BCCI introduces ‘Test Cricket Incentive Scheme’ for senior men

The BCCI has announced a “Test Cricket Incentive Scheme” that will increase a player’s match fee by 300% if he features in more than 75% of the Tests played during a season.

“This scheme is not only designed to encourage players to engage in the purest format of the sport but also addresses the evolving dynamics of the cricketing landscape, ensuring parity with match fees in other formats and league cricket,” the BCCI said in a statement, with president Roger Binny saying, “This initiative aligns with our vision of promoting Test cricket as the pinnacle of the sport.”

ESPNcricinfo has learnt the move was recommended by Ajit Agarkar’s selection panel to encourage cricketers to give importance to first-class cricket. The scheme has been backdated to include the 2022-23 season as well. This means that someone like Cheteshwar Pujara, who featured in seven of the nine Tests (77.8%) India played in the 2022-23 season, will earn INR 45 lakh per Test in addition to his match fee of INR 15 lakh per Test. This amounts to a total sum of INR 4.2 crore (including incentives), as against the INR 1.05 crore he would have earned, as a reward for “prioritising” Test cricket.

In a social-media post, made soon after India’s innings win in Dharamsala that helped them beat England 4-1, BCCI secretary Jay Shah emphasised that this was a “step aimed at providing financial growth and stability” to Test players.

According to the new scheme, players featuring in 50-75% of Tests in a season will stand to earn INR 30 lakh per Test (in addition to their match fees), while those who play in less than 50% of the games will not be eligible for the scheme. This incentive, however, isn’t linked to BCCI’s annual retainers, which is a separate component.

“This pioneering initiative is intricately aligned with our broader vision, which is focussed around the promotion of Test cricket as the undisputed pinnacle of the sport,” Shah said. “As we embark on this journey, we are not only recognizing the invaluable contributions of our players but also fostering an environment that values and prioritizes the essence of the traditional format of the game. This scheme is designed to inspire our cricketers to contribute their absolute best to the longer format of the game. It is a recognition of the unique challenges and demands that Test cricket poses, and through this initiative, we seek to not only reward excellence but also cultivate a renewed passion for the purest form of the sport.”

Late last month, while announcing the annual retainers for 2023-24 that increased the player pool from the existing 26 to 30, the board hadn’t mentioned the amounts for the four contract categories, but ESPNcricinfo has learned that they are likely to go up. This, however, wasn’t part of the announcement on Saturday. Last year, players in the A+ bracket earned INR 7 crore, A earned INR 5 crore, B took home INR 3 crore, and C got INR 1 crore.

Additionally, the board had announced fast-bowling contracts for five players – Akash Deep, Vijaykumar Vyshak, Umran Malik, V Kaverappa and Yash Dayal – to ensure they have access to BCCI’s NCA facility all year round, apart from being eligible to avail the board’s insurance scheme to cover for surgeries and recuperation from injuries.

The development comes at a time where the BCCI has sent out a clear message to players to prioritise domestic – especially first-class – cricket. In a letter addressed to all contracted players, Shah asked players to “prove” themselves in domestic cricket if they aspired to play for the country and warned that non-participation would have “severe implications”.
This came in the wake of Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer choosing to skip the Ranji Trophy for their respective teams despite not being in the national team. Both of them were left out of the list of 30 players who were handed the central contracts.

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