Is the BCCI unfair in expecting its marquee players, who they've invested in so much, to represent the country in an International game? Or, are the broadcasters unreasonable in insisting that India plays its star players each time, since its revenues plummet the moment Sachin or Dhoni abstain? And more importantly, are the players selfish in asking for a well deserved breather after being on the road for the longest time possible? Logically, none of the grieved parties seem to be asking for more than their fair share. Yet, they seem to be have collided head-on.
BCCI pays huge sums to its players via the retainer fee, the share of the profits and the match fees. They not only take care of the expenses incurred for medical treatment but also deduct nothing from the annual retainer fee if a player gets injured. Yes, the BCCI do make a lot of money from selling the broadcast rights, but simultaneously spend enormous sums to keep Indian cricket healthy by investing crores on domestic structure. And hence, they are only justified in demanding players who are fit to make themselves available for selection each time India is locking horns at the International Level.
Now we all know that the broadcasting rights for series in which India is involved are sold at astronomical prices. Now, the only way to make money for a broadcaster (if he shows all six balls of an over) is through selling advertising slots at equally exorbitant rates. While the broadcaster can't chicken out at the last moment if certain players choose to opt out and the series ceases to remain high profile, the sponsors don't have such obligations. If Sachin, Dhoni and Co. decide to not play, sponsors too would stay away from such events. Now, it's only fair for the broadcaster to put pressure on the BCCI to ensure a full 100 per cent participation of its marquee players.
Lastly, it's imperative to realize that a player is far more susceptible to wear and tear than a layman. It's an arduous job to play at the highest level, match after match, and yet maintain the intensity without breaking down. For those who cross the dreaded 30+ mark, it takes a lot longer to recover as compared to those in their 20s. And it's not just the rigors of playing in pressure cooker situations everyday but also the travelling and the scrutiny by a billion people that takes its toll. If players, in such a scenario, refrain from asking for rest, they'd run the risk of a burnout.
Ironically though, however much the players would want to rest, if given a choice, they wouldn't miss even a single match. The importance of playing for India is not wasted on them. Yet, they know their bodies better than anyone else and try to address its demands, lest it brings a premature end to their career. It's not just the Indian cricketers who're demanding rest; Alistar Cook from England has suggested that players might have to go on a strike to avoid burnouts since the people who're running the game look least concerned about players' concerns.
So, what's the way forward? Firstly, it's imperative to acknowledge that T20 cricket is both the present and the future of the game, consuming over 3 months of every calendar year. And, I'm only talking about the IPL and the Champions League. The way this format is generating revenue and fan base, it's guaranteed to grow further. While only the foreigners had been making the tough choice between Club and Country thus far, now even the Indian players playing in the IPL have decided to give the upcoming West Indies tour a miss.
The situation is getting alarming, and to avoid just that, it's about time we make this so called domestic tourney into a world event with more participation from other countries. How about making it a 12 or 14 team event which goes on for about 3½-4 months non-stop? Allow the bigger nations to own a franchise each or simply share relevant revenue with these nations. There won't be any international cricket at that time and hence it will ensure a 100 per cent participation of both viewers and players. In return, every country will get a justified share of the pie and not just 10 per cent of salary of the players from their country.
Yes, it will eat into ODI cricket but then so be it. We must let go of meaningless bilateral series' like an India-Bangladesh series or the series in the West Indies between India-A and West Indies A. Playing more multi-nation tournaments is ODIs future. Yes, a few bilateral series could still continue to exist but there must be some relevance to those contests.
Test cricket is cricket's flagship product and should not be seen as the money-making format. One can try innovations like playing a day/night Test match but we must not go too far from the basic foundation of Test cricket. Test Championship is a brilliant concept and so are the contests like The Ashes, India-Australia, South Africa-England etc. Nations cutting their teeth into Test match cricket can stay a level lower and compete among themselves till they are ready to step-up, for getting mauled over five-days isn't helping them improve either.
A huge overhauling of the FTP is in the offing which must address these pertinent issues or else we may see a lot of players not only choosing Club over Country but also premature ends to several careers in one format or the other.