Team India, Indian cricket team
The Men in Blue have been staying at home with an enforced break as the coronavirus outbreak has affected sporting calendar across the world. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Will the likes of Virat Kohli & co have to take a pay cut from the Indian cricket board in view of the uncertainty over a major part of the international cricket season this year, including the staging of the Indian Premier League (IPL)? While the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is yet to take a decision on it, the topic has thrown up a raging war of words between the legendary Sunil Gavaskar and Ashok Malhotra, former Indian Test cricketer and now president of India Cricketers’ Association (ICA).

Malhotra said in an interview last month that Indian national team and first-class players should expect a pay cut in view of the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking a havoc on the world sporting calendar in general - to which Gavaskar waded in strongly in his column.

“One can understand him (Malhotra) trying to curry favour with the BCCI but with whose authority is he talking about the cuts is the question. The current India internationals and the first-class players are not members of the players’ body so he can’t be speaking on their behalf. It’s easy to talk about pay cuts if it doesn’t hurt your own pocket,” Gavaskar wrote in a column.

Reacting to Gulf News in a telephonic interview from India, Malhotra defended his stance - saying that he was only referring to the current trend of top sportspersons taking pay cuts across several disciplines. ‘‘It’s not as if I want the players to lose money, but the grim scenario has seen top England cricketers already agreeing to a 20% pay cut for the next two months while there are talks of footballers having to do the same in major European football leagues. I never said that the BCCI is going to take such a step, but there could be a possibility,” said Malhotra, who was a member of Gavaskar’s Benson & Hedges Cup winning Indian squad in 1985.

“Like with any sport, if you don’t play you don’t get paid and that’s what will happen. What was amusing though was to read that the president of the Indian Cricketers’ Association has said there should be pay cuts for the India internationals and the first-class players too,” Gavaskar argued in his column.

I have nothing to curry favour with the BCCI as I only receive the former players’ pension from them - and I am ready to take a cut if need be this year

- Ashok Malhotra, President of India Cricketers' Association

Rebutting Gavaskar’s suggestion that Malhotra may be trying to ‘‘curry favour’’ with the board, the ICA president said: ‘‘I have nothing to curry favour with the BCCI as I only receive the former players’ pension from them - and I am ready to take a cut if need be this year.”

BCCI, the richest cricket body of the world, will certainly be staring at huge financial losses if the IPL eventually gets cancelled due to the pandemic. The tournament which now acts as the biggest moneyspinner for the board, was scheduled to begin on March 29 but has been postponed till April 14 due to the coornavirus crisis in the country.

When contacted by Gulf News, Arun Dhumal, the BCCI treasurer said it’s still “too early’’ to mull the idea of a pay cut and they will take a decision only after asessing the situation later in the year. ‘‘It’s an unprecedented situation and we are monitoring it as of now. The idea of providing central contracts for the players is to safeguard their financial interests if they miss out on matches due to injuries etc. However, if the fixtures cannot take place under such unavoidable circumstances, then we may have to review the situation,’’ he noted.