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Indian cricket team: The ‘dangal’ over player payments

The annual contracts for Indian cricket team players and staff were recently doubled by BCCI, but the team is reportedly not happy

cricket Updated: Apr 13, 2017 19:30 IST
India captain Virat Kohli with teammates at the presentation ceremony after winning the four-match Test series against Australia at HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala on Tuesday.
India captain Virat Kohli with teammates at the presentation ceremony after winning the four-match Test series against Australia at HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala on Tuesday.(PTI)

Drowned by the noise of the 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL), a tussle over player payments is playing out in Indian cricket. Recently, annual contracts for players were doubled but reportedly the team is not happy. Support staff salaries were raised by 50 per cent but reportedly they too are unhappy. The arising chatter is over what is justified, how much is good enough and whether what is being paid is ‘peanuts’.

There are no clear answers, opinion is divided and the match situation, so to speak, is as follows. In one corner, the players seeking more; in the other, administrators handling this bouncer. (IPL 2017 FULL COVERAGE)

Highlights of the Player Mange More drama are as follows:

With India capping an outstanding home season by beating Australia 2-1, the BCCI promptly announced (graded) cash awards for players, coach and support staff.

The players welcomed the bonus, which was excellent PR from the BCCI. They were on the ball in the optics game, looking like a caring parent rewarding a child for acing an exam. Then came a question – should bonuses/incentives for performances of professional athletes be reduced to random decisions depending on someone’s largesse?

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The present system is unscientific (like the ICC formula’s revenue distribution among members!) and whimsical (the Mogambo khush hua syndrome). Old timers might draw a similarity with the scene from the epic Mughal-e-Azam, where Shehzada Salim flings a pearl necklace at Anarkali, thrilled by her splendid dance performance in Emperor Akbar’s Sheesh Mahal.

In other cricketing countries, these matters are properly structured. Team/individual performance bonuses and rewards are factored into player contracts. The contracts are first discussed with players, agreed, documented and formally signed off. Bonus details of Australian/ English players are readily available on their Board websites.

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India chooses another route. The BCCI has extensive guidelines over fees to players, umpires, scorers, video analysts, match referees, curators and selectors but player performance-linked bonuses are embedded in cricket’s grey market.

This creates enormous potential of friction and misunderstanding. Also, there was no basis for the earlier highest Rs 1 crore figure in the contract slabs, nor is there any for the Rs 2 crore figure - these are numbers pulled from thin air.

Yes, Indian cricketers are seriously rich by Indian standards. It’s also true that Virat’s BCCI earnings are half of what Steve Smith or Joe Root receive from their national boards and Indian players get a minor share of BCCI’s revenue/profits. Nor is there an open, transparent method of evaluating players and slotting them into different contract slabs.

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England, Australia and South Africa have a rating system with points based on performance in different formats to decide ‘value to team’. England has gone a step further and instituted separate red and white ball contracts.

India can look at global best practices and adjust them to Indian conditions. Ad hoc raises and tweaks are the problem, not the solution for this ongoing dangal.

Note:Amrit Mathur is a cricket writer and sports administrator. The views expressed in this article are his personal.