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Cricket Australia?s contract system can be an education

India is still grappling with this issue but annual contracts for players are working quite smoothly in Australia. The arrangement between players and Cricket Australia (CA) is pretty straightforward - top players are signed up and paid a guaranteed retainer for their services, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2003 00:01 IST

India is still grappling with this issue but annual contracts for players are working quite smoothly in Australia. The arrangement between players and Cricket Australia (CA) is pretty straightforward - top players are signed up and paid a guaranteed retainer for their services.

Players are selected by national selectors and the value of their contracts is determined not on seniority but value to the team. Depending on utility to Tests/one-day sides, players are graded, seeded and ranked as tennis players are for major tournaments.

This process of picking/grading players, far from being arbitrary, is brutally transparent.To decide player rankings, inputs of the national team coach are considered but the captain is excluded from the process because he too is subject to selection.

What's remarkable, however, is results of this examination are advised to players and their managers. Each one is taken into confidence, and thus knows why he occupies a particular place in the ladder.

Player payment is linked to his rating (whether 1 or 21) and related to the total amount available for distribution towards centralised contracts. As part of an on-going arrangement, 25 per cent of CA's total revenue (which includes income from tickets/catering/merchandising/TV revenue) is earmarked for players' fees.

Of this, centrally contracted Australian players receive 55 per cent and the rest is shared by first class players. Base annual salary is around $1,25,000 but top guys (Ponting, Gilchrist) earn almost four times that amount.

A similar contract system works at the state level. But here, teams have to stay within a budget sanctioned by CA and they must recruit between 16 to 20 players.

A minimum wage is also prescribed and accordingly, a first class player takes home approximately 80,000 to 100,000 dollars every year, which is a decent, liveable salary.

While Australian players are covered financially, the life of professional cricketers is far from cosy. If contracts are not renewed, for whatever reason, they are very much on their own. Jobs are scarce, and as players are usually without other marketable skills, they are almost unemployable.

To guard against this, CA and state associations have welfare officers working with players to teach them skills, enabling an easier assimilation into normal, non-sports careers once active playing days are over.

Player contracts work in Australia because players and CA see each other as partners not as adversaries.But like India, Australian selectors are not paid (they are only reimbursed expenses), not all are past Test players (example: Chairman Trevor Hohns). The state of the Pura Cup is no different from Ranji.

Nobody watches these games. Grade cricket is competitive but its two-day matches are played over successive weekends.

State sides have full time paid executives, mostly non-cricket professionals, but most of the officials put in honorary work.

Past cricketers are involved in technical jobs but must contest elections for administrative positions. As in India, there is no fast track for players in the cricket structure.

First Published: Dec 30, 2003 23:38 IST