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Money worries haunt match officials as domestic cricket begins with Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy


CHENNAI: On Sunday, India's domestic season will get underway with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy after a delay of approximately 100 days caused by the pandemic. 

Thirty-eight teams --- 30 in Elite and eight in Plate --- are based in Kolkata, Bengaluru, Vadodara, Mumbai, Indore and Chennai for the tournament that will be held in a bio-secure environment. Red, Blue, Green zones have been created across all the venues to ensure a Covid-free tournament.

Since this is a curtailed season, it is not clear at this stage if there will be any other domestic tournaments. In a regular domestic season, the BCCI conducts 2036 matches across all formats and age groups beginning September. Considering the safety parameters, it has been decided to start with the Mushtaq Ali T20s as it only requires a short window and acts as an audition for the IPL with the players' auction scheduled for early February. 

A smooth conduct of this tournament could go a long way in extending the domestic season, which will invariably help many whose livelihood depends fully on it. While the bio-secure protocols in place have led to teams being bigger than usual (20 being the common number), the ones who are already feeling the heat because of a shortened and delayed season are the match officials, scorers and video analysts. 

For instance, the 20 umpires in Group A (Rs 40,000 per day) draw Rs 18-20 lakh on an average in a domestic season if they officiate for 60 days. The rest 105 in Group B, C and D (Rs 30,000 per day) earn around Rs 15-18 lakh in a season. 

But this time with only the Mushtaq Ali scheduled so far, they are facing a huge cut in their earnings. For the 169 matches scheduled, the BCCI decided to only make use of 44 umpires and 22 referees, meaning they will officiate only in four matches on an average, which will help them pocket just Rs 60,000 (Rs 15000 per match). The rest 81 umpires and 48 referees are waiting to hear from the BCCI about the compensation package.

"Usually, by November or at the most by December, we used to receive our first paycheque. With the number of matches increasing in recent years, some of our employers didn't grant us leave. So, a lot of them have quit their job to focus solely on umpiring. Rs 15 lakh per season is a good amount, but we have not received anything since last March. I'm waiting for some compensation," says an umpire on condition of anonymity. 

The story is the same with match referees. Out of 70, only 22 will be officiating in the T20 tournament. 

"The BCCI asked who will be interested and 22 of us got selected based on our rankings. We heard that they will compensate us in case the season is curtailed. But since we are without pay since March 2020, it would help a lot of us if the BCCI can release some amount now. A lot of us have quit our job in corporate sectors so that we can dedicate ourselves fully to BCCI. But having been without an income for 10 months, it is difficult to manage expenses," says a match referee who has officiated for nearly eight years.  

Video analysts and scorers have similar tales. Among them all is a common cry -- who will address our concerns.

KVP Rao and Saba Karim, who were looking after the domestic circuit, have resigned from their posts. Even the rankings of the umpires that are updated annually hasn't been done this season. This could have helped a few of them earn promotions. 

After an IPL that has fetched them Rs 4,000 crore why is the BCCI not releasing some compensation remains the question on everyone's lips.