For Indian cricketers cricketers, May, not April, is a cruel month. On Thursday the Indian cricket board, intent upon chastising players after the shocking display at the World Cup, announced that their retainer fee would be slashed from an average Rs 35 lakh a year to Rs 5 lakh a year.
"The players have been offered an annual retainer of Rs 5 lakh," Board secretary Niranjan Shah told the Hindustan Times. "The match fees would be Rs 1.5 lakh for an ODI and Rs 2.5 lakh per Test with bonuses depending on their match and series wins."
All the 22 players picked for India's forthcoming Bangladesh tour have been offered the annual contract with effect from October 1, 2006.
Shah said that the retainer has been cut "following the working committee's decision to abolish the gradation system".
(Till September 30, 2006, the retainer amount was Rs 50 lakh, 35 lakh and 20 lakh for players in Grades A, B and C, respectively),
Shah said that the Board expected all players to sign the contracts before they depart for Dhaka on May 7. But they may be wrong. Most players are unhappy with the drastic reduction in their fee. There is likelihood of them refusing to sign the contracts within four days. In fact, the issue could turn into a major stand-off between the players and the administration.
Not just the retainer, the players are also unhappy with the three-endorsement clause in the contract. BCCI president Sharad Pawar had said that the cap will be reviewed with the Board having a dialogue with players. However, if a Board office-bearer is landing in Kolkata only a day before the team's scheduled departure, which Shah is, it's highly unlikely that the clause will be reviewed.
"If our president has said something, it will happen," was Shah's response to a query whether the Board will review the endorsement clause.
Shah played down the possibility of a stand-off.
"I haven't received any feedback from the players yet," Shah said. "The documents were sent to them last week. And I have just come back to India. I'll go to Kolkata on Sunday for the last two days of the conditioning camp.
"But if you ask me what the Board's response will be if a player refuses to sign the contract before the team's departure, I am not in a position to say anything right now."
While the players' poor performance was expected to have some fallout, the BCCI's refusal to share their profits with the players and to not have to explain its own performance could lead to problems. The Board expects accountability from its players, but who will hold the Board accountable?