Money matters!

India’s international players have little to complain about revenue sharing. It’s the domestic players who need to be given more so that cricket becomes a serious career option for them too. Indian cricket is on the cusp of a change, and maybe all this will become a reality and the ugly spectre of what happened in Australia won’t be seen in India.

As the BCCI president, Jagmohan Dalmiya was in favour of the players. He agreed to give the Indian players 1% more of the revenue share than the 25% the Australian players were getting then, according to the columnist.   -  AP

Much to the relief of the cricket world, the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) have come to an agreement on the pay structure and revenue sharing over the next five years. This means, the Australian team will be able to start touring and doing what it does best: play cricket.

That the dispute had dragged on for so long, almost five weeks after the previous agreement had ended, is sad indeed. The fact that the players were never directly involved in the discussions is all the more reason the delay was disappointing. The players were kept in the loop by the ACA officials, and their views were sought, but they were never directly in contact with the ACB officials. What the ACA has done is to get a five percent increase in its revenue share from what it had in the previous agreement and also same pay scales for both men and women. This is a massive achievement, and it will set the template for negotiations by the players’ associations in other countries.

The Honourable Justice Lodha Committee had recommended that there be representation of the players’ body in the running of the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), but even more than a year after the recommendations were accepted by the Supreme Court there is no sign of a players’ association being formed in India. Frankly speaking, there has been no sign of any of the recommendations being accepted at the time of writing this column. So we will just have to wait and see if and when they will be implemented.

The players first formed the Indian Cricketers Association in 1976, when the Indian team touring the West Indies got together and decided on doing so. The Association was short-lived, though. However, during that time it had achieved a few things too.

After the Indian team returned home, the office-bearers of the cricketers’ association were invited to meet with the top honchos of the BCCI. The meeting would have been in a shambles but for the sagacity of the then BCCI president, Ram Prakash Mehra. ‘Shahji’, as R. P. Mehra was known, had played first-class cricket himself, and so was sympathetic to the players. But he was hamstrung by the other officials, who were under the impression that the players’ body would be like a trade union and would resort to strikes etc. That, however, was never even a consideration for the players, who simply wanted some issues like travel, hotel and insurance to be sorted out. There was, of course, the fees part, but more than that it was the other facilities that the players were keen on to ensure better performance on the field.

For example, if the hotel rooms are not comfortable then the player doesn’t get good sleep and enough rest for the next day’s play. The travel, too, has to be comfortable and at a good time so that the player reaches the next venue without too much discomfort. And then, of course, insuring against injury — which is always an occupational hazard for a sportsman — is one thing that will put a player’s mind at rest if that unforeseen accident were to happen.

We were also given contracts with the Board to sign at the departure lounge, so we never had any option but to sign them. Some of the clauses in the contracts then made no sense at all, like not taking control of the aircraft we were travelling in, not having any family member travel on the same aircraft...

So, for the next tour we got our contracts at the training camp, and we had ample time to discuss amongst ourselves and get back to the BCCI about the clauses we were uncomfortable with. To the Board’s credit, they removed those clauses so that we could travel without any reservations in our mind. The hotels as well as the timings of the flights were better too.

Since the Board had been so understanding, there was no need for any special meetings with them, as any of our needs could be referred to the Board secretary, who in turn would get it approved. So, the need for a cricketers’ association petered out, thanks in the main to the positive attitude of the then BCCI members. 

There have been a couple of attempts more at forming the players’ association in India, but unless the current internationals join in, the association won’t be effective.

It will be interesting to see how the Indian players react to the revenue share that the Australian players will get after the latest agreement. When Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya, one of the most forward looking administrators, was the BCCI president, he agreed to give the Indian players 1% more of the revenue share than the 25% the Australian players were getting then. However, with the BCCI’s revenues burgeoning, thanks to the TV rights, title sponsorship etc., the Board suddenly realised that they were giving such a huge share to the players. So the smart ones got together and decided that first, all the subsidies to the state associations and other sundry expenses had to be accounted for, after which 26% of the balance would be shared among the playing fraternity, with the international players getting a large share and the junior teams and women’s teams getting the rest. Interestingly, the revenues from the Indian Premier League are not included in calculating the amount to be shared with the players.

Be that as it may, the international players have little to complain. It’s the domestic players who need to be given more so that cricket becomes a serious career option for them too. Indian cricket is on the cusp of a change, and maybe all this will become a reality and the ugly spectre of what happened in Australia won’t be seen in India.