What a change from receiving a Test match fee of Rs. 250 in eight annas and one rupee coins around breakfast time during a Frontier Mail journey from Delhi to Bombay and 57 years later receiving the happy news of the BCCI's decision to recognise the retired Test and first class cricketers with a liberal disbursement of Rs. 70 crore as a one-time benefit payment.
Nari Contractor, who played 31 Tests from 1955 to 1962 and will receive Rs. 60 lakhs as a one-time benefit payment from the BCCI recalled the odd occasion when he received Rs. 250 in eight anna and one rupee coins after the Kotla Test against New Zealand in 1955.
“We used to receive the Test match fee at tea interval on the last day. We did not receive the fee in the dressing room for this particular Test. We were paid the money when we were returning from Delhi to Bombay in Frontier Mail. Well, it's a tremendous gesture by BCCI. Even the monthly gratis payment is also going to continue. Having money and not parting with it is bad, but the BCCI has done the right thing and recognised us,'' said Contractor.
The 78-year-old former India captain said he and his team-mates have seen hard times. “We beat Richie Benaud's Australians at Kanpur (known as the Jasu Patel Test because he took 14 wickets), but did not have confirmed reservation for our journey to Bombay. Myself and Bapu (Nadkarni) slept on the floor of a first class compartment.''
The cricketers who played from the 1950s to 1970s like Chandu Borde (55 Tests, 1958-59 to 1969-70, Rs. 75 lakhs), Madhav Apte (7 Tests, 1952-53, 1966-74, Rs. 35 lakhs) and Ajit Wadekar (37 Tests, Rs. 60 lakhs) appreciated the BCCI's decision. “The intention is good and sound, but if it is tax free, it would be really good for the recipients. The State associations can use a portion of the subsidies they get from the BCCI to assist the Ranji Trophy cricketers,” said Mr. Apte, now, 79.
Ajit Wadekar, captain of the Indian team which won the first ever Test series in the West Indies and England in 1971 said: “The BCCI has been recognising the past cricketers by giving the C. K. Nayudu Lifetime Achievement award and also the monthly gratis. It's a magnificent gesture by the BCCI now by its decision to make a lump sum one-time benefit payment. They want to keep the old cricketers very very happy.''
Chandu Borde, 77, said from Pune: “It's a great gesture from the BCCI. We are all becoming old and still have some commitments and liabilities. This money will help us.”
Madhav Mantri, 90, would be the oldest retired Test cricketer who will receive Rs. 35 lakhs. He played three Tests against England and one against Pakistan from 1951-52 to 1955. “Dattajirao Gaekwad is younger to me by seven years and C.D.Gopinath by nine years. So I am the oldest. I got Rs. 60 for my first Test after the War. But the value of the rupee was high then. I used to pay four annas for a hair cut in the 1940s, now I don't have hair and I pay Rs. 70. Money is always welcome. I am glad the BCCI has decided to give a lump sum amount. It will be very useful to former retired cricketers.''
While the retired cricketers expressed happiness at the BCCI's decision, Mr. Contractor is disappointed by the alleged spot-fixing charges against five first class players. “Why should anyone get into all this,'' he asked.
Keywords: Nari Contractor