Neither cricketers nor BCCI officials want player associations in Indian cricket
In theory, player associations in Indian cricket would unite players and give them an opportunity to participate in governance. Sceptics, both from within and outside BCCI, treat them as glorified trade unions where cricketers agitate for moneycricket Updated: Apr 20, 2017 10:42 IST
Buried in Page 30 of the Lodha Committeereport is a paragraph about player associations, a seemingly casual recommendation in what is an exhaustive blueprint for dismantling and reconstructing the BCCI. This recommendation could prove exceedingly difficult to implement because nobody wants it --- neither players, nor officials.
Officials see this as an irritant that threatens their monopoly over power. Players see it as a worthless perk, a free meal coupon valid at a kebab-only restaurant given to a confirmed vegetarian.
Theoretically, player associations unite players and give them an opportunity to participate in governance. Sceptics treat them as glorified trade unions where cricketers agitate for money.
Internationally, player associations operate at two levels. One, where players work closely with officials on the technical side, especially about scheduling, laws, workload, injury prevention/rehab.
Second, to represent players about welfare issues, insurance, pensions and general post-career life skills.
With this double role, of ally and watchdog, player bodies can offer constructive support and principled opposition. But yes, the focus is largely around players’ commercial interests when negotiating contracts and salaries.
Started as a First World concept in England, player associations are backed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) but India and Bangladesh refuse to play ball. For the BCCI, this is a non-negotiable, sovereignty issue, any suggestion of engaging with a player body is considered sedition. The BCCI’s consistent ‘we are one family’ position was repeated recently when it declared ‘intermediaries’ were not needed to resolve player demands for more money.
Leading Indian players are equally lukewarm towards creating a formal structure to replace the current informal discussion mechanism. All previous attempts (even one that involved Tiger Pataudi, Anil Kumble/ Rahul Dravid and other legends) have failed.
Not surprising because top players have a hotline to senior BCCI officials and the clout to have it their way.
For Virat Kohli, or any India captain, any requirement (pay hike, square turner, rest between games, support staff appointment, new suitcase and chartered flight) is a matter of calling the right number. The system is loaded in favour of star players.
Any player association must factor in two basic truths --- In India, the captain is Rajinikanth incarnate. He is the spokesperson, chief negotiator and selector who picks the team and appoints the team coach. The captain of the Indian cricket team is both king and the state, the ultimate all-powerful high command!
The Indian team itself is the de-facto player association. It functions like a grievance redressal system for an exclusive club whose membership is restricted to top players.
One drawback of the present system is it excludes domestic cricketers. They are a vote bank waiting for admission into cricket’s Lok Sabha.
Ironically, it is these first-class players who stand to benefit most from a player association’s welfare measures. Players from humble backgrounds, with limited education and low skills outside cricket, need support to navigate through a professional career and prepare for cricket’s scary afterlife.
There is no denying that player associations are a step forward to make cricket governance more inclusive, transparent and accountable.
(Amrit Mathur is a former sports administrator who worked with the BCCI as a media manager. The views expressed are personal)