BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had said when he took charge in late 2019 that his biggest priority was to look after first-class cricketers. "That's the first thing I will do, look after the financial health of our first-class cricketers," Ganguly had said at the time.
However, nearly three years on, no state association has implemented player contracts for domestic cricketers. On Saturday, former India cricketer Parthiv Patel, Shishir Hattangadi, former Mumbai player and Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI’s first Chief Administrative Officer weighed in on the need for state associations to have player contracts at Sportstar's West Sports Conclave.
"The international contracts of Indian cricketers began in the Sri Lanka tour of 1997 when someone like Debasis Mohanty was getting the same match fee as Sachin Tendulkar. We met with Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga, and we found out they have a fixed grade system, which we presented to BCCI, as a report, on our return from Sri Lanka. Sachin, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and I were some of the first people to start the negotiations for an annual contract and it got implemented in 2004. Parthiv was one of the earliest beneficiaries of the contracts," Shetty said.
"There was also this incident with Kumble in the Antigua Test in West Indies in 2002. He couldn't play for India for almost an entire season after that, which meant his match fee was zero. So, we had to look into these things because the financial security of a player is also very important. Indian cricketers in the 1970s were paid about Rs 50/day as a match fee, Ranji players Rs 5/day. Ajit Wadekar's team which won the England and West Indies Test series won prize money of Rs 1500/each - look at what the players are paid today. The BCCI has tried to look after players, retired and current. The first-class contracts will happen one day but the modalities of it perhaps need to be worked out by players from each state. You need their inputs."
Meanwhile, Hattangadi highlighted the lack of a financial model worth emulating. "Gradation at the domestic level will always be a challenge because it will be difficult to differentiate between a player who is young and doing well and one who has played for a very long time and has continued playing for such a long time.
Money is there in the Associations, but to be able to differentiate between the players [is the real challenge] because there is no yardstick, no template one can emulate," he said.
Not be all and end all
Ranji Trophy-winning captain, Parthiv, also gave his insights. “When Gujarat won the Ranji Trophy, BCCI’s prize money was Rs 2 crores, GCA (Gujarat Cricket Association) gave Rs 3 crores, so every player – who had played a full season – got approximately Rs 35 lakh, which is higher than a minimum IPL contract (Rs 20 lakh). Every association is taking care of its players, not just financially, but also by making sure that their insurance is being covered. If a player is injured, they are sent for rehab, and some have been sent to NCA (National Cricket Academy). Players are being taken care of. It is not that player contracts are the only thing. Money is being spent, and players are being taken care of.”
The Conclave is being held in association with Hero We Care, a Hero Motocorp CSR Initiative, K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management, Indian Oil, Shiv Naresh, Stag International, SBI and LIC. It can be followed live on sportstar.thehindu.com.
The first edition of the Sportstar Sports Conclave was held in Kerala in 2021. Since then, Guwahati, Chennai and Lucknow have also hosted the event.