A proposal made by Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) president Vijay Patil, in the wake of Mumbai's excellent showing in the 2021-22 domestic season, has been approved, in principle, during the association's apex council meeting earlier this week. This will have to be ratified at the AGM, likely to be held in August.
"Mumbai has performed extremely well this year and there was always this question of providing security to our domestic players and making sure that we retain the talent pool which we have in Mumbai cricket," Patil told ESPNcricinfo. "I think the gradation contracts will give us an opportunity to invest in our young talent. I am very happy that the apex council has unanimously approved this."
Retainers for senior men and women's teams have been proposed, similar to BCCI's gradation system for its national players. The number of contracts up for grabs is yet to be decided. However, it is likely that those who have a BCCI central contract could be excluded from the list, given the aim is to bring as many players under the umbrella as possible.
MCA's Cricket Improvement Committee, consisting of former players Jatin Paranjape, Nilesh Kulkarni, and Vinod Kambli, is likely to work out the technicalities. As such, the aim is to have contracts in place before the start of the 2022-23 season in September.
"Once we have the ground rules laid out, we'll be good to go," Patil said. "I know that there will be issues and that will take some time. I think it is important that we roll it out and then it can be fine-tuned as we roll along.
"Nothing is like a perfect system, but we've got to make a start. Once that start is made, I think everything else will fall into place. This is the association's commitment to the players. Given the performance of our various squads across different age groups, everyone was of the same opinion that this needed to be done. I am happy that this proposal has been approved and I am looking forward to it."
Talks of player contracts have been gaining momentum ever since hundreds of domestic cricketers around the country were deprived of their earnings during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the BCCI truncating its domestic season. In fact, 2020-21 was the first time that the Ranji Trophy had to be shelved because of the pandemic situation in the country.
The players have welcomed the news, even though there is a tinge of apprehension on how and when it would eventually come to fruition.
Last September, the BCCI hiked the match fees for domestic cricketers, with the senior men earning between INR 40,000 and 60,000 per day while senior women taking home up to INR 20,000 per day. But the spin-off effect was hardly felt given the BCCI's domestic season was curtailed in 2021-22.
The Ranji Trophy, for example, was shrunk to just three league games followed by the knockouts. The players hope the board would revert to the original format, which would guarantee a team at least eight or nine group games. This would then help significantly increase earnings.
INR 1 crore prize money for Ranji Trophy runners-up
Even as Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) announced an INR 2 crore reward in addition to the INR 2 crore allotted by the BCCI to first-time winners MP, the MCA has announced a prize money of INR 1 crore for the team that finished runners-up at the 2021-22 Ranji Trophy under Prithvi Shaw's captaincy. The MCA has also matched the prize money announced by the BCCI for the age-group teams.
Mumbai has had an excellent domestic season. The senior men's side reached the Ranji final after six years, the Under-25s were crowned champions of the CK Nayudu Trophy, and the Under-19s finished runners-up in the Cooch Behar Trophy.
The MCA also awarded retired umpires a one-time payment of INR 50,000, while also announcing a prize pot of INR 25 lakh for the ground staff for their work during the IPL, which was staged across three venues in the city.
In May, BCCI secretary Jay Shah had announced a reward of INR 1.25 crores combined for the ground staff and curators of six venues - including two practice facilities - for IPL 2022.