A boon for cricketers

Players’ welfare… the initiative taken by the BCCI to enable the fringe players gain employment with the corporate houses is praise-worthy.-G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

The BCCI’s initiative to encourage the corporate bodies across the country to provide jobs to cricketers will have a big impact on the development of the game at the grass-root level.

The 2009-10 season will kick off with the corporate tournament in Bangalore, and it will give the discerning public a chance to see the best of players in action. Since this tournament is conducted by the BCCI, the participation of all the top players is guaranteed.

The very fact that this tournament has been scheduled at a time when there is no international cricket underlines the serious intent as well the importance of this event. The BCCI has taken this initiative to encourage the corporate entities across the country to provide jobs to cricketers, which will have a big impact on the development of the game at the grass-root level.

Over the years, cricketers in most parts of the country had either scarce or no job opportunities and their existence depended on their cricketing graph. A few cricketers would find some employment opportunities if they performed well enough in the first-class circuit, but the majority struggled and yet carried on playing the game out of passion.

If at all there was one region where cricketers had no such worries, it was — and it still is — Chennai as the corporates in this city have always encouraged the game, and any reasonably good cricketer was assured of a job. I wonder what would have been the plight of several cricketers in Chennai if they had not been supported by the corporate houses.

In Mumbai, the corporates that provided employment to cricketers gradually began to ease out of the situation, and by the mid-1990s, the players here became professionals, in the sense that they played cricket right through the year to earn money. Of course, in recent years, the average first-class cricketer does make enough money in a season but cricketers need to look at life after their playing days are over. A lot of cricketers suddenly find themselves in a no-man’s land after their playing days for want of a job. With cricket having become an industry of sorts, there are enough opportunities but not everyone can hope to get a placement.

In this context, the initiative of the BCCI needs to be commended. Its foresight in not allowing the corporates to have guest players will force them to employ cricketers in the future.

The inaugural corporates tournament will see only a limited number of teams in the fray, but there is every possibility that the number of participants will increase in the years to come. However, the only problem with increasing the number of participants is that the busy schedule in international cricket will deprive some corporates of the services of their key players. But if the basic idea of the BCCI is to indirectly create employment opportunities for lesser cricketers then the non-participation of international stars at times can be ignored. Besides, an increase in the duration of the tournament will lead to cannibalisation of one of the age-old tournaments of the country.

What will attract the corporates to this tournament is the huge prize money of Rs.1 crore, and it is bound to increase depending on the response from the public and the participants. However, it will be better if the BCCI conveys the objective of this tournament to the corporates as there is the fear of conflict of interest lurking. By this I mean that the corporates will definitely want to win the tournament and as such they would like to have their best team playing in the tournament.

The absence of even one leading player will make his employer go up in arms, and once something like this begins, the issue can only get complicated. Besides, it has to be understood by all concerned that the top stars don’t really need employment per se as they earn enough to sustain themselves during their lifetime.

The corporate tournament will be seen by some as a breeding ground for the IPL, while some others will see it as their livelihood. It does not matter how the basic objective of this tournament is perceived so long as the fringe cricketers are called upon by the corporates and given appointment letters. Cricketers in the western and northern regions of the country will see a revival of corporate support while the cricketers in the east and south will be delighted that some opportunities are opening up.

The situation of the cricketers in Chennai is unaffected as they are already looked after well by the business houses. While it is all well and good if the initiative helps the cricketers in terms of getting jobs, the BCCI must ensure that its affiliated units do not start something along similar lines in a T20 format. As it is, a couple of associations have kicked off with a T20 league a la IPL, and all hell will break loose if the BCCI does not control the menace in its nascent stage.