New Delhi: Contrary to popular belief that Mahendra Singh Dhoni was relegated from the elite category of central contracts, it was the former skipper himself who wanted an A+ grade for top performers, says CoA chief Vinod Rai.
Twenty-six cricketers have been handed central contracts with skipper Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah being included in the Rs 7 crore A+ category. Dhoni is in the A category with Rs 5 crore annual retainership.
"This A+ category was proposed by the players themselves. We had a discussion about this category with Dhoni and Virat. They proposed that there should be a category of world-class excellence in which players who play all three formats of the game should be there," Rai told PTI in an exclusive interview.
The head of the Committee of Administrators said both Dhoni and Kohli wanted A+ to be a functional category to indicate who are the Indian team's top performers.
"This should be a functional category where players move in and out. Also it will show that the best in the business are rewarded as per performance."
What the former CAG found heartening was the camaraderie between Kohli and Dhoni.
"Their camaraderie is exceptional with so much mutual respect. Virat respects Dhoni's cricketing acumen and Dhoni respects what Virat is achieving as a player," said Rai.
In fact, Virat has told the CoA why he thinks Dhoni is irreplaceable in the limited-overs set-up as of now.
"Virat feels that there is no faster pair of gloves than MS Dhoni today. Also Dhoni's cricketing mind honed over so many years is an asset for Virat. As far as how many years of cricket is left in him, time and his performance will tell," he said.
Rai said that the best part about central contracts was that it ensured a decent earning for domestic players.
"These increases have been proposed in consultation with the players. Domestic players, who were getting Rs 10-12 lakh per annum, will now get Rs 20-22 lakh per annum in addition to the earnings from Gross Revenue System (profits from TV broadcast).
"Now with this kind of salary, domestic players can concentrate on their game without looking for jobs," Rai said.
There was a lot of anguish among BCCI office bearers at not being consulted and the finance committee being allegedly bypassed but Rai set the record straight.
"We discussed with players and we placed the proposal to the office-bearers. The package was there with them from September (2017) and there's nothing new in it. Finance committee did not meet is a fact but the package was known to them," said Rai.
"They did not even have any comments to make. Finally, when we again met the players (during Sri Lanka series), we showed them and they did say it was reasonable. So we decided to put it out as players have contracts and their insurances are in place before IPL," he said.
The retired bureaucrat feels that while everyone is happy to call themselves cricket administrators, very few know the practical problems the players have.
"Nobody knows the plight of the cricketers than the cricketers themselves. They are interacting with cricketers every day. In fact, it was the cricketers who gave us names of former players who are facing difficulty in getting two meals together."
The CoA chief said no administrator should forget that they are there because of those 11 people who sweat it out on the cricket field.
"The only thing we should never compromise is cricketers' benefit. Whether it is the administrators or the media, we all sustain because 11 people play on the ground," he concluded.