The imbalance needs to be corrected

When you see that a first class player, who plies his trade for almost 60 or more days in a season, gets not even a fraction of what some of the unknown players get for playing about 16 days of a three and a half hours game in the Indian Premier League, it makes you wonder at the injustice of it all.

“If a player as accomplished as Cheteshwar Pujara doesn’t find a place in any franchise while some others are around for years without getting even the odd game, then it does tell you that there is something besides cricketing skill and temperament that is a consideration for an IPL contract,” says the columnist.   -  K. R. DEEPAK

The Indian Premier League is now in its second half and some teams must be wondering whether the money they spent on some buys is worth it. This is particularly true of the unknown, uncapped players who, on the basis of one performance in some local league, have been bought for crores of rupees. Of course, more than the team owners, it is the scouts who should be asked the question why they were insistent on getting those players.

Sure, a one-off performance can be so good that it can mislead a person into thinking that this is going to be a regular feature, but then selectors and scouts are there just to ensure that the player has the skill and the temperament to do it consistently and not be swayed by one effort. If the selection does not work, then not only the player but the selectors also must face action for costing the owners so much, shouldn’t they?

Unfortunately, the selectors and scouts are too smart and they have managed to get the ears of those who matter, and so they invariably escape the axe while the unfortunate player, who had that one dazzling performance, is back to the grind of club cricket.

While there are some rags to riches stories of players, there are also instances of players having gone back so depressed that they have even given up the game. Have a look at some of the players who did well in the odd game in the early years of the IPL. These players not only did not get to represent their state teams in first class cricket but also lost their place in their club sides.

If a player as accomplished as Cheteshwar Pujara doesn’t find a place in any franchise while some others are around for years without getting even the odd game, then it does tell you that there is something besides cricketing skill and temperament that is a consideration for an IPL contract.

The IPL is an Indian domestic tournament but gets more hype than other domestic events like the Ranji Trophy and other competitions named after Indian legends. It gets more coverage too because of the razzmatazz and glamour attached to it. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but one wonders why even a fraction of that attention is not given to the other domestic events that actually produce world class players for India. Take a look at the IPL and name the players who have come through and gone on to become greats. They may be less than the fingers on both hands.

On the other hand, a well-rounded player emerges only from the first class circuit because he has a better appreciation of technique and develops the temperament to use it appropriately. T20 cricket is a mindless slogging format where there is no question of temperament. There is no penalty for failing too, unless of course one drops catches or mis-fields horribly but there is an excuse ready for every other failure. A bowler who gets hammered always says that in this format he will face that day in, day out. He will complain that the boundaries have been shortened, the bats have become broader and so even the mis-hits go for a six.

The batsman who gets out cheaply will have the excuse that he has no time to play himself in and has to throw his bat at every ball and so he cannot be consistent. Only the fielders have no excuse. So a lot of really ordinary players get away playing this format and even end up being millionaires.

Let me make it clear that there is nothing against these players becoming millionaires, but when you see that a first class player, who plies his trade for almost 60 or more days in a season, gets not even a fraction of what some of these unknown players get for playing about 16 days of a three and a half hours game, it makes you wonder at the injustice of it all.

The BCCI is going through a period of churning, but when it settles down hopefully the administrators will sit down and look at this anomaly of fees and ensure that the first class player does not wonder why he is playing the game when he is not only not getting considered for the national team but is also getting only a fraction of the fees that some unknown players are getting in the IPL.

For starters, the administrators could put a cap on what the uncapped player gets in the IPL. This cap should be commensurate with the maximum that the first class player gets if he plays all the domestic matches. Then, and only then, will the domestic first class player feel that he is not a second class citizen in his country.