The Board of Control for Cricket in India, which plans to hike the playing fees of senior and junior cricketers, has ignored umpires.
The BCCI Working Committee, meeting in Kolkata on August 20 and 21, okayed a plan to share 26 per cent of its revenues with senior, first class and junior cricketers.
Said BCCI Treasurer Kishore Rungta, "International players will take 50 per cent of this money. Of the remaining amount, 10.04 per cent will go to first class cricketers and the rest to junior players."
The Board pays Rs 40,000 for every Test and Rs 25,000 for every one-day international to its cricketers. This amount is further swelled by sponsors' funds and eventually works out to Rs 200,000-plus. After the Board's new scheme is activated, a first class cricketer will get Rs 30,000 per match, in essence more than what an India cricketer gets for playing a one-day international.
This will surely raise the ire of international cricketers who are already upset at the Board's failure to introduce a gradation system for players, resulting in Parthiv Patel -- who didn't play a single game -- earn almost as much as Sachin Tendulkar from the 2003 World Cup.
But more seriously, the Board has ignored the lot of umpires who continue to receive only Rs 1,500 per day for domestic games. On the international stage they get the same Rs 40,000 and Rs 25,000 from the Board which an India cricketer does for Tests and one day games respectively.
No less than 140 first class umpires arbitrate domestic games. An umpire at the junior level receives Rs 1,000 per day.
Says Yashpal Sharma, the former Test cricketer who is now a first class umpire: "It is pitiable. For a match in Bangalore, I sometimes have to travel three days in a train, suffer five days in the sun for a pittance. And I get only Rs 800 to arrange for my stay and food per day!"
He feels poor financial returns not only affect umpiring standards, but also actively discourage former players and others to take up umpiring.
"While a batsman can get out to the fourth ball he receives, we stand in the sun for seven hours without a break. I can tell you it can be really sapping," he says.
The Board's annual profits amount to Rs 100 crores (Rs 1 billion). Income sources include sponsorship rights, media rights, tour guarantees, guarantee money from events organized by the International Cricket Council and the Asian Cricket Council. Besides, there are merchandising and licensing rights and guarantee money received from affiliated units for allotment of international matches.
The income streams exclude income on interest and investment, sponsorship of junior cricket, sponsorship of the National Cricket Academy and zonal cricket academies and umpires' sponsorship.
Rungta said domestic cricketers will also benefit from an insurance scheme.
"The principal amount for each player will act as security with LIC (the Life Insurance Corporation), the interest of which will be used as the premium."
But umpires continue to languish without adequate reward for their labours. Their ranks include former Test players like Yashpal Sharma who decided to become umpires after the Board gave them an assurance in 1995 that they would be promoted to the international arena because of their experience.
"This led to 10 Test players deciding to turn umpires. While six cleared the test, the remaining four could not get through," Sharma says. "Now we are disinterested. Except for Sadanand Vishwanath and me, Maninder Singh and Lalchand Rajput have hardly stood in any game in the last two seasons. So also Pranob Roy."
He said interest has waned because the Board has changed its stance and now says umpires will be promoted to the international level on the basis of seniority. "Former Test cricketers are not given priority even though they were lured to umpiring on such a promise in 1995," points out Sharma.
Umpires are also put under considerable pressure because of the ratings state captains allot for the referees' performance on the field. "You look at all this and let me know why would anyone try to become an umpire," Sharma says in disgust. "Except for those who are of low calibre who survive on manipulating bills by having matches allotted close to their cities."