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Covid-19 forces BCCI and cricketers to brace for loss of income, pay cuts

With the IPL looking ever likely to be scrapped, the BCCI is staring at massive losses. Will it cut retainerships of players and salaries of staff?

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Kolkata: Irrespective of when Covid-19 is overcome, or at least contained, the world has already changed. The economics of sport too is bound to change. It has to.

It is a mightily sensitive issue, but across the board, the more practical are reconciling to the prospect of pay cuts in their particular disciplines in 2020-21 and beyond.

In any case, receiving the much-feared pink slip or being placed on furlough are infinitely worse.

It is still early to estimate the losses, as there is no clarity on anything, but the eventual figure specific to sport may be of Himalayan proportions.

Naturally, going forward, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) almost surely stands to get affected. The debate can only be over the extent of the pandemic-caused hit it takes.

Joe Root and Tim Paine, Test captains of England and Australia, respectively, have been realistic about the possibility of pay cuts.

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Gavaskar’s spat with ICA chief

An observation by Ashok Malhotra, president of the Indian Cricketers’ Association (ICA), however, led to a strong response from the iconic Sunil Gavaskar.

“I know it’s not fair to reduce the salaries, but if the parent body is not earning as much as it was doing before, the cricketers will definitely have to expect a pay cut,” Malhotra stated.

Gavaskar’s counter was fierce: “Like with any sport, if you don’t play, you don’t get paid and that is what will happen. What was amusing, though, was to read that the president of the ICA has said there should be pay cuts for the India internationals and the (domestic) first-class cricketers too…

“One can understand him trying to curry favour with the BCCI, but with whose authority is he talking about the cuts in question? The current India internationals and the first-class cricketers are not members of the players’ body, so he can’t be speaking on their behalf…

“It’s easy to talk about pay cuts if it doesn’t hurt your pocket.”

Gavaskar is, of course, correct when he says that Malhotra does not represent either those turning out for India at this point in time or even those exclusively playing domestic cricket. That is because the ICA represents retired cricketers, including those who have got the India cap.

Contacted by ThePrint, the Kolkata-based Malhotra appeared unfazed.

“I did not set out to start a controversy. I only pointed out that if the IPL isn’t held or the T20 World Cup (in Australia later this year) is scrapped, then the BCCI’s revenues will dip. Cuts will have to follow…

“It’s my opinion and I do have a right to voice it. I don’t know why Mr Gavaskar, my first India captain, has to pick issues with me. But, then, he has always had a soft corner for me. It was evident during my playing days too,” Malhotra asserted, somewhat caustically.

Malhotra seemed hurt by one comment from Gavaskar, about currying favour. “I don’t have to seek favours from anybody. I hold an honorary position, as mandated by the Supreme Court-approved constitution. I am willing to take a 30 per cent cut in my monthly pension from the BCCI, which is around Rs 40,000.”

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Losses BCCI & players face

With Covid-19 continuing to recast the global canvas, it is safe to assume that IPL 2020 will have to be cancelled, unless the BCCI is really desperate to go through with the trend-setting T20 tournament.

The BCCI has not mentioned a figure, but if the IPL is scrapped, the collective loss may total as much as Rs 4,000 crore. That sum is an assumption.

On record, the BCCI’s treasurer, Arun Dhumal (brother of Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur) has maintained: “Whatever the steps after this setback, they will be taken judiciously, keeping the interest of all in mind. Any step taken needs to be thought out.”

Twenty-seven India internationals feature in four slabs of annual retainerships, ranging from Rs 7 crore to Rs 1 crore. Plus, they get match fees, which are uniform for the playing XI. The fees are handsome: Rs 15 lakh for every Test, Rs 6 lakh and Rs 3 lakh for each ODI and T20I, respectively.

Those not in the XI, but in the squad, get 50 per cent of the match fees.

Will there be a downwards revision? This tricky ball sits in BCCI president Sourav Ganguly’s court.

At the purely domestic level, cricketers get match fees and a share of the gross revenue, calculated at the end of each financial year.

A decline in the BCCI’s gross revenue will hurt everybody, including those who feature only at the domestic level.

In any case, players are “easy targets,” as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Manchester United manager, underlined Tuesday. His focus was on footballers and pay cuts, but many will express the same sentiment when it comes to cricketers.

Prof. Ratnakar Shetty, a veteran administrator, who has held positions in the BCCI and in the Mumbai Cricket Association, gave his take.

“In the absence of a definite calendar, it’s probably better not to speculate at this juncture as there is no loss of revenue in the financial year 2019-20…

“However, if the IPL doesn’t happen, then there will be an impact on revenues for 2020-21, inviting consequences,” the Mumbai-based Prof. Shetty noted.

Eye on highly-paid staff

Another veteran familiar with the goings-on in the BCCI said the “very highly paid staff” should voluntarily take pay cuts. Even the President of India and the Prime Minister are, after all, taking that path.

Rahul Johri, who remains the CEO, has an annual package of Rs 6 crore plus bonuses/incentives. The last CFO, one learns, was placed in the over Rs 3 crore bracket. Then, quite a few who sit at the BCCI’s HQ, in Mumbai, are in the Rs 1.5-Rs 2 crore package.

The veteran observed: “Earlier, the BCCI’s office expenses used to be minimal. But, once appointments of the so-called professionals happened (around 2016), everything went for a toss. Expenses went through the roof when Vinod Rai, the Supreme Court-appointed chief administrator, monopolised power.”

Ganguly and Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary, are understood to be unhappy with the “financial management,” which has come to light after they assumed office last October.

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