The election of Sourav Ganguly as the 39th president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has enthused Indian cricket lovers like never before. There is renewed hope that Indian cricket will reach heights it has never seen before and be the No. 1 team in all formats of the game.
The task before Ganguly is not easy. For three years the game was being run under the direction of the committee of administrators, appointed by the Supreme Court of India where the BCCI officials had little or no say in administering the game. The team that Ganguly has under him is also new and so they will understandably take a little time to get used to the nitty-gritty of running the game, day in and day out. He has started by saying the right things especially about first-class cricket and the need to make the Ranji Trophy cricketer feel wanted. Making the first-class game strong is the one sure way of raising the standard of the game in the country. Look at West Indies and South Africa cricket today and you will find that it’s suffering because the first-class game is not strong enough to bring new talent to the fore.
The international schedule cuts into the amount of first-class cricket played by an international player and that brings down the standard of the domestic game. Therefore, one of the most important aspects would be to find a window where all international players are also playing the first-class game. There will be two plusses, straightaway. There will be a better understanding of the quality of the cricketers coming through when they play against the international players and, secondly, attendance at the grounds will improve to watch the international players.
Playing meaningless international cricket makes little sense apart from inflating the statistics of individual players and filling the coffers of the board, which surely is not short of a rupee or two. Look at the current international season. No less than four overseas teams are coming to play in India and the nation is also making a trip to New Zealand. That’s just too much meaningless cricket. What sense does a three-match Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka make or even the T20 and One-Day series against the West Indies which India won so easily, recently. Australia and South Africa coming for three One-Dayers each also makes little sense. Where is the context to these matches? These periods could have been used for some players to rest but the majority of international players could have played domestic cricket, which would raise the standard of the game in the country. The BCCI has enough money to last for a generation or more, but if the standard of domestic cricket falls, then that could also dry up the flow of funds.
The Indian Premier League is the money spinner, so that needs to be nurtured too. The gap of fees between the IPL and first-class cricket is humongous and creates unhealthy doubt in the minds of the first-class players if they should be playing the game at all. This can be easily solved by having a salary cap for the uncapped players, which is about double of what the first-class players get for playing a full season. So, if for playing all the matches in the domestic game a first-class player gets about ₹30 lakh, then the salary cap for the uncapped players should be no more than ₹75 lakh. If there is still a demand for the uncapped player above the salary cap, the franchises should give their bids in sealed envelopes to the IPL governing council and whatever is the amount over the salary cap can he used by the BCCI to augment its funds to pay the first-class players. This sealed envelope bid was used many years back in the case of Ravindra Jadeja. This way the uncapped player, who usually only plays in the IPL and no other domestic cricket, won’t get an amount that will cause heartburn among the first-class players and at the same time save the franchises from bidding unnecessarily high amounts for players who, over the years, have simply not been worth even a fraction of the amount that they were lucky to be bid for.
The need to look after the elderly players whose legacy is benefiting the current players cannot be overemphasised. The senior citizens played in an era where there was little money in the game. Today when they need medical attention, they get a paltry amount of ₹5 lakh from the BCCI. The current player gets medical support for surgeries and treatment abroad when most of the treatment is available in India and costs much more than ₹5 lakh. So, this disparity needs to be done away with and the BCCI must look after the senior cricketers just like they do with the current international cricketer.
Sourav has got only a little over 10 months before the cooling-off period becomes applicable. This may not be enough time to make huge changes but if he can set up methods to make Indian cricket stronger and respected all over the world again then he will have done yeoman, unforgettable service to Indian cricket.
Good luck, dada . May the force be with you.
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