The BCCI pension scheme is beneficial to those who have young legs rather than those past the age of 70, writes Makarand Waingankar

The finance committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided to extend the pension scheme to first class players who have never played a Test.

Though the players have reluctantly welcomed the move, it has again exposed the hasty manner in which the BCCI is repeatedly announcing modifications to the plan rather than ironing out all the flaws at one stretch before making any announcement.

The BCCI pension scheme is drafted in such a way that it is beneficial to those who have young legs rather than those who are past the age of 70. The scheme is for the pre-league Ranji period of 1957-58 and from 1958 to 2004.

A player, who has played before 1957-58, is eligible only if has played 10 Ranji matches. This is the biggest flaw in the scheme. From the inception of the Ranji Trophy in 1934-35 till '57-58, matches were played on knock-out basis and many teams would lose in the first or second round thereby depriving a player of playing more matches.

Eligibility criteria

Bhausaheb Nimbalkar, aged 86, played 80 first class matches in 25 years and once scored 443 in an innings, but not having played any Test, he would be entitled to only Rs. 15,000 per month as against a player getting 25,000 per month for playing only one Test.

Similarly, 79-year-old former Kerala stalwart Balan Pandit who played first class cricket for 23 years is not eligible for pension, as he has played only 46 first class matches. Minimum 50 first class matches is the eligibility criteria. When an aged former player is found less deserving of monetary benefit than a much younger former player, it defies not only logic but the basic compassion of fellowship.

By permitting the players who have retired in 2004 to be eligible for pension, the BCCI has equated the younger lot with the players who are above 70 and struggling to make ends meet. With players playing, on an average, 10 first class matches per season, all that they require is to play seven or eight seasons to pocket Rs. 15,000 per month by playing minimum 75 first class games.

The cut-off date of the scheme is 2004. Presuming a 35-year-old player announced retirement in 2004 after playing 75 first class games, he will get Rs. 54 lakh for a minimum of the next 30 years. After his death, his wife will continue to get the amount, but it is unlikely that old cricketers would get even Rs. 10 lakh. And these are the relatively lucky ones, in light of the fact that many who retired before 1957 don't qualify at all.

The BCCI has failed to take into account that from 1934 till 57-58, only 21 Ranji Trophy matches were played in a season compared to 200-odd first class matches played per season for the past three decades.

Again the payment to players playing in this period has been much more than players were getting in the pre-Ranji league period.

There has also been large number of players who were the beneficiaries of the benevolent fund, which started in 1975.

The principle of the fund was to deduct a certain amount from the match fees and equal amount was added by the BCCI for the Test and Ranji match. After retirement, a player would get the amount with the interest of the period that he was playing. Why should such players who have already availed benevolent fund of Test and Ranji trophy get the pension?

Senseless

The BCCI should reframe the scheme to make it more meaningful. For pension to be available at 35 while the former player also has an income from his post-playing profession is senseless enough.

Ideally the scheme for those who played in the post-1957 period should judge merit by performance rather than by the number of matches since the latter is a category pre-inclined to favour recent players as they got to play exponentially more matches.

Applying the payment disbursement formula without having an age bar of minimum of 50 years is not fair to the old cricketers most of whom are badly in need of financial help.

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