BCCI's Committee of Administrators chief Vinod Rai (right) speaks to the media as fellow members, former India women's skipper Diana Edulji (left) and banker Vikram Limaye look on during an event at Mumbai in January this year. Pic/AFP
I am writing this open letter to remind you of the many individuals who have the best interests of cricket at heart and have contributed to the development of the game in India.
I was forced to write this letter because I find that Indian cricket lacks a 'cricket leader'. We badly need one, a person who possesses a broader perspective when it comes to sharing the financial windfall and one who takes into consideration the role and contribution of all those, who kept the game alive by promoting and developing it, in their more active days. These individuals have willingly passed on the baton to the next generation. The present-day cricketers have tremendous work ethics and are setting high standards for the next generation, thus raising the bar for future stars.
I would like to remind all concerned that the cricketers who played the game in 1950s, 1960s and 1970s played for peanuts, but their love for the game was instrumental in promotion and development of cricket. Today, they are all over 75 years of age or more, with no source of income except the BCCI pension or their meagre savings. They are forced to dip into their savings for medical and other emergencies of his family, as this generation is too proud to be dependent on their children for financial help. Hence, their pension should be than more those who played later.
Many of those who played the game in 1980s are senior citizens now, but are somewhat better off than those who played earlier. Not recognising their contribution and ignoring them in a financial raise will be unfair.
The 1983 World Cup win was a turning point in India cricket as sponsors started to get attracted to cricket, but in 1990's the late Jagmohan Dalmiya and IS Bindra combination took marketing of the game to a different level and thus, cricketers at all levels benefited. Hence, all those who played and are playing the game after 2000 are now reaping the harvest from the efforts of cricketers and administrators of the past.
The late Raj Singh Dungarpur's brainchild, the National Cricket Academy (NCA) played a huge role in developing talent at the grassroots level, working on the supply line, churning out cricketers for first-class cricket and making the pool bigger to choose for present Team India. The coaches, fitness trainers and physiotherapists were trained to handle the requirements of the modern game at junior and first-class cricket level. How can one forget the sacrifices of the support staff and their contribution to the development of talent? Whose responsibility is it to think about a financial raise for them?
I too endorse the views of Dilip Vengsarkar and Harbhajan Singh, who have called for raising match allowances for under-19, under-23 and Ranji Trophy players as job opportunities have dried up. The game should take care of them financially to enjoy a decent living on retirement. Financial gains will motivate experienced cricketers to stay in the game and this will help junior cricketers to learn how to handle different, difficult match situations.This will be a huge step in the right direction as strong, competitive cricket at first-class level will throw up better and mentally tough cricketers for Team India.
Let's not forget the contribution of groundstaff and curators who work in extreme weather conditions to provide cricketers better pitches for practice and matches. Let's not forget their work on the outfields too. One should not ignore their contribution for the development of present-day cricketers. Despite being unheralded they still work religiously to make cricketing life better for junior and first-class cricketers.
What about 75 years-plus umpires whose efforts have been phenomenal. Many of them used to take leave from work to discharge their duties. Statisticians and scorers too have never been stingy with their time and passion.
I will be glad if the BCCI also acknowledge the efforts of their staff and cricket associations all over India through a good financial packet on retirement. Rewarding those who have worked in the cricket associations for 20-25 years will be a fitting way to acknowledge their efforts.
I am proud of Team India's performance. I acknowledge and appreciate its contribution in filling the coffers of the BCCI. The current players richly deserve to get a raise in their salaries, but comparing salaries with those of other countries is not fair as the standard of living is different. It has to be equated with the standard of living in India.
Team India's head coach Anil Kumble and captain Virat Kohli are in perfect position to take up this 'cricket leadership' role and negotiate financial gains across the cricket spectrum. If this cannot be made possible, the onus lies on the Committee of Administrators to look after the interest of all those who contributed to the country's cricket development.
I am convinced that all those mentioned above have played a role in a cricketer becoming an India player. At least, this is true in my case and I always acknowledge them from my heart. I strongly believe that one who takes care of elders – be it in the family or cricket – is always respected. I hope this open letter is taken in the same kind of spirit with which it is written.
God bless you all.
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