It is money that makes the cricketing world go round. The IPL with its auctions and unlimited amounts of moolah has re-defined the sportsmen's approach to the game. It has set off a trend that can be career-altering for the cricketers.
With hardly any job opportunities coming their way and blatant nepotism in the selection for State teams, all that the players care for is a contract with any of the IPL teams.
That it is an unhealthy trend is what old-timers will say. But if one goes through the problems the performing talented youngsters go through these days, no one will begrudge them this opportunity that IPL presents to strengthen their bank balance.
The kind of money that was pocketed by some of the international cricketers in the auction may look disproportionate to the skill they possess, but that's how an auction works. This will devalue not only the National championship but also the face of domestic cricket.
Though a present day cricketer can easily make Rs. 10 to 15 lakh in a season playing senior cricket, the IPL ensures more money with lesser effort. There have been cases in the past three years of players faking injury and avoiding first class matches to play only in the IPL.
One possible solution to reduce the disparity between the payments of first class cricket and IPL is for each State to follow the BCCI policy of graded system of players. BCCI's graded system takes care of the financial security of contracted cricketers.
To chuck out nepotism in State cricket, each association must submit the names of the players to the BCCI which should then form categories based on performances.
In the Elite Division each category should have not more than five players and there should be a maximum of two categories. This will not only motivate the contracted players but would also throw a challenge to players who are not contracted.
In Plate, there can be three categories so that the category two and three will have the motivation to get into the top category. If one analyses the level of play, there is hardly any difference between some of the teams in the Elite and Plate groups. The emergence of Rajasthan, which was at the bottom of the Plate last season, proves that just three professionals can make all the difference. And the team that lost to Rajasthan had won the Ranji Trophy for a record 39 times but indulged in corporate politics at the cost of the performers. The loss that Mumbai suffered was waiting to happen. It is just that they survived in the league.
That the managing committee of the MCA thought it fit to ask the cricket improvement committee to summon the senior selection committee, after four hours of deliberation, speaks of the politics that was played while picking the team during the season.
If this could happen in a team that boasts of strong ethos, surely the smaller teams must have bigger problems.
Recent cases of age fudging include the President of the Goa Cricket Association allegedly falsifying his son's age for him to play in the third year of the under-15 and a 16-year-old boy who claimed to be 13 while scoring 439 in one of the inter-school matches in Mumbai.
These strongly suggest that the BCCI has to have a system for contracts even for junior cricket.