Beneficiaries of BCCI's heavy financial hand are constantly being short-changed
- Domestic cricketers, match officials and others in the board's ecosystem are treated not as stakeholders or even shareholders due their dividend earnings, but as dependents trying to reduce the fixed deposit corpus.
Amongst the general excitement around Rahul Dravid’s becoming/accepting/agreeing to become the India coach, there came this unsourced quote: “The BCCI told him [Dravid] he can’t continue at the NCA at the same salary. It’s not feasible.”
“Not feasible” means undeserving? Inappropriately high? Out of budget? Surely the BCCI’s not suddenly running out of cash? Until Gandhi Jayanti Dravid’s NCA salary was feasible enough before top BCCI sources “in the know” found it wandering around in the not-so-feasible terrain.
What is instructive here is not the feasibility or future of Dravid’s NCA salary. What must be noted is how the BCCI wants to be seen handling those in its employ (everyone other than those identified as the malaichop of the season in their mithai shop). This “non-feasibility” of Dravid’s salary is a means of displaying the BCCI’s financial muscle. It would have us believe Dravid was arm-twisted into prospectively coaching the Indian team. Because the BCCI heavies always get what they want. Yawn.
Dravid will look after himself, but the beneficiaries of the BCCI’s ‘largesse’ aka its heavy financial hand are constantly being short-changed. Even when, as we heard on September 20, they announced an increase in the match fee for domestic cricketers across tournaments. From Rs. 35,000 a day to Rs. 40,000, Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 60,000 a day for those in the playing XI depending on how many domestic matches - of whatever type - a cricketer may have played. The slabs for those in the reserves are Rs. 20,000, Rs25,000 and Rs30,000.
Are these differentiated paygrades similar to the national team’s central contracts - like A-1, A, B, C? Not quite. Those are performance-linked and Indian internationals slide up and down the grades depending, largely, on their on-field performances. These new domestic paygrades differentiate between the number of years served / games played, sort of like gratuity in the formal work place. But how does that work in a professional sporting context?
A month before the match fee increase was announced, Indian cricket rejigged its complete structure of domestic events in the men’s competition. Each competition featuring 37 or 38 teams was divided into six groups (five elite plus the Plate group with new teams from the north east, Chandigarh and Bihar) from its previous four groups (three elite, one plate) break-up.
What’s this got to do with money? In the four-group formula, domestic teams played a minimum of eight matches a season before the knockouts. Finalists played 11. In the six-group formula, that number comes down to a minimum of five matches, maximum nine. Using only the senior Ranji Trophy men while calculating the difference between the two formats, the reduction of three group matches (or 12 days of cricket) cuts down the payout (for approximately 555 Ranji cricketers) by a total of 6660 match days. Let’s break the payout down to the playing eleven in each of the 38 Ranji teams. That’s the total match days of 418 cricketers in the XI reduced by 12 days, multiplied by Rs. 35,000 a day.
Under the new format, the BCCI “saves” Rs. 4,20,000 per cricketer in the XI. Multiplied by the 418 playing XI cricketers, the new format “saves” the BCCI a total of Rs. 17.55 crore. If you count four reserves per team who earn half of those in the XI, that figure grows to Rs. 20.74 crore in all. Any surprises that this is being camouflaged by the news of increased fees to cricketers, with that convoluted gratuity pay grade? Increased match day fees is just smoke and mirrors and the cynical movement of money from one part of the account books to another. The point is that the BCCI, which loves announcing how much it earns from rights or sponsorship deals, just hates handing out more money.
Domestic cricketers, match officials and others in the ecosystem are treated not as stakeholders or even shareholders due their dividend earnings, but as dependents trying to reduce the fixed deposit corpus.
It is why domestic cricketers spend ten seasons reading about the BCCI’s swelling coffers every rights cycle and wonder how their annual earnings from the game are the same as they were about when they made their debut. We are not yet into the BCCI’s carefully preserved magical mathematics - the 26% of its “gross revenue” share of which international players get 13.5% and domestic players 13.5%. Even here, there is no clear definition of what the BCCI’s gross revenue is; players are only told what it’s not. It’s not television rights revenue, it’s not ground advertising or signage, it’s not IPL earnings. It’s mostly around the sponsorships of the team and bilateral series, and even then, it’s not 26% of the 100% of those sponsorships. It is 26% of the 30% that is left after 70% is sent to the states for more numerical gymnastics.
At some point, players are told to raise an invoice of a random number, “You can’t make head or tail out of it,” a player said. “You will be getting 6 lakh, your friend 7 lakh, another player 4.8 lakh, you don’t understand what’s happening.” The money could appear any time. In July 2020, players received their gross revenue “share" for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 season. Invoices are being asked in 21-22 for Man of the Match awards given out between 2013-14 to 2019-20. Cheques from the BCCI in the names of players were found in the drawers of a departing state association official’s office.
In the recent past when BCCI was offered proposals and a chance to be specific about what constitutes its gross revenue to be shared, in exchange for reducing the % share and linking a properly calibrated bonus system into national team performances, the BCCI shut its ears and the door.
That’s too cut and dried, too professional. It would deprive the BCCI of its zamindaari moment - the announcement of large cash awards following success in a series or a tournament.
That this happens in the BCCI should not surprise us. It happens in all other Indian sport. Our hockey teams, despite the generous sponsorship by the Odisha government, surely don’t get paid match fees. Money doesn’t change medieval mindsets.