The relevance and challenges of forming a players’ association

  • Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 28, 2016 10:23 IST
Most cricketers are enthused by the fact that the formation of a players’ association is in the works. In the countries where it has been running, the body’s main role has been to look after the welfare of the players, in all aspects. (AFP)

Anil Kumble has taken up the lucrative job of India coach, and Mohinder Amarnath says he has no idea about the formation of the players’ association. These two were to set the ball rolling for the body, as part of the four-member steering committee named by the Supreme Court appointed panel.

So, no one knows what’s happening with the association, who will form it and how they are going to go about it?

In all likelihood, it’s going to be one of the tasks which will have to be carried out by the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha panel itself.

However, most of the cricketers are enthused by the fact that it’s indeed happening. In the countries where it has been running, the body’s main role has been to look after the welfare of the players, in all aspects. In India, the cricketers are being well looked after by the Board of Control of Cricket in India, so in what way it can be prove to be an effective entity is the challenge?

Former India coach and cricketer, Anshuman Gaekwad observed having a say in scheduling is where their association can make a meaningful contribtution. “There was a survey conducted and the maximum cricket is being played by India, because the sponsors are Indians, wherever in the world you play, whether on ground or on TV. India is a lucrative market and everyone is looking to milk the cow. But, it will come at an expense of our cricketers,” said Gaekwad, warning of the early burnout cases.

“In our days, players’ careers lasted 15 to 20 years, like Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar’s, even though we were not as fitness conscious as in the current age. But, for Virat Kohli & Co there’s continuous travelling and playing, that it’s bound to take a toll and the players’ careers will be shortened. That is where the players association can come in. It will be the bridge between the players and the Board,” observed Gaekwad.

“It will be healthy for both, the players as well as the Board. The perception has to change that the players association is formed to revolt against the Board.

“The administrators cannot know exactly what is happening with the players, whether fitness wise, performance wise or their family issues. I am talking from my experience as a coach,” the former India manager added.

For Karsan Ghavri, another star of the 1970s and 80s, the success of the association will depend on the players who are going to handle the responsibilities. “It will be about who are the players who are going to do the job. the high profile players hardly get time because they have so many engagements. You will need people who can devote a lot of time,” opined Ghavri.

“Earlier also associations were formed but after one or two years people forgot about it. We will have to look at the module of Australia and South Africa’s player associations, and will need active involvement in day to day work. It will need very committed players for the cause,” said Ghavri.

However, the Board has never taken kindly to the players association and had argued against the suggestion of providing financial support to it. In other countries too, the players associations have their own revenue generation model. In Australia, the Australia Cricketers Association is heavily dependent on the current professionals’ contributions. Ghavri doesn’t see generating funds as a major challenge. “It depends on how you approach the corporate houses and private companies. As long you can assure of good mileage to them, getting sponsors shouldn’t be difficult.”

Former India spinner Maninder Singh feels the BCCI should help set-up the association because it will be great for the image of the Board. “If the BCCI fund the players body, the whole world will acknowledge it,” said Maninder, emphasising that the players body will never be a threat to the Board.

“Earlier, there was a perception that the players’ body will act as a watchdog and the Board members will not be able to do whatever they want to do. Now, the BCCI is anyways, on their own, trying to clean up the system. They are not trying to do anything.”

However, it’s not about dealing with the Board. In this age of Indian Premier League and other T20 league, safeguarding the players interests has become all the more important. The contracts involve bog-money and are complicated, that it is beyond most of the cricketers to apply their minds to it. It is where the body will be most needed, to intervene in cases of delayed and non-payments and ensure that players don’t become pawns in the hands of agents and team managements.

Erapalli Prasanna said the challenge will be to be effective given that already the Board is running good monetary schemes for its ex-players. “There’s nothing wrong with having a players’ association, but it must have some standing. Its impact will depend on how they can discuss with the board, which has looked after the interests of the players well. What are the things they can fight for, (because) money is already there.”

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