Cricket has been followed like a religion in India for the last three decades. Before India gained Independence on the 15th of August 1947 only rich ‘Maharajas’ could afford to play the Sport as the types of equipment used in the Sport were too costly. The Sport has seen its popularity grow after every passing decade. During the 1950s, cricket was considered a rich man’s game. The types of equipment required to play Cricket were only affordable to the higher class or businessman’s children.
During the 1960s, Cricket started getting more attention, and players from the middle class also started playing the Sport. Although, the salary earned by cricketers during that era was very low when compared with the salaries received by modern-day cricketers. We have heard stories of past cricketers for whom it was difficult to earn a livelihood through cricket. For ex., Janardhan Navle, who opened the batting for India during the 1930s, was the son of a farmer. He was a security guard at a Sugar Mill. The wicketkeeper-batsman was praised for his wicket-keeping skills in Wisden Magazine. Even former Cricketer Jack Hobbs compared him to George Duckworth. In the case of Budhi Kunderan, considered among the best wicketkeepers during the 1960s, the Mangalore born lived in Mumbai (as his father worked in Voltas in Mumbai) in an area that was very noisy. To get enough rest before a match, he slept on the terrace of one of the Health Clubs at Azad Maidan, where it was less noisy.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Indian Cricketers received 2500 per Test match. For an ODI game, the players received Rs 200 as a match allowance and Rs 1500 per game. Players couldn’t afford to eat at hotels and depended on roadside foods. Players used to work in Banks and Private limited companies for extra income.
Enter the 1990s, and cricket got a big financial boost. Transworld International (TWI) and Doordarshan signed an agreement of $1 million. The BCCI’s revenue touched $600000 during that period. Cricket started to become more commercial as more and more international sponsors and private entities started providing more financial heft, seeing that cricket would be a big market in the future. During the 1990s, Indian players also started playing in English county Championships and getting offers from Advertisement brands. Indian players started to earn lakhs, and a big player would earn almost 40 lakh per season, excluding Advertisement.
Former players like Madan Lal earned 5 lakhs per month as a coach, while Kapil Dev earned 4 lakhs per match as a coach during the 90s. During a Test match, a player received Rs 1.1 lakhs per game; during an ODI match, a player received Rs 1.01 Lakhs. In 1995, Worldtel signed a contract with Sachin Tendulkar worth 22.5 crores for five years, which in a later period became the master batsman’s first 100 crore deal in advertisements. Rahul Dravid was paid Rs 20 Lakhs for a year by Pepsi. Anil Kumble was paid 60-70 Thousand Pounds for playing in English County Championships. Even some cricketers who had retired during that time were paid Rs 15000 to Rs 50000 as a columnist.
During the 2000s, Indian players witnessed a different jump. Apart from match fees, players were divided into three groups. Grade A players received 60 lakhs per year, Grade B- 30 Lakhs, and Grade C – 15 lakhs.
Later, it expanded to four groups, with Grade A players getting the same salary, while Grade B, C, and D getting 40 Lakhs, 25 lakhs, and 15 lakhs, respectively. After the introduction of IPL in 2008, cricket became a big business and career option for budding cricketers. Cricketers became big celebrities as they started big Advertising agencies.
During 2009-10 Grade A players started getting 1 crore, with top players like MS Dhoni being included in that bracket, with Grade B getting 50 lakhs. After some years, the BCCI announced that Grade A players would get 2 crores annually, Grade B players would get 1 crore annually, and Grade C Players would get 50 lakhs. This bracket further got a push when Grade A+ players got 7 crores annually, Grade A players got 5 crores, Grade B players received 3 crores, and Grade C players received 1 crore.
Indian cricket has grown rapidly over the last three decades, and today, Indian cricket is the ‘Big Boss’ in terms of financial heft. Indian players are part of big advertisement brands like Reebok, Fastrack, Puma, Audi, etc. This is surely a matter of pride not only for the BCCI but for the entire nation that Indian Cricket is the powerhouse of cricket globally.
In a recent development, the Indian cricket board has announced that the centrally contracted Men and Women cricketers of the nation will receive the same match fee, a historical decision welcomed by people around the globe.