True legends: Many cricketers are getting pay hikes after retiring

Several retired cricketers are earning bigger paychecks than they did in their last Indian Premier League (IPL) seasons, thanks to a slew of new leagues for senior players. Well-known players who still have some cricket left in them have bagged substantial packages – 1-2 crore a season – from established tournaments such as Legends League Cricket (LLC), which has now completed four seasons across formats.

Gautam Gambhir, who was paid 2.8 crore in his last IPL season, received a 3.75 crore package from LLC. Irfan Pathan earned 50 lakh in his last IPL season and 1.65 crore in LLC. Other players who have received pay hikes after retiring include Hashim Amla ( 1.2 crore vs 1 crore in his last IPL season), Martin Guptil ( 1.61 crore vs 1 crore), and Aaron Finch ( 2 crore vs 1.5 crore).

Some players, such as Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa, have only had to take small pay cuts. Pathan earned 1.9 crore in his last IPL season before being paid 1.78 crore by the LLC. Uthappa made 2 crore in his last IPL season and R 1.4 crore in the LLC.

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LLC has about 100 retired stars across two formats, and several newly retired cricketers could be set to join as many of its current players have said they will exit in the coming months. Recent additions to the league include South Africa’s Hashim Amla and New Zealand’s Martin Guptill.

Raman Raheja, LLC’s co-founder, said, “Eight of the players we engaged during earlier seasons – including Irfan Pathan, Hashim Amla, Gautam Gambhir, Martin Guptill, Harbhajan Singh, Aaron Finch – were offered higher salaries than their last active-cricket paychecks.” Finch and Gayle received about 1.5 crore and 2 crore, respectively, in their last IPL seasons.

He added, “A lot of the players get the recognition back as many fans track where each of them are. When they get into coaching, they are often forgotten by the public, but when they play cricket after retirement, there is again some interest in them.”

Senior leagues proliferate

LLC competes with other private leagues such as Australia’s Big Bash League and the Lanka Premier League, and has reported larger viewership figures than most cricket tournaments other than the IPL. Its popularity has sparked a slew of leagues for retired cricketers.

The Road Safety World Series — which competes with LLC directly — has completed two seasons. Taking a leaf out of this book, the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) approved a new league in May, the World Championship of Legends.

In the same month the Asian Legends League was launched for three seasons – 2024-26. This year the league will be organised by a new local company, World Sports Group (WSG). With cricketer Chetan Sharma as a mentor, it will have five franchise teams representing renowned cricketing nations. Other leagues such as SA20, ILT20 and Major League Cricket have teams that are owned by Indian companies but are yet to see strong viewership numbers.

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Raheja said LLC is now the most popular T20 league in India after the IPL as it snaps up cricketers who have retired recently. “In the first four seasons across two years we cumulatively gave about 150 crore in salaries to cricketers. This year, we have the same intent and have earmarked 50 crore,” he said.

Data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) showed the tournament had an average TV rating (TVR) of 0.34, representing 80% growth in watch time and a 15% rise in TVR from the previous season. The Big Bash League, held around the same time, had a TVR of 0.11, similar to that of the SA20 league on Sports18, while the ILT20 in the Middle East achieved a TVR of 0.23.

‘We know nothing else’

Monty Panesar, a former England cricketer, said senior cricket has become a lucrative proposition for retired cricketers. “This is a great new income-generation opportunity for legends of the game. It will gain momentum in the coming months with many more star players retiring. The biggest challenge many players face after retirement is how to spend their time and continue engaging with their fans. Most of us have either batted or bowled all our lives and know nothing else.”

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“We retire quite young – in our late 30s or early 40s. Sponsorships dry up and sources of income are limited to engaging with our respective boards or taking up coaching. [Senior leagues] have also helped us continue to work hard and stay fit. When the idea of playing in the senior league was presented to me, I was offered more money than in my last assignment – almost 16-20% more than what I earned in the IPL,” Panesar added.

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