BCCI's logo: File Photo(HT Archive) Exclusive
BCCI's logo: File Photo(HT Archive)

When will the BCCI care for Indian cricket?

What stops the world's richest cricket board from compensating the thousands of domestic players who had no earnings last season?
By Sharda Ugra
UPDATED ON JUN 04, 2021 12:07 AM IST

Bad weather is ruining the BCCI’s plans. The cricket board's recently rebranded humanitarian venture, the Indian Premier League2021 cannot complete its remaining 31 matches “considering the monsoon season in India in the months of September and October this year.” The six people who ostensibly run Indian cricket have dashed off to the UAE to make arrangements, their main focus on the IPL2021 completion and India’s hosting of the 2021 ICC World T20 in October-November. Which may also be relocated to the UAE because our wretched monsoon just doesn’t end.

Those whining about the two Cs—compensation or contracts for domestic players whose season has been wiped out —must understand what is at stake. The failure to stage the 31 remaining IPL matches is not merely about being going championless —the BCCI earns approximately 54.5crore per IPL match, which means a total loss of roughly 1674 crores should the IPL not be completed.

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Who could bear that? Our fingers must be crossed because this is a crucial financial tipping point for Indian cricket.

Except it’s not.

Not wanting to lose 1674 crore is a rational and pragmatic concern, but the sky will not fall if the BCCI doesn’t earn this amount.

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Keep the figure of Rs202crores in mind and bear with me.

How much money does the BCCI have? It’s a tricky question, because for a very long time the BCCI didn’t let out its balance sheets or its audited accounts due to its desire to live up to its identity as a private society, whose money was nobody’s business. The law has changed that course and now there are 10 annual reports, including balance sheets, found on its website. The last report available to the public is from financial year 2016-17. The Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators took over in January 2017 and an absolute hullabaloo over the BCCI’s finances followed.

The audited accounts available to me are from 2017-18, one year later from the last accounts released on the BCCI website.

With the pandemic having wrecked the cricket season, leaving the livelihood of domestic players at peril, I wanted to know how much money was instantly available to the BCCI? Take away expenditure, liabilities, amounts attached surplus by courts...what was Indian cricket’s cash in hand?

I sent the document to a friend whose business is these very things—financials, taxation, balance sheets, investments, expenditure—and asked him to pare down the accounts to the barest bones of what was available for instant access by the BCCI.

The figure that came back was: Rs4,506.94cr. (US$615.8M) from audited accounts that are three years old (the BCCI can contest that of course). In the interim that figure would not have decreased.

From this tiny purse emerged Rs202crore. That’s the total interest earned from the BCCI’s fixed deposits. Which brings us back to the question the men who run Indian cricket don’t want to address—what will it cost the BCCI to remunerate its players and officials for a season struck by the pandemic?

The BCCI has to cover for 36 teams (not counting Services and Railways who are paid out of our taxes). These are made up of senior men (three tournaments a year), three age groups -- under-23, under-19 and under-16 men (two tournaments each), senior women, under-23 and under-19 (who play two tournaments in every age group). The minimum number (without differentiating between white and red ball specialists) is around 5400 players. Plus 500 odd officials—umpires, referees and scorers.

That FD interest of Rs202crores (or four IPL matches) from three years ago could easily take care of them, with sufficient leftovers. No need to touch anything else. How long will it take to do it? From asking around Indian cricket, the outside time limit I’ve been told is two months at the most.

Last week, a former cricket administrator who writes a column for HT, Amrit Mathur, provided a careful breakdown in these pages of how the BCCI could distribute its revenues fairly among its players. There can be other methods of cash distribution to the men and women who form the talent base from where our best players emerge.

The BCCI has not even twitched in their direction, other than homilies of "believe us, we will pay our players". When? After new rights deals are signed in 2022? This lack of urgency and responsibility towards those outside Indian cricket’s elite bubble is a profanity.

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The BCCI’s daily lectures from UAE bring Uganda to mind. Last year during their pandemic, the Uganda Cricket Association reached out with relief aid in cash and kind to 1500 people: their playing community, 100 cricket teachers, the residents of the low-income neighbourhoods around their main stadium and development hubs. Uganda Cricket’s CEO Martin Ondeko said to me, “We did not want them to think that we, that cricket had forgotten them.” Uganda Cricket’s annual budget is one million dollars.

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