G. Viswanath

Mumbai: The first class cricketers in the country and many stakeholders have a legitimate right to know how the BCCI’s special committee picks players for the annual retainership, also known as the Central Contract.

There are cases where no explanation is needed, however, in several cases the BCCI has to make a convincing statement.

The chief selector, the captain and coach of the national team and the secretary are part of the special committee. It’s not known whether Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gary Kirsten were asked to give their inputs; however, K. Srikkanth must surely have consulted his colleagues.

The yardstick

To start with, performance with the bat/ball in the previous season is the only yardstick the special committee can consider while awarding contracts. If performance for the national team in Tests or One-Day Internationals is the basis, then one is left wondering why Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma figures in Grade ‘B’.

He has not been capped in Test cricket so far. In the previous contractual period Sharma played against England, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and West Indies and he scored 152 runs in 11 innings in which he remained not out five times. His scores were 11 not out, 3, 28, 8 not out (against England), 25 not out, 4 not out, 15 (against Sri Lanka), did not bat and 43 against New Zealand and 4, 0, 11 and 1 against the West Indies.

Thereafter, he was dropped for the tri-series in Sri Lanka and for the ICC Champions Trophy and he did not figure in the seven-match one-day series against Australia. He had suffered an injury during the Buchi Babu Tournament in Chennai.

He has since recovered, as evident from the selectors’ decision to name him captain of the BCCI President’s XI match against Sri Lanka.

Now, Sharma may be one of the brightest talents, but he doesn’t seem to have fulfilled the potential. He has played 41 matches and scored 695 runs. This, in itself, tells the story.

Fortunate

Sharma must regard himself fortunate to be in the second rung, more so on the day when he made his first meaningful contribution for Mumbai in four Ranji Trophy matches of the ongoing Super League.

S. Badrinath was awarded the Grade ‘B’ Contract (Rs. 40 lakh) last year, but he did not play a single match for India. This time, he has been relegated to Grade C that carries a retainership of Rs. 25 lakh. Why?

There are a number of cricketers who have not represented India in the 2008-09 period and almost all of them have been retained. Notable among them is S. Sreesanth.

It’s time the BCCI makes public the criteria or honest cricketers like, for example, Karnataka’s R. Vinay Kumar and more of his ilk would begin to wonder whether he’s not as good as Bengal’s Ashok Dinda. Two years ago Rajasthan’s Pankaj Singh was in the Test squad in Australia, now he’s been forgotten, but Mohammad Kaif has made the Grade ‘D’ cut.

A few years ago, three senior cricketers opposed the high sum awarded to Grade ‘A’ cricketers and an amount of Rs. 10 lakh was transferred to Grade ‘B’ and Grade ‘C’. Thereafter the BCCI introduced Grade ‘D’ that included players performing in the Ranji Trophy and those picked in the India ‘A’ and under-19 sides.

Time-bound contract

The BCCI also decided to award Grade ‘D’ for a specific time frame to a player selected for a Test or ODI from outside the select group.

The BCCI has embarked on a number of projects and schemes for the development of cricket and it has been transparent to an extent. It’s on the aspect of the annual retainership, for which it sets aside 13 per cent of its gross revenue, that the BCCI has to divulge to the sport’s fraternity how it goes about the business.

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