Committee of Administrators (CoA) chief Vinod Rai has praised the mutual respect that Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli have for each other, saying that the camaraderie between the two superstars of Indian cricket is exceptional. Rai also put an end to all rumours that claimed that former captain Dhoni was relegated from the elite category of central contracts. Instead, Rai credited Dhoni and current skipper Kohli for the introduction of the elite contract category, saying the duo had proposed that an A+ grade be introduced for the top performers of Indian cricketers.
"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," Rai told PTI in an exclusive interview.
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 are no faster pair of gloves than 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.
In early March, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) introduced an A+ category (Rs 7 crore) in the central contracts for which only five players, including captain Kohli, were picked. Dhoni was bracketed in the A category (Rs 5 crore) along with Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Wridhhiman Saha.
"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 category of world-class excellence in which players who play all three formats of the game should be there."
Twenty-six cricketers have been handed central contracts with Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah being included in the A+ category.
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."
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 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 it was reasonable. So we decided to put it out as players have contracts and their insurances are in place before IPL," he said.
(With PTI Inputs)