The BCCI has ratified a one-time benefit payment to former national and domestic players, totalling approximately Rs 70 crore ($13 million), for their services to Indian cricket. The decision, first announced at the IPL opening ceremony, was confirmed at the board's Working Committee meeting in Chennai today.

The money will come from the proceeds of the IPL playoff games, BCCI president N Srinivasan had earlier said. "This is a small thank you to those who have done yeoman service to Indian cricket."

The scheme, applicable to players who retired before the 2003-04 season, stands to benefit around 160 cricketers. The payments will be made in seven categories, with the top payments going to players who have played more than 100 Tests. Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar fall under this category, and will receive Rs 1.5 crore ($280,000 approx) each.

Other retired Test players will get between Rs 35 lakhs and Rs 1 crore, depending on the number of games they have played. Domestic players who have played 100 and more first-class games will be awarded Rs 30 lakhs, while those who have played 75-99 first-class matches will get Rs 25 lakh each.

It is not yet clear, though, whether Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma, who were both banned for life on match-fixing charges, will benefit from the scheme.

The announcement was welcomed by two India greats, Chandu Borde and Bapu Nadkarni. "Good Lord, it's fantastic," said Borde, who led India in one Test on the 1967-68 tour of Australia, when the regular captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was injured and unavailable to play. He played 55 Tests between 1958 and 1969 and stands to gain Rs. 75 lakh.

Borde's team-mate, the allrounder Bapu Nadkarni, said he had been expecting this sort of an announcement for some time now, having pursued the matter with other former cricketers and former BCCI president Sharad Pawar.

"To be frank, we have been discussing this with Sharad Pawar for the last two to three years. He had promised us it would be done. I heard after the last meeting of the Board that something was coming," Nadkarni said. He will receive Rs 60 lakh for his 41 Tests, played between 1955 and 1968.

"It was time we got something like this as expenses have been mounting with the price rise and medical expenses too going up," Nadkarni said. "We are living on what we had saved from our jobs which, you are aware, were not high-paying in those days."