Gross Revenue Share ( GRS) formula, the arrangement manufactured in 2004 which splits 26% of BCCI’s annual revenue three ways - half of this to international payers, the rest shared by domestic senior, junior and women cricketers.
The GRS is cleverly controlled to exclude large chunks of BCCI revenue ( 70 % media revenue and the entire IPL money) from the pool to be shared with players. Also,while the intent was players should swim or sink along with BCCI fortunes ,the reality is quite the opposite.
Mindful of a backlash in case player earnings fall below what was paid earlier, the BCCI regularly makes ‘top up’ contributions beyond the 26% limit to ensure payment levels are maintained.
So, effectively, the 26% GRS is never 26%, only a notional revenue-sharing construct.The way forward to adequately compensate and incentivise the talent pool that feeds Team India is to junk GRS and consider either of two options.
One: institute annual contracts for domestic players, preferably in three grades, funded from the generous grants gifted to state associations.Two: revise match fees and pay it upfront, not after one year .
This will be a win- win for both, the BCCI and Ranji Trophy players.The BCCI would know its exact financial liability and won’t have to play around with numbers. Players would rejoice as stress arising from financial insecurity, unnecessary suspense and frustrating delays would end.
Note: Amrit Mathur is a cricket writer and sports administrator. The views expressed in this article are his personal.