It would be difficult to find any individual who spent more time training, playing or celebrating at the SCG than Phil Emery. Across nearly 200 first-class and one day games for New South Wales between 1987 and 1999, many of them as captain, Emery became almost as synonymous with the grand old ground as the Members and Ladies stands that still give it among the most distinctive silhouettes in world cricket.
Next week, however, Emery will find a new way of experiencing the SCG, by sleeping rough on its outfield as part of the Sport Stars Sleepout for the Chappell Foundation, an event held in an effort to raise money for the cause of youth homelessness in Australia. For Emery, the average figure of about 30,000 homeless Australians under the age of 25 on any given night is maddening.
The onset of Covid-19 this year has capped the number of SCG sleepers for the third edition of the event at 32, but provides still more impetus to raise money for the cause. Emery, who over the past 20 years has built a business career in the insurance industry while also serving as chairman of the “Baggy Blues” New South Wales past players association, said he had been floored by the numbers when asked to take part by the foundation’s patron Greg Chappell.
Emery will join the likes of Mitchell Starc, Alyssa Healy, Lisa Sthalekar, Steve O’Keefe, Russel Arnold, Stuart MacGill, Alex Blackwell and Daniel Hughes among cricketers taking part on Monday night. Donations, pledged to an individual sleeper, can be made here.
“People never believe it, seeing the numbers it’s ridiculous. Hopefully we raise lots of money, increase awareness about the issue and we can do some good with it,” he said. “From sending out a message about it at 4 o’clock yesterday, I think at 6 o’clock I had A$2,200 in the space of two hours, of just people generously giving stuff straight away. Extremely generous, it’s great.”
While the unchanging elements of the SCG have been a big part of its charm, Emery reflected on some of the hidden elements of the ground that he and other state teammates became well familiar with over the course of a career that featured three Sheffield Shield wins in 1990, 1993 and 1994 – the last two as captain.
“It was funny, when you were playing it was like your second home,” he said. “There’s a bar now underneath the members bar, but it used to be like an underpass with a road that ran through it. We used to park in there in what would be the middle of the bar now. You were out there from pre-season in July, August, even just for fielding, and we used to train on the ground, so you’d spend an enormous amount of time on the field.
“I first went onto the field when I was 11, and that was when the Sheridan Stand was there and the Brewongle and all the old concourse, the big hill, and the Paddington hill and all those things. Playing through the era when they took the hill away, I remember doing an interview with Tracey Holmes and I was facing the members stand on the ground, and she said ‘so what’s it going to be like playing without the hill’ and I went ‘what have they done’, and I turned around and there were bulldozers on it. I wasn’t paying that much attention back then!”
As the son of the former Wallabies international Neville, Emery experienced the old precinct before the advent of the Sydney Football Stadium – currently being rebuilt – and redevelopment of the adjoining showgrounds into a studio complex.
“Going back now, it’s still got the same feel to it with the Ladies Stand and the Members Stand, around the back, the nets are the same,” Emery said. “But when I was first there we had the No. 2 ground and I played a NSW Colts game there. You used to be able to walk through a little hole in the fence at the top and go through to the sports ground. I played a rugby grand final, my first year out of school in third grade on the sports ground. You had the showground oval, the SCG Nos 1 and 2 and the sports ground all in a row.
“But it’s still a fabulous place, it’s just got an aura about it, it’s a big ground but it’s not the MCG. If you put the wicket in the middle its a biggish ground, but it’s intimate if that makes sense. The visitors’ dressing room has still got the split room between professionals out the back and the gentlemen out the front. That’s still there. The home dressing room’s changed a bit since I first went in it, there’s some mod cons in there, but the layout hasn’t changed really, and you wouldn’t change that for the world.
“Fabulous feel in the old room, even the little windows and banister out the front where you sit outside. You’re not in a dungeon, you get natural light into the place. You can actually stand in the change room and watch the game – not the best view but the best place to be. You can walk out through the bar and then out to bat if you want. That sort of thing – it’s connected to the building, you’re not hidden away, and that’s part of its charm.”
Vivo’s IPL 2020 exit is not a “financial crisis” – Sourav Ganguly
The title sponsorship is a significant part of the IPL’s commercial revenue, part of which is shared by the eight franchises. In 2015, Vivo replaced Pepsico, who pulled out as IPL’s title sponsors two years before the contract ended. In 2017 Vivo formally bagged the IPL title sponsorship until the end of the 2022 season, paying nearly USD 241 million.
While the BCCI is yet to announce how it would find a replacement for Vivo for the 2020 IPL which begins on September 19, Ganguly said board was well prepared to handle the situation.
“I wouldn’t call it as a financial crisis,” Ganguly said while speaking during a webinar on Saturday, organised by Learnflix, an education app in India. “It’s just a little bit of a blip. And the only way you can do it is by being professionally strong over a period of time. Big things don’t come overnight. And big things don’t go away overnight. Your preparation for a long period of time gets (you) ready for losses, gets you ready for successes.
“You keep your other options open. It is like Plan A and Plan B. Sensible people do it. Sensible brands do it. Sensible corporates do it. BCCI, it’s a very a strong foundation – the game, the players, the administrators in the past have made this game so strong that BCCI is able to handle all these blips.”
Ganguly also touched briefly on ICC decision on Friday to retain India as hosts for the 2021 men’s T20 World Cup. “India was designated (to host) the 2021 and 2023 World Cups so there is not a big change in that. Yes, the Covid situation had kept everybody alarmed, but that’s the way it is.”
After sudden dismissal, BCCI’s ex-scorers hope for recognition and relief | Cricket
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 . He got that letter on August 13 but, “within a few hours of being told about the appointment, I was told by my state association 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 players or individuals from the associations used to give us Rs 50 or Rs 100 if they felt like it,” 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.
Shamya Dasgupta is senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Recent Match Report – Essex vs Surrey South Group 2020
Essex 253 for 7 (Khushi 66, Wheater 52) v Surrey
Feroze Khushi suggested Essex’s production line is in no danger of slowing down as the academy product celebrated his maiden first-class half-century on an even opening day against Surrey.
Batsman Khushi was one of 10 homegrown talents in the Essex’s Bob Willis Trophy side to face Surrey as he struck 66 on his second appearance for the county.
Adam Wheater, who along with Sam Cook was awarded his county cap before play, also reached fifty as Essex reached the close on 253 for seven.
Surrey, who picked seven homegrown players of their own in their XI, proved their youth was also prospering as debutant Gus Atkinson, James Taylor and Amar Virdi all claimed wickets.
Home skipper Tom Westley won the toss and elected to bat on a wicket which seemed identical to the one which produced a two-wicket thriller against Kent last week. That meant patient batting and accurate bowling was rewarded throughout the day.
Availability-plagued Surrey had enjoyed the better of the morning session as two teenagers saw county champions Essex slump to 49 for three.
Surrey have 14 players currently unavailable which forced them to add Sussex’s Laurie Evans and Worcestershire bowler Adam Finch on loan for this match. Quick Atkinson was handed a debut, having been at the county since Under-12 level, and it took him just five overs to make his mark on the first team.
Nick Browne seemed to expect the ball to angle across him but was cramped as he squeezed the ball to Mark Stoneman at extra cover.
James Taylor wasn’t offered a new contract at boyhood club Derbyshire last year, but their oversight has been to Surrey’s benefit. The seamer didn’t take a wicket in the defeat to Middlesex but scythed down Essex’s top order in two successive deliveries.
Westley slashed outside off stump to nick behind to keeper Jamie Smith, the batsman distraught at his misjudgement. Varun Chopra then jabbed a beauty to Scott Borthwick at second slip to leave Essex 49 for 3.
Khushi joined his boyhood hero Sir Alastair Cook, who had provided a no-thrills backbone to the batting. Cook reached 42, having added 49 with Khushi, but edged Virdi to first slip Rikki Clarke to a ball which turned nicely out the rough – Virdi’s third ball.
Khushi then took centre stage with patience mixed with a dabble of strokeplay – specifically picking up whenever Virdi found himself straying a tad short. Khushi made his debut last week, where he scored a vital 45 in the chase of 202, including 86 with Cook.
The 21-year-old had been given a life when he was put down by Will Jacks at gully on 16, but strode to an 84-ball fifty with a flick off his hips. But he saved the shots of the day until the next over when he twice whipped Taylor to the leg-side boundary.
Khushi departed in a tame fashion which betrayed the rest of his innings, when he placed straight into Ryan Patel’s lap at midwicket off Virdi. Paul Walter, who replaced the injured Ryan ten Doeschate in the side, had put on 67 with Khushi and continued his work with Wheater. They added another 57 runs before Borthwick entered the attack and yorked the allrounder with his third ball.
Wheater was unassuming in his run-scoring, especially with a relentlessly precise bowling attack, but reached his half-century in 94 balls. The wicketkeeper has started the Bob Willis Trophy in fine form, following 37 and a match completing 26 not out.
He was dismissed attempting an extravagant cut off Clarke, which deflected to Evans at gully. Simon Harmer, Essex’s only non-local, saw out the last seven overs of the day with Aaron Beard.
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