A week after the BCCI announced new annual contracts, it has emerged that some players are unhappy with the revised pay structure. Despite the annual retainer having been doubled, it is understood that the players' response has stemmed from the revised contracts not meeting their demands. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that the issue had been a concern for a while and that the players have made a concerted effort to address it in the last few months.
"Things have gathered momentum over the last three months or so, through the New Zealand and England series," an insider aware of the developments said. "Almost every player has been involved in the discussions." The coach, Anil Kumble, who was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the central contracts system in 2003, is learnt to have pushed for a complete overhaul of the existing structure to ensure contracted players get a bigger slice of the whole revenue pie, and not just a percentage of a whittled-down portion.
Earlier this month, Kumble had made a presentation on a revamped compensation structure on behalf of the players and support staff to the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) in Bengaluru. Although one source said the players are likely to meet the CoA in the forthcoming days to revisit the new contracts, a CoA official said no such meeting was on the cards.
The CoA, though, believes Kumble's proposals require an entirely new framework, which will require time to formulate. "Kumble is also aware that it cannot happen overnight," the CoA official said. "That will be thought through and we will see what we can do on that. That is not something that can be done in 24 hours or 48 hours. It will take a lot of deliberation because it is a complete re-think of how the compensation model is thought through."
Last week, a few days after Kumble's presentation, 32 players were handed new retainers, in which seven Grade A-contract holders - including Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane and R Ashwin - will be paid INR 2 crore (USD 300,000 approx) each per year. According to the new arrangement, those in Grade B and C will now earn INR 1 crore (USD 150,000 approx) and INR 50 lakh (USD 75,000) respectively. The match fees were also increased from INR 7 lakh to 15 lakh in Tests, 4 lakh to 6 lakh in ODIs and 2 lakh to 3 lakh in T20Is. This revision in the pay structure was the first since 2010.
The assistant coaches - Sanjay Bangar (batting) and R Sridhar (fielding) - were also given a 50% hike in retainership fees; they will now earn 15 lakh each per month, barring the two-month IPL window, for which they are not paid.
There were other financial rewards, too, with the BCCI announcing payments - INR 50 lakh per player, 25 lakh for Kumble and 15 lakh for each member of the support staff - for India becoming the No. 1-ranked Test side. The ICC also awarded the team USD 1 million for finishing the year as the top-ranked Test nation.
Despite the windfall, some players believe the pay rise isn't commensurate with the growth in BCCI profits. The BCCI's total income in 2015-16 stood at INR 1365.35 crore. Out of this, the board paid a total of 56.35 crore to players. An amount of 46.31 crore was paid as "additional payment to players", as per the board's annual statement last year.
The sticking point, though, is the income from the television rights, which is the board's biggest revenue stream. The norm has been distribution of about 70% of the income - generated from rights - to the state associations. For perspective, when the contracts were introduced in 2003 by the BCCI, the board paid players - both international and domestic, including the junior categories - 26% of the overall revenues. Of this, half (13%) was assigned to the men's international players, while 10.3% was distributed among the domestic players. The remaining 2.7% was allotted to a bracket featuring the junior players, although women were added to this category subsequently.
What has further irked the players is that their annual retainer is comparatively lower than that of their English and Australian counterparts. Different sources have estimated Joe Root and Steven Smith's annual retainers at between INR 8 crore and 12 crore. "When the ECB and CA compensate their players handsomely, why does the BCCI, the world's richest board, not do enough?" the source asked. "In addition, the BCCI's coffers have seen a huge increase since the introduction of the IPL, but the players don't get a fair share of such revenues. It is ultimately the state associations that walk away with the lion's share of the money."
Another source said the BCCI could not use the players' IPL earnings as a pretext for not substantially increasing the annual retainers. "One player might get a contract worth 12 crore, another may be bought for 30 lakh, and there are players who don't get any IPL contracts," the source said. "Why should the board be concerned with the amount of money players make from the IPL? The values of both these properties are different, so why do they connect the two? The BCCI is the richest board and the money is meant to be spent on cricket and cricketers, not stadia."
The other cause of consternation has been the gulf in the pay structures between domestic and international cricketers. A veteran domestic player said there was very little financial incentive for someone to play only first-class cricket. "A player in the Test squad makes 7.5 lakh per game, even if he is not included in the playing XI," he said. "If I play a whole season of first-class cricket - I get paid 40,000 per four-day game, along with a percentage of the board's gross revenue - I will probably make a little more in a season than what a player on the bench makes per Test match."
He said that a contract system had to be put in place for domestic cricketers as well. "The absence of any concrete financial benefit is why people in first-class cricket are constantly looking to play only the IPL," he said. "After all, not everyone can play for India. But, with a system like this, you are not producing people who would want to play Test cricket. The disparity is huge."
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun