What might the heads of India's state cricket associations be doing today - cartwheels in their living rooms, or biting nails down to stubs?
The great IPL rights sale dangles a jackpot before the states. Going by the BCCI's usual 70-30 split of revenue between state associations and its own expenses, the annual handout to states could double from Rs 25-30 crore (approximately US$4-4.6m) per state to anything between Rs 40 and 50 crore ($6.2-7.8m).
Let's look at the numbers from the two BCCI's IPL rights deals over the last four months: the jumbo Star deal means the BCCI gets Rs 3269.5 crore a year; there is also Rs 439.8 crore per year from the IPL's title sponsorship deal (Rs 2199 crores over five years - $341m) with Vivo. That is a total take-home of Rs 3709.3 crore, or about $579m a year. That is before you factor in the broadcast and digital rights for India's home fixtures, which were sold for Rs 3851 crore/ $601m over five years (2012-2018), or Rs 770 crore/ $120.5m a year, a figure that looks modest now, compared to the IPL grab.
Before you down pills for dizziness, some more calculations. According to established practice, after the eight IPL franchises are paid between 45% and 50% of this deal, a good portion, around 70%, of the rest of the IPL cash - about Rs 1141 crore ($178.67m) will find its way every year from the board to the state associations. This is how the IPL earnings have been shared in the past with the associations. In the old days, those numbered about 26 full-member states, some of those headed by worthies who are now busy setting up fresh hurdles to the reform process mandated by Justice Lodha.
These members want to retain control over their territories - so that in their purported desire to "serve the game", they ensure the game continues to serve them. Now that there's extra cash coming the way of the states, they will only fight harder. Who doesn't like an extra Rs 10 crore or so?
In June this year, the BCCI's Committee of Administrators (COA) formally asked the BCCI to remodel the 70-30% funds-disbursement policy for the state associations, asking the board to move away from its annual handouts, and calling for it to "incentivise" state associations by rewarding those who show results in game-development operations. This completely logical idea didn't have a snowflake's chance in hell, and was shot down before discussion. The unrest over the Lodha reforms, however, means that the IPL rights cash flow can become a genuine game-changer in the matter of how states use their money. What if the BCCI decides to change its revenue-distribution rules? If policies in favour of limited tenures and cooling-off periods for office-bearers come into place, seeking votes from state bosses entrenched in their posts for decades might not remain central to the BCCI's fundamental operating procedure.
"We want to create a world-class academy - with three-four grounds, indoor facilities, swimming pool, gym, a hostel, a mess. We want to develop a main academy at Raipur and all satellite academies in the district areas"Rajesh Dave, former secretary of the Chattisgarh State Cricket Sangh
If you were a forward-thinking state association administrator (don't laugh, they do exist) what would you do with such a generous bounty? I asked a few folk in the Indian cricket business - among them those who served, who still serve, and those who wonder if their service still qualifies - about how they would handle such a tranche of money. What emerged was that it was quite easy to spend it wisely. Across four heads:
1. Infrastructure No, no more giant cricket grounds in the middle of nowhere; India already has 24 international-quality grounds available and in use over the last ten years. However spectacular, giant grounds are only used on average for about 20-25 days a year for competitive domestic or international matches. Otherwise they serve merely to generate operational costs.
Infrastructure in this case means playing fields across any given state - with district centres and an expansion into smaller towns. In collaboration with universities and schools, equipping their grounds with basic facilities and simple cricket infrastructure: rooms for players, match referees and umpires; practice wickets; nets; rollers. Setting up feeder academies, hiring coaches to work with children who are drawn in. To spend, in the words of Rajesh Dave, former secretary of the Chattisgarh State Cricket Sangh (CSCS), "on facilities in the rural areas… so that boys can practise all the year round, not seasonally. It is how standards are built." Need a template? Ask Anil Kumble or Javagal Srinath how they set up 40 centres around Karnataka in their three years at the KSCA.
2. Domestic player payments With such generous handouts, each state association can put in place contracts for its players. Salaries of domestic players have largely stayed static over the last ten seasons of the IPL. It has caused, as one official described it "heartburn" among team-mates, over the huge disparity between the IPL high-rollers and those on domestic duty. A state association could offer their best players two grades of contracts - Rs 30-40 lakhs for the multi-format players; Rs 10-15 lakh for the rest. Match fees could be upped from Rs 30,000 a day to Rs 40,000, and an annual increase of a fixed percentage could be implemented, as is best practice in most corporate workplaces.
3. Women's cricket More events, more girls. The idea of a women's IPL will involve another long wrestle at the national level. What can be done for now at the state level is to start working towards increasing participation numbers for women's cricket. Make the push through schools and then colleges, set in place age-group tournaments such as are found in plenty in the men's game. Establish junior girls' and women's teams. Need a template? Ask the Andhra Cricket Association or the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Associations, who have set up academies for women and have active programmes for them.
4. School and college cricket The success of any cricket administration depends, I'm told, on how many kids you reach. Not via clubs or private academies, where costs are high and interests can be politically conflicted. Schools and college cricket cuts through a wider swathe, makes use of grounds already available, keeps kids busy playing matches around the year.
It need not involve expensive facilities; where there is no turf, matting will do. A state-wide schools tournament could easily be run on Rs 3 crore a year, a Karnataka cricket official said. And if the state officials are interested, sponsors can be found.
State associations that invest in state-level T20 leagues - the Tamil Nadu Premier League, the Karnataka Premier League, the Rajwada Cricket League, the Haryana Premier League and such - ensure that their tournaments look snazzy on TV, but these benefit a relatively small number of players and officials. Not quite game development in the best sense of the phrase - unless revenues from these leagues are being used to re-energise schools and college cricket. But for that, the states would have to be audited, and annual grants handed out as incentives. Chicken or egg?
As an associate member before 2016, Chattisgarh worked with Rs 50 lakh a year, but a new injection of funds, says Dave, will help them move up a step. "We want to create a world-class academy - with three-four grounds, indoor facilities, swimming pool, gym, a hostel, a mess. We want to develop a main academy at Raipur and all satellite academies in the district areas." The target, in the next five years, is "for Chattisgarh to be a force to reckon with in the Ranji Trophy".
Dave and his colleagues have had to relinquish office as they have served more than nine years in office. The game in Chattisgarh is being run by an ad-hoc committee, as further court instructions are awaited. At the moment, money is a bit of an issue for the states due to the Supreme Court case, which has led to their funding being held up. But Dave is sure that state associations need to be open to independent audit, and "should be answerable because the BCCI has fought hard for this money… and the motive should be to spend it on the development of cricket and providing facilities to cricketers".
This can work at a larger level for the BCCI too. After the Star IPL deal was signed, there were many asides about how the deal was worth the GDP of many a small nation. The ballpark figure of annual grants to the states - $178.67m - could help run cricket in several neighbouring countries. India Test opener and commentator Aakash Chopra asks if the BCCI might be now able to help its smaller neighbours, among them Nepal and Afghanistan.
To an extent this is already being done in the form of giving Afghanistan a "home base" in Greater Noida, and inviting Nepal to train at BCCI facilities. But given that the Indian board is getting more, it can also give more - perhaps help fund junior cricket in both those countries, provide the building blocks so more young boys and girls can be drawn into the sport. Nothing fancy, just the fundamentals: send coaches and curators over, run short-term courses, get the cricket economy moving in its own way.
If it sounds eerily similar to what some Indians state associations still need to do, ask yourself why, amidst Indian cricket's riches, this has not happened earlier. Despite India's 24 international-quality grounds and multimillion- dollar national-GDP-level annual budgets.