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After almost a year of knocking on various doors for their grievances to be heard, 17 former BCCI scorers, whose services had been terminated last year without notice or any retirement benefits, have now formally approached their respective state association heads seeking some kind of relief.

The scorers – those whose detailed scorecards form the foundation of all cricket match records – were all past 60 (with the only exception due to turn 60 during the season) and were retired in August 2019, having touched the BCCI’s official retirement age. Many of them had been scoring BCCI matches since the 1980s; their pleas, which they hope will ultimately make board president Sourav Ganguly change things, are for “some sort of a pension, or even a one-time retirement benefit”, even raising the retirement age to 65.

“We have been kicked out, there’s no other way to put it, after all these years of service and sacrifice,” Tapash Roy, a 65-year-old Assam-based BCCI-empanelled scorer, told ESPNcricinfo.

Nagaraj M, a 68-year-old scorer from Karnataka, received his appointment letter from the BCCI for the Duleep Trophy opener between India Blue and India Green in Bengaluru, starting August 17 [2019]. He got that letter on August 13 but, “within a few hours of being told about the appointment, I was told by a mail from Sports Mechanics, who inform us about our appointments, about my retirement”, Nagaraj said. “There was no notice, nothing.”

The other 16 scorers who are now out of work were informed by their state associations a few days later, after the latter had received a letter signed by Saba Karim, the BCCI’s then general manager (cricket operations), on August 14, 2019.

A senior BCCI official ESPNcricinfo spoke to acknowledged that he was aware of the matter. “Yes, we know this has happened. We can feel bad about it as individuals, but this was done in accordance with the constitution of the BCCI. The retirement age is 60. Everyone is aware of it. There’s nothing that can be done unless the new office bearers decide to change something in the constitution.”

There was no formal retirement age for scorers until the Justice Lodha Committee recommendations, which mandated 60 as the retirement age for all BCCI positions. The ages of those dismissed makes this clear too: the youngest was going to turn 60 this cricket season, but the oldest, MS Rahman from Jharkhand, was 74 at the time of dismissal.

Unfortunately for the scorers, they are not contracted employees, not even on retainers, but are almost like freelancers, without any claim to benefits. That’s just how it has always been, the scorers say, and they have never demanded anything more.

From the BCCI’s point of view, scorers contribute 30-40 days of work every year and contracting them wouldn’t be practical, as Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI’s former general manager (game development), explained. “Introducing a pension scheme wouldn’t be practical. They all get 30-40 matches every year, whether a scorer or a video analyst, and they are all free to work elsewhere. Cricketers are different, but scorers and others are asked to make themselves available when needed, and they can say no,” he told ESPNcricinfo.

“No one in the BCCI is contracted, except the international players. Beyond that, it becomes a matter for state associations to discuss. The salaries for scorers have been enhanced many times in the last 15 years, as has been the case across the board. Even for players, there are a lot of criteria, and they need to have retired before 2004 to avail of the BCCI pensions.”

Pink slip and after

“I was visiting my son in Germany, and I got a WhatsApp message when I landed there that I had been retired. This was communicated to me by the other scorers,” Gautam Roy, a 66-year-old scorer from Bengal, recalled. “We started writing to the BCCI, and to our state associations; someone or the other wrote every day, even to Sourav Ganguly, after he became the president. Lots of BCCI officials, and at CAB [Cricket Association of Bengal], accepted that we had been wronged, but nothing has happened.”

The scorers – a tightly knit group given the specialised nature of their work – began sending their letters and emails immediately after getting their termination notice. There has been no progress, and according to an official from one of the associations ESPNcricinfo reached out to, “We can’t do much, because while we can discuss the matter, the constitution is what it is”.

One letter, signed by Senior BCCI Empanelled Scorers, dated August 29, 2019, went to Karim, calling the announcement “baffling” and “a shocker”.

The letter asked for the following:

  • The retirement age should be fixed at 65, subject to an annual medical test after 60 by a BCCI-approved medical practitioner with only those passing this test allowed to continue in their job

  • All 17 retired scorers be permitted to work through 2019-20, and a permanent retirement policy should be worked out after that

  • Consider a fixed monthly pension and/or a one-time payment at the time of retirement of the scorers in recognition of their service to the board

“We believe it when association officials we speak to tell us that they are concerned and trying to find a solution, but we haven’t seen anything happen yet,” Vivek Gupte (61) of Mumbai said, adding that the latest step, in the form of yet another letter, has only been sent to the 11 state associations the 17 retired scorers represent, “to ask them to put pressure on the BCCI on our behalf”.

A letter from Gupte, sent to Ganguly soon after the latter became the BCCI president, is telling: “Though on paper scorers are technically mentioned as ‘match officials’ along with match referees and umpires, less said about the treatment meted out to the scorers, the better. Though they form an integral part for the conduct of any game of cricket, they are totally neglected and least noticed.”

‘Scorers don’t come from affluent backgrounds’

Gautam Roy is quick to inform us that he doesn’t have any financial concerns, but that most scorers do, and many of them leave regular jobs to become scorers – there are almost 150 BCCI-empanelled scorers at the moment – despite the payment, which hasn’t always been good.

A bit of background here. Many of the scorers who now fall into the “retired” bracket started out in the late 1980s, and there was no payment to speak of at the time. “Sometimes we would get Rs 50 or Rs 100, but basically we worked for free, for the love of the game, because we had passion,” Tapash Roy said.

In 1997 Jaywant Lele, then the BCCI secretary and a former umpire, decided to bring the scorers under the “match officials” umbrella. Tests were conducted, a batch of scorers were taken in – never recruited formally, but given certificates, and appointed on a match-by-match basis – for a fee of Rs 500 per match day. It was only in 2018-19 that it reached Rs 10,000 a day, “which is a fair sum, and we ended up earning around Rs 3 lakh a year,” Gautam said.

Two particular incidents, both since the start of 2019 shook the scorers in a big way.

“As long as we are alert and medical tests come out fine, we should be allowed to work”

Scorer Vivek Gupte, 61, of Mumbai

The first was the death of Kaushik Saha, a Bengal scorer, from a heart attack. Saha was from a well-to-do family but it hurt the scorers’ community that the BCCI didn’t do anything to help, as the insurance cover provided by the board doesn’t include non-match days.

The second, more recently, had to do with Ramesh Parab, the Mumbai scorer, who had to spend more than a month in hospital after being infected by Covid-19. Parab, who suffers from a respiratory condition, was admitted to hospital on June 12 and returned home only in mid-July. But no help was forthcoming.

“All of us contributed, the entire scorers’ community, and some cricketers, and the MCA [Mumbai Cricket Association] gave a large amount, and we managed to raise Rs 2.8 lakh to help Ramesh with his treatment,” Gupte said.

‘If Tony Choat can, why can’t we?’

One of the things the scorers have repeatedly told the BCCI and state association officials they have met is that scorers should not have a retirement age and, as Gupte said, “as long as we are alert and medical tests come out fine, we should be allowed to work”.

The example they use most often is that of octogenarian Tony Choat, the longest-serving scorer at Essex, who was nominated by his peers to score three games during the 2019 World Cup, including the final at Lord’s on July 14, a month or so before the developments in India.

“If he can, why can’t we” – it’s a common refrain as we speak to the scorers. What has made the 17 in question here feel unwanted is that, forget everything else, there has been no recognition of any sort of their work.

“Not even a letter acknowledging our contribution. If we had been this bad, why keep us for all these days,” Tapash asked.

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Charlo Brothers fight card: Five storylines to watch on massive Showtime Boxing PPV doubleheader

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With the Charlo twins set to headline separate main events within the same unique pay-per-view doubleheader on Saturday from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, there are no shortage of storylines surrounding the 30-year-old rising stars. 

Both Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs), the WBC middleweight champion, and brother Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs), who holds the WBC 154-pound title, enter what can be legitimately called the toughest challenges of their respective careers on Saturday.  The six-fight event (Showtime PPV, 7 p.m. ET) also features a four-pack of exciting matchups in the bantamweight and junior featherweight divisions. 

Let’s take a closer look at what to watch for entering the Showtime Boxing PPV extravaganza featuring the Charlos this weekend.

1. PBC betting time is now on all things #LionsOnly

With an equal balance of speed and power to form a combined pro record of 63-1 with 39 KOs, the 30-year-old Charlo twins have both seemed one breakthrough victory away from cracking the sport’s top 10 pound-for-pound list in recent years. Marketing wise, however, there has always been talk about the potential of their #LionsOnly brand becoming more, maybe to the level of being a household name across the sport (and beyond). Following a flurry of headlining roles over the past year on pay cable and in primetime on national television, PBC boss Al Haymon believes the Charlos’ time is now to take that swing in this somewhat historic double PPV main event across two cards. There has never been a doubt that the fighting brothers, who are just as competitive seemingly with one another other even more so than their opponents, have the right kind of brash attitude to sell themselves and a firm understanding of how to grab an audience’s attention. But for this PPV kickoff to truly have lasting power, both will need to win in very difficult matchups, respectively. 

2. Jermall’s island finds shipwrecked passenger

Among the most talented and well-rounded talents in the 160-pound division, Charlo simply hasn’t had the opportunity to prove his skills translate the same against the elite members of the division. His prior junior middleweight title run brought him impressive wins over names like Cornelius Bundrage, Austin Trout and Julian Williams. His five fights at middleweight have largely seen him on the wrong side of boxing’s political line, however, despite a respected decision win over former champion Matvey Korobov. With his goal remaining the same of an eventual showdown with Mexican icon Canelo Alvarez, Charlo finally gets the chance to prove his worth against as tough an out as the division can find in Derevyanchenko. For every bold word Charlo has ever proclaimed in the face of critics, this fight represents his ultimate shot at having the last word in regards to where he stands. 

3. Derevyanchenko hoping third time is the charm

A native of Ukraine with an extensive amateur background (who called the likes of future world champions Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk and Oleksandr Gvozdyk as teammates), it didn’t take but 12 pro fights for Derevyanchenko to earn his first pro title shot. Despite two outstanding performances in title shots against Daniel Jacobs and Gennadiy Golovkin over the past two years, Derevyanchenko has nothing to show for it. While he deserved a mild level of contention for his split-decision loss to Jacobs, it was his absolute war with GGG — who received the nod from all three judges — that Derevyanchenko seemed to find the majority believing he deserved better. Not only did “The Technician” rise from the canvas against both to showcase his toughness, he stood up to the powerful Golovkin and became the aggressor as the fight wore on. At 34, there’s never a guarantee how many future title shots will be available to any fighter, let alone one who faces the reality of a third defeat being his last. It’s now or never for such a great fighter to realize his full potential. 

4. Control of loaded 154-pound division at stake

For all of the justified complaining by boxing fans of the sport’s constant disorganization and political trickery, the junior middleweight division is an almost throwback example of how the sport used to be. Nearly everyone at 154 pounds who matters fights under the PBC banner, and just about all of them are willing to try and prove they are the division’s best the old-fashioned way: doing so inside the ring. Charlo faces off with the upset-minded Jeison Rosario, owner of the WBA and IBF titles after shocking Julian Williams via TKO last year, to allow the winner a firm grasp on the division at large by owning three of four recognized belts (Patrick Teixeira holds the WBO strap). Considering how insanely competitive the biggest 154-pound fights have been over the last two years (including the likes of Jarrett Hurd, Erislandy Lara and Tony Harrison, to name a few), it will be nice — for as long as it lasts — to see a temporary king crowned. 

5. Loaded undercard puts spotlight on two divisions

The double Charlo PPV might be new school in its execution, but it carries with the classic charm of what used to be a standard throughout the sport: an undercard worth making an appointment to tune in early. In whatever the four support bouts under the two Charlo title clashes lack in mainstream appeal, they more than make up for that in terms of street cred from the hardcore fans. Competitively matched with each promising a certain level of two-way violence, the four world-class fights also offer the competitors a chance to steal the show at large. Will it be Mexican slugger Luis Nery (30-0, 24 KOs) in his vacant super bantamweight title bout against fellow unbeaten Aaron Alameda (25-0, 13 KOs)? Or how about WBA 122-pound titleholder Brandon Figueroa (22-0-1, 15 KOs)? Others are pointing to WBO bantamweight champion Jon Riel Casimero (29-4, 20 KOs) to carry on the Filipino fighting tradition of Manny Pacquiao. Either way, there are no shortage of explosive candidates. 



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No fans for Blast knock-outs as ECB warn of ‘severe’ consequences of further lockdown measures

The ECB has reiterated that the impact on cricket would be “severe” if fans were unable to return to grounds for the 2021 season, after the UK government confirmed that plans to reintroduce spectators to sporting events were being paused.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon, the prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed that a spike in Covid-19 cases in the UK had required a postponement of the proposed date of October 1 for a trial reintroduction of fans in stadiums.

The final rounds of the rescheduled T20 Blast had been set for October 1 (quarter-finals) and 3 (Finals Day), in an attempt to enable some spectators to return to watch the action. However, those plans are now on hold, following the rise of the UK’s Covid-19 alert level to 4, meaning that transmission is “high or rising exponentially”.

“We have to acknowledge the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen large sporting events,” said the prime minister. “We will not be able to do this from October 1 and I recognise the implications for our sports clubs, which are the life and soul of our communities.”

Earlier this week, 100 leaders of sports and fitness bodies, including the England & Wales Cricket Board and the cricket charity, Chance to Shine, wrote to the UK government to warn of a “lost generation of activity” if sporting clubs were to face financial hardship as a consequence of Covid-related measures.

According to a report in the Guardian, the government is braced to bail out eight sports facing a financial black hole as a consequence of lockdown measures.

ECB officials were among those to sit in on a phone call with the sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, in the wake of the prime minister’s announcement, alongside representatives of the Rugby Football Union, the Football Association, the British Horseracing Authority and the governing body for Formula One.

ALSO READ: ‘We can’t let this crisis narrow our ambition’ – Clare Connor

“Like other sports, the financial impact of Covid-19 on cricket has been severe,” read an ECB statement, “and we welcome today’s constructive call with the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport where we discussed potential ways to overcome the significant challenges facing sports across the UK.

“Through this crisis we have worked closely with the government to enable cricket to be played through the summer, and we will continue to work with the Government and other sporting bodies to see the safe return of crowds to stadia as soon as possible.

“The impact of having to stage cricket behind closed doors again next year would be severe. Many clubs will also face a significant financial impact if they are unable to host conferences and events over the coming months.

“Meanwhile, restrictions on indoor team sports will also mean a reduction in activity levels and could particularly hit those whose participation has been limited during the pandemic.

“We will continue to work with the government over the coming days and weeks to ensure the challenges facing our sport are understood and can be overcome.”

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Twins, Tigers will miss Gardenhire in dugout

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When the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers begin a quick two-game series Tuesday night, manager Ron Gardenhire will be watching from home.

Gardenhire surprised the baseball world by announcing his retirement Saturday afternoon, citing personal health as the main factor in his decision to hang up the cleats one week before the 2020 regular season concludes.

Gardy has been a mainstay in Twins-Tigers games since becoming Minnesota’s manager in 2002. Gardenhire collected a 1,068-1,039 record with the Twins from 2002-14, posting a winning season in eight of 13 campaigns. He carried himself with a humorous, light-hearted attitude — with everyone but umpires, that is, as Gardy was ejected from 73 games while at the helm of the Twins.

Gardenhire was named the American League Manager of the Year after leading Minnesota to a 94-68 record in 2010. He’s the only Twins manager to have won consecutive division titles, doing so twice with three straight banners from 2002-04 and two in 2009-10. Rocco Baldelli could become the second.

At age 60, Gardenhire was hired as manager of the Tigers in 2018. He registered a 132-241 record with the rebuilding franchise from 2018-20 and went 15-26 against the Twins.

Gardenhire was let go by Minnesota following the 2014 season. Paul Molitor filled in for four campaigns before Derek Falvey and Thad Levine ushered in Baldelli as manager in 2019.

Baldelli owns a 134-63 record (.618) over his first two seasons, which is the fifth-best winning percentage for a manager through two campaigns in MLB history. The Twins are tied with Houston and the New York Yankees for the best AL records since the start of 2019.

NOTABLE

— Twenty-five of Miguel Sano’s 36 hits have been for extra bases — 12 doubles and 13 home runs. That adds up to 69.4% of Sano’s hits this season, which would go down as the highest percentage of extra-base hits in a single season, besting Barry Bonds (68.6%).

— Miguel Cabrera has smacked 42 career homers against the Twins. The former two-time MVP has smacked seven dingers this season in 208 plate appearances.

— Homer Bailey is one of 11 different pitchers to start a game this season for the Twins. Only Boston (15) and Tampa Bay (12) have used more starters.

Statistics courtesy Sportradar, baseball-reference.com



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