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MUMBAI: As the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice, gets together to hear the long-standing case between the Indian cricket board (BCCI) and Cricket Association of Bihar on Wednesday, the onus seems to have moved from mere implementation of the Lodha Committee recommendations to far more serious issues involving the game and its stakeholders, including the cricketers themselves.
The SC-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) wants to pursue a newly-designed pay structure for cricketers and has expressed its wish to speak with India captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri. CoA head Vinod Rai has invited Kohli and Shastri to an informal meeting in New Delhi, the venue of the third Test between India and Sri Lanka, in an effort to “exchange ideas”. This exchange, according to sources, will also involve related discussions on how much cricket India are playing, with captain Virat Kohli recently insisting on better preparation and lead-in time for marquee away tours.
Plans to reduce Team India’s playing days, Indo-Pak series suggested
The pay-structure issue is also directly linked to India’s commitment to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Future Tours Program (FTP). Given the negligible amount of international cricket India are scheduled to play at home in 2018 under the current FTP, the CoA will have a tough time revising salary structures at the national and domestic level unless a new road map is put in place, say those in the know of developments.
“It’s important to listen to Virat Kohli’s views. He spoke the other day of the amount of cricket that is being played and the need for a break. These matters are inter-linked,” said sources.
There are those in the cricket fraternity who strongly believe that a one-onone discussion on these lines will help iron out issues better. However, in doing so, “the administration needs to realise that players alone can’t be made poster boys of such a process”, believe those in the know of developments. They say “seeking the players’ advice is just one of the many things” that need to be done.
The CoA also has to keep in mind that for a salary hike to happen, the BCCI’s general body has to give its approval first. The BCCI is all set to negotiate with the ICC on the FTP at a two-day workshop on Dec 7 & 8, following which a special general meeting (SGM) of the board has been called to debate on the matter.
Between Wednesday’s SC hearing and the SGM, scheduled on Dec 11, the CoA will have to take into account the fact that a pay hike for cricketers will involve a relook into the figure of 26% revenue reserved for players, which will include figuring out what the 26% entails and what constitutes 100% of revenues being discussed.
“The tender for media rights of Indian cricket is coming out in January. If that is the major chunk of the revenue that players will get paid from, then the outcome of that tender depends on the FTP. The FTP depends on the SGM where the BCCI’s general body will want to have a say. So, at the end of the day, BCCI first needs to focus on how much cricket it wants to play at home and away every year and then begin with a fresh outlook on other matters,” said an official tracking developments. “For instance, the new FTP falls in place from 2019, post World Cup. So, are we looking at salary revisions from then on?”
There are those who strongly believe that if BCCI needs to put a revised pay structure in place, it needs to begin from the bottom of the pile. A first-class cricketer takes away a mere Rs 12 lakh from the Ranji Trophy per season, which – given the board’s revenues – is a pittance.
“A chunk of the IPL surplus needs to go here. If you want more Cheteshwar Pujaras in the future, this is where the investment should begin. Then there’s the National Cricket Academy (NCA), which is no better than a dormitory right now. Between all this, BCCI also has to consider that there’s a huge outgo of pending payments, such as Kochi Tuskers, World Sports Group (WSG). Plus, there are other arbitrations going on,” said sources.