Coronavirus leaves cricket umpires, scorers stranded

BENGALURU: Mahadev (name changed), a qualified KSCA Referee left Bengaluru on the eve of the running of the bulls and headed to his ancestral home in northern Karnataka.

If I had stayed in town, I couldn't have paid for two meals for my family. Here I am with other family members and we grow legumes and vegetables. Therefore, we will not go hungry. But what will happen next? I do not know. It also hurts that no one, be it the players, who have seen us over the years or the officials, have asked about our well-being, he lamented.

Mahadev is not alone. There are at least 100 qualified referees and scorers in the state who are struggling to make ends meet due to the Covid-19 crisis and the resulting blockade.

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Although, March is a lean period with KSCA 's leagues winding down and the fresh season starting by mid-April, this used to be the busiest months for umpires and scorers not employed in private or public sectors.

The beginning of the summer means training templates in the camps, occasional work offered courtesy in the Indian Premier League and intercamp and corporate tournaments.

March-May is the peak time for us in terms of revenue. Although there aren't many KSCA matches, the camps and corporate tournaments keep us busy. Most of us have worked as coaches in summer camps as well. This ensured additional income which helped in paying our children's school fees. But given the prevailing circumstances, I don't know when we will get back to the field. I don't know how I'll bear the educational or for that matter household expenses this year, said another worried umpire.

According to the KSCA pay scales, which hasn't been revised in almost a decade, an umpire is paid Rs 1,500 per day for league matches while a scorer earns Rs 1,000. Given KSCA 's multi-layered league structure, about 2,250 matches are held in a season. This means an umpire or scorer is employed for about 15 days a month during the season and takes home an average of Rs 22,500 or Rs 15,000 respectively.

There are some parties that we can officiate in the districts. In addition, we do a lot of odd jobs in the zonal office, officiate between school/college matches, and also earn money as liaison officers and perform other duties during Karnataka Premier League . But this year, we have nothing to look forward to. We have to start looking for other jobs now, said a referee from the mofussil area.

A young scorer, also from the districts, noted: Many of us took up the profession out of love for the game. The money is not much, but the satisfaction is immense. But if there is no money at all, where do we go?

Incidentally, the umbrella bodies of referees and scorers do not have a contingency plan or plans for the benefit of their members.

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NRS Prabhu, secretary of the Cricket Karnataka Referees Association (AUCK), acknowledged that the long-term vision of benefit plans for its members has not yet materialized.

Nothing could have prepared us for the current situation. We have been discussing benefit schemes for our members and even planned to approach the KSCA. But before that could materialize, the coronavirus beaten. I know that some of our members have financial difficulties, but my hands are tied. We cannot plan anything without committee approval. With that said, we have been discussing with each other about the future course of action and will soon find a solution, he explained.

KSCA secretary Santosh Menon Support guaranteed to referees and scorers. We are concerned about them or, for that matter, all interested parties. We will establish a structure for them in the near future.

For now, despite being associated with a team sport where they are indispensable, in testing times, referees and scorers continue to fight individual battles.

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