Everyone is quick to comment on cricketers' income. What we don't realise is that their careers are short-lived. Many former cricketers are finding it hard to even pay their medical bills. In the wake of this situation, BCCI President N. Srinivasan recently announced that revenue generated from IPL's four play-off matches would be disbursed to former cricketers. This declaration has been well received.
Today, contracted players like Yuvraj Singh are eligible for free treatment but it wasn't so in the past. There have been cases of players succumbing to their illness as the BCCI couldn't take care of their medical expenses due to lack of funds.
“The Board earns around Rs. 10 crore from four play-off matches of the IPL,” says Prof. Ratnakar Shetty, CAO of the BCCI. “The Board President felt this money could be of help to former cricketers who didn't earn as much as present day players do. Modalities are being worked out. Those who have played a minimum of 10 Tests or 75 first class matches till 2003-04 will be eligible for the scheme,” Shetty said.
Around 180 to 200 former cricketers will benefit from this but there are a lot of deserving players who will be left out because of the criteria. What about the players who played before 1957-58 when Ranji Trophy was on a knockout basis. If a team lost in the first round, a player would have only one match against his name in that season.
There are players like M. Balan Pandit of Kerala. In 24 years of playing first class cricket, Pandit played only 46 matches. From 1946 till 1958, he played in the Ranji knockout format. Not having played 75 first class matches, such players do not stand to gain anything from this scheme and they are more than 80 years old.
Evidently, the Board needs a different yardstick for them. Bapu Nadkarni received coins of Rs. 5 for his maiden Ranji Trophy match. Instead of 2003-04, if the cut-off date is 1993-94 the older lot will benefit. The purpose of disbursement should be to help the players who hardly got anything out of the game.
Also, there are a number of umpires who deserve financial assistance too. Like players of yesteryear, even umpires earned little. Many of them are ailing and have age-related problems.
Old players wish the Board works out a medical scheme for them. Dattu Phadkar's family received financial assistance from the Board only after he passed away. But the Board has been magnanimous in taking care of medical expenses of Polly Umrigar, Hanumant Singh and T.E. Srinivasan.
Nowadays pitches are subject to constant criticism and some of the curators are fortunate to get a good salary. But the ground staff — the heart and soul behind the preparation of pitches and grounds — are a neglected lot.
If the Board pays subsidy in crores to affiliated units, it has every right to check how the money is utilised especially as some of the associations are accused of embezzlement.
It's time the Board helps the ones who monetarily gained little out of the game and need it the most now than those who don't even have a silver hair. Let's not forget that Indian cricket's glory was built bit by bit by the sweat and blood of these men.