BCCI revokes eligibility 'allowance' to Puducherry

Abhishek Nayar clips one through the on side Prakash Parsekar

Facing protests from other state associations, the BCCI has revoked the special allowance granted to Puducherry concerning outstation players.

Puducherry is one of the nine new teams that the BCCI inducted into domestic cricket as per the Lodha Committee recommendations approved by the Supreme Court. Keeping in mind the unique challenge the Union Territory faced in terms of recruiting local talent, the board relaxed the rules that defined who a local player is.

Originally, it was one who had a birth certificate from that state, or was an employee of an organisation in the jurisdiction of that state in the last one year, or a student of an institution in the jurisdiction of that state since August 2017. But the BCCI, with the approval of the Committee of Administrators, gave special allowance to Puducherry, permitting the registration of even those players who have only been working or studying there since August 2018.

Some of the other new states objected to Puducherry being given special privileges. For several decades, the BCCI has put a cap of three outstation players, known as professionals, per team. Most times, these professionals are senior players who move out of their native state to play/mentor/coach weaker teams.

Puducherry had filled their quota with the appointments of Abhishek Nayar (former Mumbai captain and allrounder), Pankaj Singh (former Rajasthan captain) and Paras Dogra (former Himachal Pradesh batsman) but still went ahead and bought more players who, until recently, had been involved with other states. Many of them were part of Puducherry's first-ever game on Wednesday in the Vijay Hazare Trophy against Manipur, with media reports suggesting there were no local players in the XI.

One of the objections came from Ratnakar Shetty, former general manager, game development at BCCI. Currently the convener of the cricket consensus committee at Uttarakhand Cricket Association as well as part of the committee of administrators at Hyderabad Cricket Association, he said eligibility rules ought to be uniform for every team participating in any tournament.

"I was shocked to hear that BCCI has given special permission to include more than the (cap on the) number of outstation players in the team," Shetty wrote in an e-mail to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri which was published by the Indian Express. "This kills the spirit of the game and the rules of level playing field that was aimed when the eligibility rules were framed.

"It also raises the question as to why only Puducherry has been given the special status. I am sorry to say that this decision is not in the interest of domestic cricket and will lead to lot of corrupt practices in future. It also puts all the other states where there was strict compliance to a disadvantage."

The entire purpose behind the Lodha Committee recommending that every state in India have its own cricket team was to encourage local talent to come to the fore. It is understood that though not everyone in the BCCI was convinced about allowing more than the permissible number of outstation players to Puducherry, the CoA pointed out that, for this season, the eligibility norms could be relaxed.

The BCCI inducted the Cricket Association of Pondicherry as an associate member last month and told them to start registering players who fulfilled the board's criteria - employees or students of the state since August 2017. But having just taken root, the CAP requested for more time and was told by the BCCI that it was willing to relax the rules. Accordingly, some outstation players enrolled themselves in local educational institutions or organisations in August to become eligible to play for Puducherry.

However, with objections mounting, the BCCI seems to have changed its mind, revoking the special allowance to Puducherry, starting from their next match on Friday. A CAP official confirmed that a "request" had come from the board, asking them to pick only those players registered before August 31, 2017 in the XI and that they would oblige to it.