The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) can organise three parts of the Indian Premier League (IPL) across 13 months, but deciding the compensation that they said they would pay India's domestic cricketers and match officials, has taken them over six months.
Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, before leaving for England, warned of risking players’ mental health with long stints in a bio-bubble. But just days after their press conference, the BCCI scheduled the rest of IPL 2021 in September-October, which means that most of India's big stars will be on the road non-stop for the next six months.
The message is clear: Profits take priority, not the players or the people who make the game.
Domestic Cricket Takes Back Seat
Even as the BCCI has managed to suspend and then reschedule IPL 2021 to the UAE later this year, all in a matter of just one month, many of India's domestic cricketers, match officials, ground staff who haven’t been paid in over a year are waiting for the board to announce the compensation package it had promised in December 2020, after cancelling all Indian domestic tournaments apart from two men’s and one women’s series.
According to reports, the BCCI’s delay stems from the dilemma of who exactly to give the compensation to – full squads from the previous season, just the players who played matches in that season, or just probable squads.
Though, instead of treading on the line of caution for the six months as they have, it would be a welcome move from the richest cricket board in the world to instead allot a large lump sum to distribute among the thousands who have not collected a pay cheque for over a year, even if it means certain players and officials, who would not have qualified for a salary this year, get the money.
The board’s inability to get a contract system in place for domestic players all these years cannot be the reason cricketers have to struggle to just run their homes.
BCCI in a Position to Help
Another reason the BCCI could afford financial losses in this matter, rather than players and officials suffer any further due to the delay, is simply because the board has the resources.
According to the financial reports posted on the BCCI's website, in the last financial year, they paid Rs 5 crore, Rs 150 crore, and Rs 162 crore as advance tax in just the first three quarters. That’s in a year most other cricket boards recorded losses due to the cancellation of many international tours.
So, while the BCCI still managed to stay in the green, why can the board not make one big gesture to indicate that Indian cricket is indeed their priority and set aside 10 percent from their profits (just from 9 months) to hand over to the 36 state units to provide compensation to their different squads – men’s, women’s, and age-group squads across the different formats.
Cancelling the Ranji Trophy, India’s premier men’s domestic tournament, for the first time in 87 years last year while being able to organise IPL’s every season, has sent a clear message on the BCCI’s priorities, but now, when it’s time to help the ones that have been ignored for over a year, what better resource to use than the income generated from the premier domestic T20 tournament.
No Rest for Indian Players
India’s domestic players though aren’t the only ones suffering. The Indian men’s team, too, have become the victims of BCCI’s skewed priorities with the board scheduling the IPL in October-November meaning the likes of Virat, Rohit, Bumrah, Rahul and Jadeja will be on tour non-stop for the next six months.
This, even as Virat and coach Ravi Shastri had, before departing for England, warned about the toll long lengths of time in a bio-bubble could take on players' mental health.
"“With the kind of structure we are competing in, it is very difficult for the players to stay motivated and find the right kind of mental space for a long period. Being confined in one area, doing the [same] stuff day in and day out and dealing with high pressure situations.”" - Virat Kohli, Captain, Indian Men’s Cricket Team
Virat had made the statement even before the IPL dates were announced and at which point, this Indian team was supposed to be on a four-and-a-half-month-long tour of England.
The team are already in England and start the World Test Championship final on 18 June after which they get a short break before playing a five-match Test series against England that is supposed to end on 14 September.
After that is what would have been the one month window that Virat and some of India’s big players would have had to go back home, meet their families, de-stress, take some time out, work on their injuries. Instead, the BCCI has prioritised the IPL and scheduled it from 19 September to 15 October – the window between India's tour of England and the start of the T20 World Cup.
"“You can be destroyed mentally being asked to do the same thing day in and day out and then asked to perform. It is not easy to recover especially if you had a bad day.”" - Ravi Shastri
So, the question that now must be asked is if the system needs to be completely broken for it to be repaired?
For the BCCI to realise the importance of the players and their health and their mental health and even their fitness? Not by forcing them to play non-stop cricket like they are right now.
The ECB has a rotation policy for their players. It's been criticised heavily because some of their big players end up not playing key series but then it also means that they have prioritised their players and ensured that they get time off; they get time at home; they get time to rest and be away from the bio-bubble.
When is that time going to come in Indian cricket? When is the BCCI going to prioritise their players and not their profits?
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