Rajasthan's Ranji success masks brewing discord
Rajasthan may have successfully defended their Ranji Trophy title this season, once again outclassing the more decorated first-class teams, but all is not well behind the scenes. The professionals who have been the pillars of the team's success over the past two seasons have been sidelined, and an internal dispute has boiled over following the news that Lalit Modi intends to fight against the present administration.
The first sign of discord appeared last month, when the three professionals - Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Aakash Chopra and Rashmi Parida - were clubbed with the non-playing members of the team for the distribution of prize money. That decision upset the players enough for Chopra to post about it on Twitter: "We, the professionals, are extremely hurt at being treated as non-playing members. It's not about the money but the respect n [sic] justice."
The three players have been widely credited with turning around Rajasthan's fortunes following their last place finish in the Plate Division in the 2009-10 season. Following back-to-back wins in the Ranji Elite championships, to be clumped with the non-playing members has stung the professionals.
Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) defended their decision by arguing that the professionals were already getting their contract fees in addition to their match fees, so they felt the local players should get a larger share of the prize money.
None of the players from the Ranji winning squad have been paid their match fees as of yet, however, though the delay is understood to be business as usual. Players are usually paid at the very end of the season in two instalments.
Despite multiple phone calls, KK Sharma, the association's officiating secretary, did not respond for a comment for the story.
Three days after the RCA's decision not to pay the professionals their share of the prize money, Modi and Sanjay Dixit, one-time bitter rivals in the RCA, also took to Twitter to announce a truce so that they could team up against the current state administration, headed by CP Joshi.
The next day Dixit, who had been suspended as association secretary, was summarily dismissed from his post at an emergency general meeting and fresh elections for secretary called for. The reason, according to PTI: his recent outbursts against RCA and his tweets.
Dixit told ESPNcricinfo that his dismissal was illegal and that he plans to challenge the decision in court. He also said that the current administration lacked the cricketing knowledge needed to run the association. "Professionals have not been given their dues. They have not been given their prize money," Dixit said. "They were paid at par with non-playing members of the team."
Dixit was instrumental in adding Kanitkar and Chopra to Rajasthan's squad [Parida had been signed a year earlier]. The decision was taken at a review meeting following the state's last-place finish two years ago. "We had a fairly competent bowling attack," Dixit said in the wake of Rajasthan's first Ranji triumph. "That's why we were looking for three batting professionals, with the understanding that one of them had to take up the captaincy as well."
The association currently has plans to build a new stadium in Jaipur and is considering a second stadium in Udaipur. Dixit has opposed the building of the second stadium, pointing out that Rajasthan gets an international match about once every two and a half years. Having two stadiums in the state would therefore mean each would only get to host a match once every five years. "For that you want to spend Rs 40 crores on a stadium?," Dixit asked.
In an interview with the Hindustan Times on February 27, Modi said Dixit was a "victim of ministerial ego" and suggested that he had "become a hurdle [to the administration] given his insistence on transparent financial systems and his opposition to the plan of building a big stadium in Udaipur."
Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran
Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo