The Indian Cricketers’ Association (ICA) president Ashok Malhotra spoke to The Indian Express, touching upon issue like conflict-of-interest and whether the ICA should be part of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA). Excerpts:
What does it mean to you that for the first time a cricketers’ association has the BCCI’s recognition?
The most important thing is that the ICA is for the cricketers’ benefit. For the first time a cricketers’ body has the BCCI’s recognition. Before this also, cricketers had associations. But those associations were made by the top-level players. They had their own kind of agenda. In this association, there are already 1,250 members. We aren’t talking about the elite ones. We are talking about first-class cricketers. We are talking about those former cricketers who aren’t probably financially well-off. I will try to definitely talk with the elite cricketers also, but they are already very well-off. We aren’t getting the same kind of pension for the last seven-eight years. Plus, people who have played less than 25 Ranji Trophy games don’t get pensions. Youth internationals should be paid at par with the Ranji Trophy players. Women (international) cricketers should be paid at par with the Ranji Trophy players. There’s a huge difference (in wages) between the international men cricketers and the international women cricketers. That also somewhere we try and work.
Age-fudging is a serious problem in junior cricket. Will the ICA try and look into the matter?
At junior levels, there is a lot of age-fudging. We saw that in Bengal cricket also. We will try and curb that. If a 19-year-old is playing at U-16s, then he will dominate the U-16 guys. And good talent would be left behind. And ultimately the U-19 guy will be found out, when he plays the Ranji Trophy.
Does it help that Sourav Ganguly is going to be the new BCCI president?
It’s a great thing for us that we have got a cricketer president. Sourav knows about cricket and cricketers. He has had been the CAB president for four years. So he knows what to do and what not to do. So we can request him and the BCCI to help the cricketers. We have a start. We have a meeting on October 16, where the directors of the ICA will sit and there will be a lot of brainstorming. Then, we have our spokespersons in Anshuman Gaekwad and Shantha Rangaswamy, who will be putting our words across to the BCCI.
Are you satisfied with the way the ICA elections happened?
Absolutely. It was e-voting. So, whosoever voted, everybody has his/her own mind. But for us, the eight of us (directors), to satisfy now the demand of these 1,250 cricketers is not going be easy. And we are going to open the membership for the rest of the people. So it’s a huge responsibility and I will only request the fellow cricketers to be a little bit patient. Because, it’s not going to be an overnight job.
What does it mean to you that you are the ICA president?
Honestly, I’m surprised to say the least. I’m also surprised that I was elected unopposed. I have been given the responsibility to look after the welfare of the cricketers. So I will try to do it to the best of my ability. I have played cricket for 24 years. I have been a selector. I have been a coach for a few years. So I have 30-35 years of cricketing experience behind me, and I know the grassroots-level cricket and cricketers. I can tell you that the first three-four months are going to be very, very vital. Because, most of the cricketers are going to expect something from us. Every cricketer has his/her own picking and his/her own agenda. To satisfy everybody, it’s not going to be (possible). But we will try to work for the benefit of the majority of the cricketers.
How significant it is that two ICA representative nominees would be at the BCCI apex council?
Up till now, no cricketer was there in the BCCI. Now, we got two cricketers in every state association. Thirty-eight state associations have two cricketers (each) in their respective apex council. So, 76 cricketers in state associations, plus two in the BCCI. And they will be our spokespersons. And what Justice Lodha has done, he has given the voting rights to former international cricketers in every state association. That means we go to the associations with the right to vote. That’s the biggest plus for us.
What’s your take on conflict-of-interest?
See, I’m doing an honorary job for the ICA. I have to earn my bread and butter. You can’t expect me to do an honorary job and stop working as a commentator. I have to earn my livelihood. I have to run my house. So, conflict-of-interest is a lit bit of a funny kind of thing and I’m sure, as Sourav said, he will look into this and definitely good sense will prevail. I think the current conflict-of-interest clause carries things a little bit too far.
Do you support the ICA’s affiliation to the FICA?
Why not? Once there’s a cricketers’ association, I’m sure we will have interaction with the cricketers’ associations of the other countries. The FICA is recognised by the ICC and the BCCI comes under the ICC. I think the BCCI should be OK with that, now that they have decided to have a cricketers’ association.