Expressive smiles could be seen on the faces of former cricketers with the disbursement of the one-time payment in acknowledgement for their services to Indian cricket. But this scheme has left more frowns than smiles and definitely saddened people who haven't got their due.
If the scheme benefited 165 former cricketers, it has hurt cricketers who played Ranji Trophy till 1957–58 when it was played on a knock-out basis.
One can safely say that either the committee that worked out the disbursement simply wasn't aware that the Ranji Trophy was played on knock-out basis till 1957-58 or didn't study enough to understand that very few Ranji matches were played before 1958 and the average number of matches played per season was only 16 compared to 88 per season which have been played till cut off date of 2003-04.
This is the biggest blunder that the Board has committed. It is shocking that consideration wasn't given to those who have played in the pre 1957-58 era and are now more than 80-years-old. Most of them are ailing with age related problems, expecting their children to pay for their illness.
Younger players who are still earning have got their bank balance enhanced but the real needy, the old cricketers who have no means of earning continue to suffer. The three criteria for allocation of money made it obvious that youngsters will be the only ones to benefit as the cut off retirement date was 2003-04.
The criteria should have stated a minimum age of 60. Had that been the case, many old cricketers could have profited. Not only was there no age limit but a further obstacle was created in the name of a minimum of 75 first class matches. Till 1985 only 55 Ranji matches per season were played. This means a player could play maximum of four league matches per season in the zonal league. To play 75 first class matches he would have had to play non-stop for 19 years!
There were very few Test matches then. In 22 years from 1929 to 1951 Vijay Merchant played only 10 Test matches. Umrigar, Manjrekar and Borde managed to cross 50 Test mark. In 10 years Dilip Sardesai played 30 Tests but in the same period Dravid played 100 Tests. Will it be fair to compare these cricketers with the cricketers of post 1990 who are the biggest beneficiaries?
The other contentious issue is concerning widows. Widows who have been receiving monthly pensions have been ignored. Logically if they receive pensions, they are also entitled to receive cheques of the one-time payment scheme. All the widows must get this payment.
There are not more than 20 international umpires who are more than 70-years-old. They receive only Rs. 15,000 as monthly pension. Surely these umpires could have been considered.
If one looks at sports in India, the BCCI has been magnanimous in taking care of cricketers but the grouse too is justified. We should not forget that the object of this scheme was to help older players who did not earn so much during their playing days. In fact they should have been entitled to more aid as the payment would have been the least in their days.
Let's not forget that they too have contributed to Indian cricket's splendour and BCCI stands proud today because of the solid base that these men provided us 50 years ago.