A galaxy of stars who have done India proud on the cricket field were honoured with benefit cheques, before the start of the IPL final between Kolkata Knight Riders and defending champion Chennai Super Kings, at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here on Sunday.
Srinivas Venkatraghavan, a member of the fabled spin quartet, who also led India in Tests and the first two Prudential world cups (1975 and 1979), and donned the role of an international umpire with distinction, was one of 19 former international and first-class players present at a packed Chepauk stadium.
The cheques were presented by Messrs N. Srinivasan (president, Board of Control for Cricket in India), Sanjay Jagdale (honorary secretary, BCCI) and Arun Jaitley (IPL Governing Council member).
In addition to honouring the stars who retired before 2004, the BCCI also extended the fund to include wives of those cricketers who are no longer with us. Mrs. Nirupama Mankad, Mrs. Eknath Solkar, Mrs. Ramakant Desai and Mrs. Kripal Singh accepted cheques for Rs. 15 crore and 25 lakh on behalf of 34 wives.
Venkatraghavan was then joined by the great Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, both former India skippers-turned-commentators, and Javagal Srinath to collect a cheque for Rs. 6 crore for players who have played 100 or more Tests (Category A).
Navjot Singh Sidhu, scheduled to receive the cheque for Rs. 3 crore on behalf of three players who had played between 50 and 74 Test matches (Category B), was not present on the occasion. Applauded by a knowledgeable and goodly crowd, master tweakers Bishan Singh Bedi and B.S. Chandrasekar, accompanied by Sanjay Manjrekar, collected an amount for Rs. 6 crore meant for eight players who have played between 50 and 74 Test matches (Category C).
A cheque for Rs. 10 crore and 20 lakh earmarked for 17 stars who were eligible under Category D (cricketers who have played between 25 and 49 Test matches) was received by former India stumper Farokh Engineer and off-spinner Shivlal Yadav. Abbas Ali Baig was at hand to receive Rs. 8 crore and 50 lakh for himself and 16 other players who fell in Category E (those who have played between 10 and 24 Test matches).
Oldest living cricketer
One of the loudest cheers went out when Madhav Mantri, India's oldest living Test cricketer, along with Chennai's own A.G. Milkha Singh, was presented with a cheque for Rs. 6 crore and 30 lakh for 18 players who had played between one and nine Tests before 1970 (Category F).
The penultimate group of stars to receive benefit cheques were Rajinder Goel, Amarjeet Kaypee and S. Hyder Ali. The trio was given a cheque for Rs. 5 crore and 10 lakh meant for 17 players who had played more than 100 first-class matches at the end of the 2003-04 season (Category G).
The presentation concluded with K. Bhaskar Pillai, Col. G. Inderdev, C.D. Gopinath and V. Sivaramakrishnan accepting an amount for Rs. 13 crore and 75 lakh on behalf of 55 players who had played 75 to 99 first-class matches at the end of 2003-04 season (Category H).
Sunday's short and simple ceremony was the fourth and last of such presentations that had started with the first qualifier at Pune and continued at Bangalore and Chennai before the eliminator and second qualifier respectively.
The wonderful gesture by the game's governing body in the country to utilise the revenue surplus, totalling Rs. 70 crore, from the IPL and Champions League T20 to benefit around 150 cricketers has been praised by the stars and fans of the game, for it has not only recognised the deeds of the internationals, but also those who have brought joy with their exploits at the domestic level.