The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delayed contracts must be signed before Bangla tour
- Players have reservations, but all may eventually sign on the dotted line

Calcutta: The Bangladesh-bound players, one understands, have “reservations” over the contracts couriered to them last week, but they’ve got to sign on the dotted line before heading for Dhaka/Chittagong.

While the 15 picked for the ODIs leave on May 7, Test specialists Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Wasim Jaffer, Vikram Rajvir Singh and Rajesh Pawar are expected to depart around May 14.

The contracts should’ve been ready by September 30, but nobody has a satisfactory answer for the seven-month delay. Technically, the contracts will run from October 1 last till September 30 this year.

Apparently, the Rahul Dravids had been advised to sign by Tuesday evening, before the conditioning camp got underway, but they’ve actually got time till Saturday when Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Niranjan Shah arrives in the city.

Shah is currently in London, on the way back from the West Indies, where he’d gone as an invitee of the International Cricket Council for the closing stages of an eminently forgettable World Cup.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, “nobody” had signed by Wednesday afternoon. “The players aren’t happy, but they probably don’t have a choice,” is how a source put it.

Unlike in the past, all players have been offered contracts. Earlier, only the select few made it to three categories.

The top reason for being unhappy is the cap on (fresh) personal endorsements — three, excluding cricket gear. Moreover, the hefty retainerships are down to peanuts.

Instead of an assured sum of either Rs 50 lakh or Rs 35 lakh or even Rs 20 lakh during the contracted period, the players now seem to have been clubbed into two categories. The seniors, one learns, are to get Rs 10 lakh, with the others getting half that amount.

The biggest first is, of course, the provision for performance-linked payments. For example, every Test and ODI win as also every series victory is going to straightaway fetch a handsome bonus over and above the scaled down match fees.

This was mooted after India’s Champions Trophy debacle last October and given concrete shape by hardliners such as BCCI vice-president Shashank Manohar.

The World Cup debacle gave the Manohars a heavier stick to beat the players with.

“Eventually, everybody may sign quietly, but there can be resistance if the seniors take the lead in asking for a review... On the other hand, as just five months remain for the period to end, the players could stay put till they’re in a stronger position to bargain... Let’s see,” another source pointed out.

It’s highly unlikely that a Sachin or Sourav will step out of line as they’ve already been kept out of the ODI squad. “Rested” is the official word; “dropped” is what the Kapil Devs believe.

Either way, they’ve been given a ‘message’.

The BCCI, interestingly, has sought 10 “appearance days” for the benefit of the team’s sponsors. The players, however, can’t shoot for personal ones from a fortnight before a series.

That’s another cause for heartburn.

As the contracts are with retrospective effect, there’s some confusion over “implementation.” Shah may well clear the air by the weekend.

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