New Delhi:His father-in-law was paid five rupees to play in a Test match, India's cricket supremo Sharad Pawar recalls, contrasting that with Mahendra Singh Dhoni being auctioned for Rs six crore.
The BCCI President is amused by the raging debate on whether India's cricket stars are being paid too much money under his stewardship which has seen the launch of the Indian Premier League (IPL), in which many cricketers hit the jackpot.
The big money is not going to spoil the country's young cricketers, he argues, saying "the money will provide stability to their lives and help them perform better".
Pawar's father-in-law, a googly bowler, Sadashiv Ganpatrao Shinde, better known as Sadu Shinde, played seven Test matches for India with a best innings haul of six wickets against England in a Test match at Delhi in 1952. That was the time when players were paid Rs five per Test, travelled by boat outside India, stayed at class three hotels or school hostels, Pawar recalled during an interview to PTI.
Shinde returned from a tour of England and after landing headed straight to Shivaji Park in Mumbai to play a match in more than 40 degree Celsius. He died of sunstroke at 31.
Shinde left his family, including four little daughters, without much support and Vijay Merchant, under whom he had played, organised a benefit match which raised Rs 10,000. Half the amount was spent in education and marriage of the four girls.
The BCCI president says with considerable pride that a newcomer like Ishant Sharma today gets something like Rs 3.8 crore, thanks to the money that has poured into the game.
"You can see boys like Ishant Sharma (USD 950,000), Manoj Tiwary (USD 675,000) or take the case of Praveen Kumar. I know Praveen comes from a poor family and he too got contracted with the Delhi team for some Rs 1.8 crore. Harbhajan (Singh) got Rs 3 crore, while (MS) Dhoni got Rs 6 crore. We are collecting the money but it is spreading in so many sections," Pawar said.
Thankfully, things have changed for good and with the Board initiating a pension fund for the former players, cricketers don't need to worry anymore, Pawar said.
"We have also decided to foot the medical bill of the retired players. Players like Polly Umrigar, a former captain, suffered from cancer and his annual medical bill would be around Rs five lakh. It was not possible for him to pay the amount, the Board did.
"Now the Board is looking after the retired players, while ensuring a bright future for the youngsters as well," Pawar said.
He dismissed notion that the money flowing from all direction was filling only the Boards coffers. "The general impression that money comes to the Board is not correct. For instance, whatever money we got from franchise auction, 80 percent of it goes to the state association to develop infrastructure.
"Besides, we have also allotted Rs 50 crore for Olympic sports every ear to groom players who are either number one or two in the country. The Board is thus helping other sports and spending the money for good cause," Pawar said.
The BCCI chief also confessed that despite the entertainment provided by limited-overs cricket, he remained a purist with liking for Tests.
"I like Tests. I belong to that generation. When the one dayers started we said what is this nonsense?" Pawar said he might be heading the BCCI but he believed in delegating the work to experts as was the case in the IPL.
"We have given full authority to (Sunil) Gavaskar, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Ravi Shastri and asked them to take decisions about the IPL. They are the experts of the field, they understand the game and are dedicated people. I am the trouble shooter. I come (in the picture) when there is a crisis," he said.
Pawar, who is also the Union Minister for Agriculture and the President of Nationalist Congress Party, said he believed in using his influential position for the benefit of the game. "I have been associated with many sports organisations... If we have some position in public life we should use it for the benefit of games.
"This position should be used to build up good infrastructure. Nowadays we also have the important job of providing employments to players.
"We should not be the captains but select excellent people to do the job. We have a good team in the BCCI," he said.
Pawar said he believed in giving opportunities to youngsters and cited the example of Twenty20 World Cup win.
"They got World Cup without proper practise just because we gave them opportunities," he said, adding that the squad for the 2011 home edition of the World Cup would be selected from the pool of current 30-35 players.