Performance-oriented policy looks good only on paper

THE working committee is the decision-making body of BCCI even though its decisions too have to go to the Annual General Meeting for approval but because the members of the Working Committee are invariably the most powerful in the Board, the approval for their decisions at the AGM is a mere formality. The Working Committee normally meets in May, but this time it has met a month late and taken some far-reaching decisions if one goes by what has appeared in the media.

The headlines were of course for the decision of the working committee to go for a graded system of payment to the players and also to give a bonus of 100% more if the team beats a higher ranked one and 50% to be deducted if it lost to a lower ranked side. Obviously these proposals have to be conveyed to the players for their observations before they become part of the package. The gradation is going to be done in four categories with the top category getting Rs. 75 lakhs, the next two getting, 60 lakhs and 30 lakhs respectively, and the last getting Rs. 15 lakhs. The performance-oriented policy looks good on paper but, with a guaranteed gradation system, may perhaps come a cropper. For example a player who is guaranteed Rs. 75 lakhs is not really going to be too bothered if the team loses to a lower ranked team and he thus gets 50% deducted from his match fees. He still gets over a lakh after the deduction so how does it encourage performance. Now if there was no gradation but there was deduction in fees then there may be an incentive for the players to ensure that they did not relax or get complacent.

If today the Indian team is not bothered about the fines that it gets for a slow over rate it is simply because the fines are for their match fees which constitute perhaps 20% of their total package with the rest being logo fees. So it does not make any difference to the players if 75% of that 20% is deducted as fines for slovenly over rate. They are still making 80% plus for their playing and that's why the Indian team has got one of the worst over rates in international cricket and that too in spite of having a spin based attack. The recent report of the ICC indicating that the Indian team was the worst behaved in international cricket should also make the BCCI stand up and take notice. The ICC has gone by the number of players reported by the match referee and irrespective of where one stands about the Mike Denness induced situation, the fact remains that the Indians are either not aware of the ICC code of conduct or are simply not bothered about it.

It is this latter trend of thought that needs to be looked at for if it becomes contagious then it will affect performance for as long as a player is getting his fees and doing enough to retain his place for the next game there is unlikely to be improvement in our win record particularly overseas. The defeat in the West Indies still rankles for it was one of the weakest West Indian teams ever, especially the bowling and yet, with the kind of batting superstars that India boasts of, they caved in not once but twice to lose a series they should have drawn if not won. That there was only one change made to the team just goes on to show that the players are pretty sure that even if they lose they are not going to be punished.

The deduction of fees will only work if there is no gradation, as also the incentive of a bonus for once the guarantee is removed then there will be a little extra effort. Also the deduction will be harsh on a newcomer who is not on any gradation for it means that he will be penalised for what the bigger, more experienced and therefore more likely to deliver guys fail to do. To a player in the top grade the deduction means nothing. He still gets Rs. 75 lakhs and even if they lose 15 Tests plus 25 one-dayers they still get another Rs. 40 lakhs after 50% deduction so that they will earn over a crore without getting any victories for India. The only way a performance-oriented policy is likely to work is if there are no guarantees in place but of course the players won't agree and why should they for if accountability is to be applied to them then they would want to see it applied all round and not just to them. Also a batsman may score 200 and be on the losing side or a bowler take 15 wickets yet not win and they will be most upset that their fees are deducted in spite of a big effort.

In the headline grabbing announcement of performance-based fees for the international players the issue of the first class players has been ignored completely. Today the first class player is also playing round the year and as a result the companies and institutions, which used to employ players to play in the inter-companies events are no longer doing so, and only offering contracts to the players. The first class player hardly gets Rs. 6,000/- for playing a first class game compared to the Test and one-day international player who gets lakhs for his efforts. Some of the non-Test and one-day international centre association players don't even get any allowance to play, in spite of the Board making a pretty generous financial subsidy for them. So it would have been better if the Board had also looked at the state of the first-class players rather than only the internationals. Since offices are shy of giving permanent jobs because the superstars do not deem it worthy to make an appearance for their office teams in spite of being free, the employers are now having second thoughts, which is bad for the average cricketers. For so long the average cricketer, not necessarily even a first class cricketer, was assured of a job because of the inter-companies tournaments but with those jobs drying up mainly on account of the reluctance of the Test stars to play in these events the average cricketer finds himself being contracted not employed and that as we all know is temporary. The Board has increased the allowances for junior cricket marginally but they can do more for them as well as the first class players. Those are the roots of Indian cricket and they have to be nurtured, watered and that will ensure a better growth. Trying to economise there is a wrong step.

In fact if economising is to be done it should be done by eliminating all the committees of the Board bar the working committee. After all the working committee is the one that makes the final decision of the views of the other committees which work hard but find that their recommendations are overturned at the altar of the Board's vote politics. If you don't believe that ask the Technical Committee of the Board!