Indian cricket revamp April 9, 2007

Playing for a draw

The Indian board and the players see the need to quickly end the confusion surrounding the new payment system to everyone's satisfaction

Time to talk: The board and the players have some issues to sort out © AFP

As the dust settles on the dramatic announcement of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, there's a distinct shift discernable in the stances adopted by the parties involved. What was building up into a confrontation is now simmering into a game of cat and mouse, the two board and the players attempting to resolve what could be a highly contentious issue and one impacting future generations of cricketers.

On Sunday Rahul Dravid became one of the first international captains - if not the very first - to send out a media release himself. Beyond that fact lay its significance: The tone of Dravid's statement was distinctly conciliatory, and praised the board for their efforts in the past regarding the treatment of players. It would be safe to assume that he consulted his team-mates, and members of the board before issuing a statement; that had the desired effect of cooling down an overheated atmosphere.

In any case, there are firm reasons to assume a solution will be found. Although the board has sent out some strong signals, a lot of this is just posturing. The worst-case scenario - the players' refusal to sign contracts and agree to the new terms - may be a remote prospect but it is frightening enough. It will leave Indian cricket severely devalued. Aside from the fact that the team may not be as successful on the field, the stakeholders who fork out huge sums of money for television rights and advertising will not accept a second-string Indian team simply because there is a lock-out.

The stakes are so high in Indian cricket - unlike in West Indian cricket, where half a dozen cricketers recently refused to sign contracts in a similar row and were simply jettisoned - that ultimately the board needs the big players, the Tendulkars, Dravids and Gangulys, if they are to earn the huge revenues that they do.

From the players' point of view, the threat of a lock-out or strike, is the last possible option for they too need the board. It's not as though a player can simply walk away from playing for India and ply his trade elsewhere in international cricket. The other option, equally unsavoury, is the legal route - the players are aware that their cause will not be well served by battling the likes of Shashank Manohar and Arun Jaitley. And even if they do win, they could still lose - by simply being dropped from the team.

What could help in the negotiation process is the board's proposed system of payments, which it hasn't yet communicated to the players. The bare facts are that the basic match fee will be reduced and incentives will be provided for winning (and drawing) matches and series.

It's understood that some players are not keen on the reduction of the basic match fee (currently Rs 160,000 per ODI, Rs 250,000 per Test) and are likely to push for an increase there and a cutback in the win bonus. However, an analysis of the proposed fee structure shows that the players stand to gain several fold through the winning incentive. Cricinfo applied the proposed fee structure (see table below) to the two most recent full bilateral series, home and away (vs England, home, 2005-06 and vs South Africa, away, 2006-07).

England tour of India, 2005-06 (Tests 1-1, ODIs 5-1)
Match fee Ind. win bonus Ind draw bonus Team series bonus
per player
Tests 600000 500000 300000 500000 1.9m
ODIs 700000 1.5m - 330000 2.53m
Total 4.43m

India tour of South Africa, 2006-07 (Tests 1-2, ODIs 0-4)
Match fee Ind. win bonus Ind draw bonus Team series bonus
per player
Tests 600000 600000 - - 1.2m
ODIs 500000 - - - 500000
Total 1.7m

India in Bangladesh, 2007 (if India win Tests 2-0, ODIs 3-0)
Match fee Ind. win bonus Ind draw bonus Team series bonus
per player
Tests 400000 1.2m - 1.0m 2.6m
ODIs 300000 900000 - 500000 1.7m
Total 4.3m
All figures in Indian Rupees

Under the old system for the England series, the players would have earned Rs 750,000 for the three Tests and Rs 1.12 million for the ODIS, a total of Rs 1.97 million. With the same results (1-1 Tests, 5-1 ODIs) in the new system the players would receive Rs 4.43 million each for the series.

Against South Africa, India lost the Tests 2-1 and the ODIs 4-0 with one match abandoned. Under the old system they would have been paid Rs. 1.55 million. Under the new system, even those ordinary results would see them netting Rs 1.7 million.

The whopper would be the forthcoming series against Bangladesh. If India make a clean sweep of the 2-Test, 3-ODI series, and that is not implausible, they will make Rs. 4.3 million each . In the old system their efforts would have netted them Rs. 980,000.

As the players wait to be formally informed of the fee structure, what is further confusing the issue is the fact that different members of the board have voiced different opinions in the media.

The BCCI is yet to decide when it will pick the team for the Bangladesh tour but an official confirmed to Cricinfo that it would not be before April 15. This gives the board some time to finalise drafts of contracts for the 25 or so players it intend to employ, and then get into negotiations over any clauses that differences might arise.

Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo