BCCI wields the carrot and the stick
The timing of a slew of announcements may be incidental but the Board of Control for Cricket in India issued an emphatic, carrot-and-stick response to the Indian Cricket League. On the one hand, it passed the expected strictures on the players, current and former, associating with the ICL; on the other, it rewarded those who stayed behind, hiking payments for first-class cricketers and making the domestic game a far more attractive proposition.
The significance was lost in the dry delivery of N Srinivasan, the board treasurer, who said the members of the BCCI unanimously passed all the resolutions put before the special general meeting. This meant that Kapil Dev ceased to be the chairman of the National Cricket Academy (NCA), with immediate effect, and all the players who joined the ICL would not derive any benefit from the BCCI.
"Kapil Dev ceases to be the chairman of the NCA," said Srinivasan, putting to an end the long-running speculation over his fate. "Ajay Shirke will associate as chairman till the next AGM [on September 28], when a new chairman and board will be appointed." This also means Kapil will no longer be part of the recently formed cricket advisory committee, comprising former India captains, set up to advise the board on an ad hoc basis.
Srinivasan was equally unambiguous when replying to a question on the players who have signed up to play in the ICL. "Every individual has the right to associate with the BCCI or any other organization. If he chooses to be part of any other organization then it is he who is leaving. If an individual chooses to associate with someone else it is his decision and we wish him luck. But he will not be a part of BCCI activities or derive any benefits from the BCCI."
It was not so much the board that was banning players, Srinivasan stressed, but each individual choosing how he wanted his future to pan out. "It is the player who is deciding. We are not deciding," he said. "But you can't have a foot in both places."
Asked if someone from the ICL had approached the BCCI with a view to a reconciliation Srinivasan said he was not aware of any such approach. He also stated that it was unlikely there would be a way back for a player once he decided to leave the BCCI and associate with an unauthorised body like the ICL. "I don't think so. Once a player has made his choice, he is there."
Was the fact that as many as eight players had left from Hyderabad and seven from Bengal a reflection on how those state units ran their cricket? "It is not at all a reflection of state associations. Everybody is aware of who are the players who have gone," said Srinivasan. "The players have gone and they have themselves stated that they have been offered large sums of money. The bench strength is strong. In fact we see this is as an opportunity for younger players."
Srinivasan cited the example of Tamil Nadu, where he is hands on as far as administration of cricket is concerned. "In every state you have hundreds of players. Every time we run a selection for Under-13s or Under-15s we have hundreds of talented kids coming in. If some go elsewhere it won't make such a big difference. We don't want to make too much of this."
Interestingly the resolution to take action against players who joined the ICL was passed unanimously, and there was a one hundred per cent attendance of members. This means that the Railways Sports Promotion Board, after offering its grounds for use to the ICL, voted in favour of denying players the right to derive any benefit from the BCCI if they associated with the ICL. How Rakesh Yadav, the Railways representative at the special general meeting, will reconcile with Lalu Prasad Yadav, the federal railway minister who made the earlier promise regarding the grounds, remains to be seen.
It is only a coincidence that the finance committee met on Sunday and finalised the accounts for the financial year ending March 2007. This meant that the board was also able to make public the exact value of the 26% of gross receipts that goes towards the payment of players' wages. An increase in the board's surplus, to Rs 232 crore, from Rs 33 crore in the previous financial year, automatically meant that the players' fees became much more.
Players will now receive between 25 and 26 thousand rupees per playing day (for senior domestic tournaments) for the year 2006-07, and that, based on projections is likely to go up to 36,000 per day for the 2008 season. The board's practice was to pay out 4000 rupees per day for each match during the course of the season and the difference at the end of the year when the accounts were finalised. That cash allowance has been increased to Rs 10000.
What's more, the board announced a revision of the total prize money for various tournaments it conducted, increasing the existing Rs 60 lakh to 4.2 crore. This means that the team winning the Ranji Trophy now nets Rs 50 lakh (previously 7 lakh) and the team winning the Duleep Trophy gets Rs 30 lakh (previously 5 lakh). The board announced that this was with effect from the 2005-06 season, which meant that they would be retrospectively paying the champions from the last two years.
Srinivasan also explained that the board and its affiliate units had spent Rs 190 crore over the last financial year on creation of infrastructural facilities. A majority of this went towards 11 associations who had either completed building of stadia or were in the process of doing so. Srinivasan said that the board had seven more proposals for construction of stadia in the pipeline.
The other major change from the round of meetings, also expected, was that national selectors would be paid, rather than hold honourary posts, from 2008 onwards. However, the members felt there was no need to make a constitutional change stipulating that the minimum eligibility to become a national selector is to have played five Tests or 50 first-class matches. Instead they left it to the working committee to decide on criteria from time to time.
* Overall income for the year 2006-07 is Rs 652 Crores as against Rs 430 Crores in 05-06 and Rs 210 Crores in 04-05. The projected income for the year 2007-08 is Rs 862 Crores (US$210,192,635.94).
* 850 players and umpires fall under the Platinum Jubilee Benevolent Scheme. The total outflow per year for the scheme is around Rs 15 Crores ($3,657,644.48) annually. This includes the benefits to widows of Test Cricketers.
* All senior domestic tournaments will be video recorded in order to tag decisions made by umpires which will later be analysed. This will cost Rs 3 crore ($731,528.90). The board has entered into the agreement for a period of 3 years with Cricket Australia for training and development programme for the umpires.
* The Board is in the process of negotiating and collecting all archival materials to set up a state of the art museum at the headquarters at a cost of around Rs 10 Crores ($2,438,429.65).
* The amount set aside for expenditure on women's cricket is around 6-7 Crores ($1,463,057.79 to $1,706,900.756).
* The BCCI will set up a National Cricket Academy at Bangalore on its own premises. The NCA is currently housed by the Karnataka State Cricket Association at the Chinnaswamy Stadium
* The Board is also planning to create an indoor academy of international standards at Delhi and a zonal coaching academy at Kolkata to serve the East and North Eastern States.
Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo