On what basis will the BCCI compensate domestic players?
- The world's richest cricket board should drop the terrible daily wage system it has in place for the domestic game and introduce annual contracts.
Having announced ‘compensation’ for domestic players for the pandemic-erased 2020-21 season (another season is now likely to be cancelled as well), the BCCI is like a batsman caught at the crease. Several months since the announcement, it still doesn’t know how to go forward or back. The problem, simply, is it doesn’t know whom to compensate.
Going back is not an option and the BCCI must go forward because domestic players (about 3000 across 38 Ranji teams, plus women, plus juniors) are in a financial mess.
India’s domestic players are like daily wage earners—they get paid only if selected to play a match. Zero income if matches are missed because of failing form or injury. That’s a terrible system.
It’s also what has the BCCI stumped—when players weren’t selected and matches weren’t held last season who do you compensate and what do you compensate for?
How do you figure out which player would have played how many matches? Do the rest simply get nothing?
For the moment, keep compensation aside. The ground reality is that domestic players desperately need financial support. Ranji players are busy round the year except during monsoon months so they are, in essence, full time professionals committing their entire time to the sport. With jobs outside of cricket having dried up—there is scant hiring in the government, PSU’s or corporates—players live on what they earn while playing. The BCCI is their de facto employer.
The current payment structure for first class players is unfair. On the surface it seems fine because match fees for Ranji is a handsome ₹35,000 per day, plus players are entitled to Gross Revenue Share (GRS) calculated in a complicated manner at the end of the season based on BCCI’s annual earnings.
But this GRS linked ‘conditions apply’ payment formula is intrinsically flawed. Players don’t know what that amount could be, nor do they know when this unknown amount will be paid. Incidentally, the GRS share to players hasn’t been paid since 2016-17.
What makes things worse is BCCI’s player payment structure is unsympathetic to domestic players. The BCCI commits 26% of its earnings (after making many deductions to control the overall pool) to players, half of which is earmarked for a small minority (25-30 international players) while the rest is shared by the large majority of all domestic senior /junior/ women cricketers.
This brings us to an annual contract system for domestic players. It’s not hard to do and it’s long overdue. Here are some suggestions for what the basic features could be.
#State associations award contracts to maximum 30 senior players (men and women), giving them guaranteed amounts.
# Ten senior players each in three slabs – ₹15/ 10/ 8 lakhs
# Mandatory 5 ‘rookie contracts’ for U19 players
# Ten more junior players awarded annual scholarship
# Payments made in instalments, first before start of the season in September, others after a review in December
# Existing match fee payments may be adjusted / reduced
# Exclusions: Anyone on BCCI’s annual contract list should not eligible for a state contract.
Who selects the pool?
A committee comprising the chief coach, chairman of selectors, the senior national zonal selector and player representatives on the Apex Council of the state board.
The approximate Rs4 crore expense is shared by BCCI (which presently pays match fees to all players) and state associations which receive an annual grant of ₹20-25 crores.
The benefits of annual contracts are easy to see. Liberated from the anxiety of earning a living, and given financial security, players will be more ‘professional’ and focus on improving performance. Similarly, state associations will be able to demand not just availability but also higher standards of fitness. As contracted employees, players will be required to train and prepare as per standards laid down, monitored strictly by the coaching and fitness support staff of states.
The financial package for domestic Indian cricketers is a much needed, much delayed reform. In these difficult times, annual contracts are like vaccinations—by securing 40-50 players in each state you are also protecting the ones yet to get the benefits. In this merit based proposal, players outside the system will be motivated to work hard to make the cut.
Time to dump the ‘compensation’ plan, and instead decide annual contracts considering last season’s Vijay Hazare and Mushtaq Ali performances and trials for Ranji.
The writer is a former India team manager and long-time cricket official
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