Why India Needs a Players Association

by Devanshu Mehta

Over at Cricinfo today, Osman Samiuddin makes the case for a Pakistan cricket players association:

There has never been a greater need for one than now. Shahid Afridi’s needless legal battle with the board is only the latest in a burgeoning collection. Shoaib Akhtar’s fight with Nasim Ashraf, the former chairman, went to the Lahore High Court in 2008. Pakistan’s ICL players took the PCB to the Sindh High court as well. These will not be the end.

I would argue that India needs one as well. The current Sri Lankan Premier League dispute is a perfect case. The BCCI has barred Indian players from appearing in the SLPL, saying that the players may find themselves in a bad contract with a private organization with no recourse. This is the kind of dispute a players association should handle. Players must get advice from a body that represents the players. Not the sponsors, or the team owners, or politicians, or hidden agendas, but the players.

This is largely a conflict of interest issue. What is the mandate of the BCCI? The BCCI has multiple interests to look out for– players, broadcasters, “cricket”, sponsors, politicians, money, state associations. So what happens when two or more of these interests are in opposition?

So far, the BCCI has walked a tight-rope quite well. It’s especially difficult when you can simultaneously run the risk of angering Maharashtra supremo Sharad Pawar, and god-to-billions Sachin Tendulkar, and some of the richest men in the country in Ambani and Mallya. Keeping all these interests straight is difficult, if not impossible.

And sooner or later, I predict, there will be a breaking point. Already the injuries to Sehwag and Gambhir, aggravated through the IPL, have brought up significant conflict of interest issues. The ICL was another issue where players could have used collective bargaining and better advice.

India has a players association. Or at least had one. It was launched with much fanfare in 2002, Arun Lal was its secretary and Dravid was pushing for its recognition as late as 2008. Anyone know what became of the Indian Professional Cricketers Association?