A tent at Cross Maidan is U-23 Mumbai off-spinner Salman Khan’s home. He is the son of a groundsman, who looked forward to summers when he could earn money preparing grounds for camps and club matches but now the Khan family is staring at heading into the monsoon without any savings.
Salman, 21, was looking forward to the Mumbai Premier League (MPL) in which he was to play for Akash Tigers, which in a normal summer would’ve brought him Rs 1 lakh – an amount he could’ve used to move into a rented house with a roof on his head. If the coronavirus pandemic has scuttled the lives of hundreds of first-class cricketers waiting for payments for last season, the situation is distinctly wretched for the rungs below.
Salman, who turned up for Railways trials, is uncertain of any progress on that track too, and waits these days for free ration from generous souls. A few Mumbai Cricket Association officials did lend a helping hand.
“Had MPL happened, I would have shifted my family from this tent to a rented place somewhere in Mumbai. But is bimaari ne sab tabaah kar diya. I don’t have a job and my limited savings are fast disappearing,” the young spinner says.
Cricket, where even the fourth and fifth rung could carve out a comfortable livelihood in normal times, is seeing the base of the pyramid crumbling gradually. Most ominously, around 350 club and state cricketers and 51 coaches in Mumbai, Saurashtra and Tamil Nadu – three of the worst affected regions – will miss out on earning money this summer as the three associations are likely to suspend their annual state T20 leagues in the coming days on account of the increasing number of Covid-19 cases.
“It’s looking very tough at the moment to hold our league. Our big worry is what happens if there’s no domestic cricket,” says SCA secretary Himanshu Shah. Local T20 leagues help players earn between Rs 75,000 to 5 lakh while marquee players make between Rs 6-7 lakh.
Saurashtra paid Rs 25,000 per game to its Ranji players during the SPL while under-23 players made Rs 15,000 and others Rs 10,000 for every game. However, young pacer Chetan Sakariya, part of the Ranji Trophy winning team, is waiting for the BCCI to release match fees and prize money before his savings get exhausted. The disappointment of a suspended season is also hurting cricketers who usually play minor county cricket in England for three months.
Sandeep Konchikor, a club player from Dharavi, was looking forward to the MPL. “I would have earned 8-9 lakh by playing MPL and club cricket but no cricket means a big loss of income,” he said.