What would Barack Obama’s take be on the issue of salaries for India’s cricket selectors?
The American president has been batting aggressively off the front and back foot, driving, cutting and hooking against Wall Street honchos from the time of the economic downturn of 2008, calling them “fat cats” and wanting their bonuses curtailed and taxes increased.
Like the CEOs and executives he has lampooned for getting a raise even during the economic downturn, would Obama look askance at the selectors getting a whopping 50% hike in salary? That too in a year in which India have lost eight of the 11 Tests (since they went to the West Indies in June 2011) they’ve played overseas, have a 50-50 record in One Day Internationals (ODIs), failed to reach the final of the Asia Cup and failed to reach even the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 Championship?
In the controversy last week over whether Mohinder Amarnath should or should not have been retained as selector, the massive pay hike announced by The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for selectors this year has been glossed over. I think, however, that this has far-reaching consequences for Indian cricket.
From being an honorary post till a few years ago, the selectors became “professionals”, earning Rs.40 lakh per annum when Dilip Vengsarkar—a former chief selector—created a ruckus about the money he stood to lose in this job.
Vengsarkar was out of power when the BCCI decided to revise its policy, but his loss was the gain of his successors, starting with Krishnamachari Srikkanth and his cohorts (which included Amarnath for a one-year period), who were suddenly richer by Rs.40 lakh for a job they would otherwise have done for free.
This amount has now been ramped up to Rs.60 lakh. The new chairman of the selection committee, Sandeep Patil, will earn Rs.10 lakh more than his colleagues because he has been plucked out of his job at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), where he was earning about Rs.70 lakh.
It is hardly the fault of Patil and Co that they are the beneficiaries of such a windfall. All earlier sins of omission and commission lead to the outgoing committee headed by Srikkanth which—barring Amarnath—enjoyed a four-year run.
The team did achieve some wonderful victories in their tenure, including becoming No. 1 in Tests and winning the (50-over) World Cup. But it does seem odd that the selectors should receive a pay hike in circumstances when Indian cricket has hit a truly mediocre patch.
I am not against selectors being paid for their services. It is a demanding job which requires time, expertise and acumen. When the sport has become a multi-billion dollar industry, it is puerile to expect people to work for free.
The BCCI has also done a disservice by making membership to the governing council of the Indian Premier League (IPL) an honorary posting because of the dispute involving the original inductees, the late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Sunil Gavaskar.
This can only reduce accountability and lead to future problems.
It is good form that a cricket board, which has gotten even richer in the past year, is willing to share its pecuniary gains with the selectors. My concern is whether pay hikes and bonuses for selectors shouldn’t be incentivised rather than freely doled out even when Indian cricket has hit a crisis of sorts.
Selectors are not players and, therefore, are only indirectly responsible for a team’s performances. But if their earning capacity is increased substantially even in a lean period, would they be truly worried if the team wins or loses?
It makes more sense to have a base salary—say, Rs.40 lakh—which is appraised for increment every year subject to inflationary and other pressures, like most paid employees in the corporate world. Bonuses, if any, would be subject to how the team fares.
The other aspect of paying selectors—which appears to have played a big part in Amarnath’s ouster—is that more former players are now vying to be part of the committee, leading to a lot of lobbying, simply because the monetary rewards are so high.
Amarnath’s worst critics came from the north zone; they alleged that the former Indian middle-order batsman spent little time in his own zone and, therefore, was unfit to be in the selection committee.
A hefty salary can create a healthy, competitive environment. But the BCCI has to ensure that it does not get mired in politicking for power and pelf. Reckless and irrational pay rises can only feed such greed. In the long run, that would be self-defeating.
Ayaz Memon is a senior columnist who writes on sports and other matters.