Ulcers for players and officials
The Committee of Administrators (COA), appointed by the Supreme Court, must be eager to wash its hands off the administration of the Indian cricket board after seeing the kind of issues they have been asked to address in the last couple of weeks.
Over the last weekend, COA members went through a power-point presentation by Chief National Coach Anil Kumble, seeking a steep hike in the emoluments of players - as well as his own and the other support staff. They then smartly passed the buck to the acting office-bearers of the board.
Thanks to the fat Indian Premier League (IPL) contracts to players, who don't even figure regularly for their respective state sides in domestic cricket, there is bound to be heartburn. Also, when someone like Cheteshwar Pujara misses out on the goodies of the two shorter formats, leave alone IPL, it appears there is no justice in the world -- howsoever great a Test batsman one may be.
Kumble, during his playing days, was the man for his teammates to go to for working out numbers and figures, be it their TA-DA or the fine print in central contracts. After the collapse of the board, he has acquired larger-than-life stature, a kind of buffer between players and the administrators.
Kumble's rise is not exactly to the liking of the board's careerist administrators. They feel that he was acting as an advisor - first to retired Chief Justice of India Rajendra Mal Lodha along with a highly influential former board official, and later to the COA.
Still, one need not read too much into the board calling for fresh applications to select a new coach at the end of Kumble's tenure after the Champions Trophy. Kumble's supporters think that it is a mere formality and COA wanted the procedure to be gone through. Some others see it as a sort of snub for someone who has done enough by winning five series in a row -- the West Indies, New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia -- to take the side to the top of the world in the one year he has been at the helm.
The board has made it clear that "to ensure a fair and completely transparent process, a nominee of the COA will oversee the entire process along with the Cricket Advisory Committee". The other extreme thinking is that the board is unhappy with Kumble for seeking a massive hike in his own pay along with that of the players.
Some smell a rat in the board's media release which states that the "board's three-member panel comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman will conduct interviews and seek presentations to select the best possible candidate". This, they aver, suggests that the board is unhappy with Kumble and is looking to bring a former chief coach back!
Kumble pitched his salary at Rs 7.5 crore and wanted the A Grade players who play in all three formats to be paid Rs 5 crore and a substantial hike for those who only play Test cricket.
The board is unhappy with Kumble's recommendations at a time when India's share of the revenues of the International Cricket Council (ICC) has been drastically cut. Also, the board's thinking has always been that the players should not be pampered.
This is where the two friends-turned-foes -- Jagmohan Dalmiya and Inderjit Singh Bindra - differed. Dalmiya always argued while sharing the income that the board should be tight-fisted whereas Bindra always said players come first.
But the board has a point, its primary job is to run the game at all levels, and it's no easy matter to organise close to a thousand matches a season. Of course, Kumble has also sought more money for domestic cricketers. Jumping into the ongoing situation, legendary Sunil Gavaskar rightly pleaded for doubling the pension of former cricketers in their 70s and 80s, and also wanted the board to take care of their hospitalisation expenses. For him, it's no big deal when they can send current cricketers with an attendant overseas for surgeries.
COA has also questioned the TA-DA paid to the board officials and ordered a drastic cut. Currently, the board officials draw $750 (Rs 48,000 approx) as daily allowance overseas whereas the players are paid $125 (Rs 8,000 approx). Hold on, even the state association officials, who go overseas for major ICC tournaments, get paid $500 (Rs 32,000 approx) per diem!
It's simply the money that causes all the ulcers for the players and officials.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are strictly personal.)