Monetary boost: Domestic players to get contracts
In his first major move as BCCI president, Sourav Ganguly has announced that the board will introduce a contract based system for first-class cricketers, a decision that promises to have a widespread and lasting effect on cricket in India.
“We will bring in a contract system for first-class cricketers,” Ganguly told PTI in an interview. “We (office-bearers) will ask the new finance committee to prepare a contract system. It’s just been four-five days [since he took charge] and in between there was a Diwali break. It will take about two weeks to assess everything and move forward. There is a lot of work going on.”
Ganguly’s BCCI stint will last just 10 months before his mandatory three-year cooling off period kicks in (for completing six consecutive years as a cricket administrator), but improving the payscale of domestic cricketers has long been a priority for him, and it was the first thing he had spoken about when he was named as the new board president.
Domestic cricketers who don’t make the grade for international cricket, or don’t get lucrative IPL contracts, may now see their careers flourish when it comes to their earnings. With the emergence of the IPL, many accomplished domestic cricketers with great records in first-class cricket were left out of the riches on offer from the T20 league.
The minimum difference between a player with an IPL contract and a player without is ~20 lakh per annum, which is the base reserve price for any player with an IPL offer. At the higher end, that difference could run into crores.
“Many young cricketers were giving up the sport because they feel they can’t make a career out of it if they can’t get into an IPL or national team. If they get a fixed contract of around ~20 lakh, it will be as good as drawing a handsome salary,” said Chandrakant Pandit, the coach of Ranji Trophy champions Vidarbha. “In a scenario where jobs are no longer there for cricketers, it (fixed contract amount) will be good for those who put everything in the game, practice four to five hours. A first-class cricketer with a 10-year career will have financial security.”
Given the sheer volume of players—37 teams and roughly 700 cricketers played the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy—it will be among the biggest operations undertaken by the BCCI.
Currently, the match fee for a first-class game is ~35,000 per day (excluding the daily allowance) and the domestic cricketers get 10.4 percent distributed amongst them from the gross revenue earned by BCCI through broadcast rights. A cricketer with a good season, annually earns around ~25 to 30 lakh.
Pandit remembers a time when playing domestic cricket was no career at all—his match fees were in the range of ~1,500 in the 1990s. Things only started to change 2003 onwards when the then BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya announced that the board will hike the fee per match day of cricketers to ~10,000 plus 26 per cent (13 per cent for international cricketers, 10.4 per cent for the senior domestic cricketers and 2.6 per cent junior domestic cricketers) share of annual gross revenue of BCCI.
“After the TV media rights income increased, it was decided by Mr Dalmiya following negotiations with players. The Australia cricket board used to share 25 per cent of the gross revenue with the players at that time, and we decided to share one per cent more,” said Prof Ratnakar Shetty, former CEO and General Manager of the BCCI.
Faiz Faizal, the 34-year-old captain of Vidarbha and a veteran on the domestic circuit welcomed the move.
“All of the youngsters are trying to play the IPL. Many of them are not interested in playing first-class cricket anymore,” Faizal said. “This contract system can change the mentality of the young cricketers. That’s what we want. There should be some sense in the mental approach of a player and the format he wants to play. I don’t find any sense in playing only T20 cricket. Even Virat Kohli says Test is the best format.” Hanuma Vihari, who broke into the Indian Test squad last year after sterling performances for his Ranji team Andhra, said that the contract system may help bridge the monetary gap for various levels of cricket.
“It’s a huge gap between the domestic and higher level,” he said. “So, we can bridge the gap between it. The domestic cricketers really deserve the contract system. I feel this system will encourage more cricketers to play first-class cricket.”