COVID-19 outbreak creates huge dent in the pockets of groundsmen, umpires, scorers

Updated: Apr 08, 2020, 07:33 IST | Subodh Mayure, Sundari Iyer | Mumbai

mid-day speaks to groundsmen, umpires and scorers on how they are tackling Coronavirus-caused financial upheavals; like sportspersons, they too are displaying their gritty side.

Karnatak Sporting Association groundsman Santosh Gaur at work at Cross Maidan last week. Pic/ Suresh Karkera
Karnatak Sporting Association groundsman Santosh Gaur at work at Cross Maidan last week. Pic/ Suresh Karkera

The Coronavirus has brought sporting activities to a standstill across the globe with major events being cancelled or postponed. It is no different when it comes to Mumbai's sporting scene. The normally bustling maidans are now bare and the situation has created a huge dent in the pockets of groundsmen (maalis), umpires and scorers.

Himanshu Parua, 55, is a groundsman at Cross Maidan's LIC plot of pitches. But the past two weeks have been tough for Parua as he doesn't have enough money to even buy groceries for himself. "I am stuck here, while my family is struggling back home since I am unable to send them money due to the lockdown. The person who manages the LIC plot, gave me R1,000 when he came here last month. That amount was exhausted before the lockdown was announced. I've called to inform him about my condition and he said he would try and arrange something," Parua, who earns R10,000 per month for attending to the pitches, tells mid-day. He sends R6,000 home every month.
"Thanks to Praful Upadhyay we have all what is needed to prepare our meals; his 'ration' will last for a week," he adds. mid-day reported on Sunday about how Upadhyay, an amateur cricketer and community tournament organiser, distributed 65 bags consisting of tea powder, wheat flour, dal, rice, oil, onions, potatoes, sugar and salt to groundsmen at Cross, Azad, Oval Maidans, Shivaji Park and Dadkar Maidan in Matunga.

"After the article appeared in mid-day, lots of other people requested for help. So, I am planning to go to other grounds as well and help them," says Upadhyay.

Also facing hurdles is Sanjay Jaiswar, 42, a maali at Parsi Cyclists club, Azad Maidan. "Markets are either shut or goods have become expensive. As there is no cricket action, whatever extra money we used to receive in the form of tips, has stopped. We are not used to seeing empty grounds. We water them in the morning and then get bored sitting and doing nothing the whole day. I stay with my two sons Abhishek, 17, who is a cricketer and Brijesh, 20, a plumber at the ground itself. My son is a daily wage worker and is dependent on me," says Jaiswar.

MSSA maalis suffer too

At the far end of Azad Maidan, the maalis of the Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA) are sailing in the same rocky boat. "While everybody is advising people to go digital, MSSA officials still use cheques to give us our salaries. We haven't received our salary for March as the MSSA office is shut due to the lockdown. We can only hope this will end soon. We are surviving with whatever groceries we purchased last month," says MSSA groundsman, Rakesh Gaud, who stays at Sion Koliwada. "Staff salaries will be paid after the lockdown is lifted," says MSSA treasurer Sebastian Fernandes, who is also the association's football secretary.

Umpires, scorers hit

Meanwhile, as all cricketing activity in the city is zilch from March 16, the umpires and scorers have no jobs. Yet, 121 umpires are keeping themselves busy and updated with cricket laws, thanks to an online initiative called Mi Panch Lockdown, introduced by former Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) managing committee member and BCCI umpire, Ganesh Iyer and a team of six senior umpires. For the last two weeks, these umpires have been making their presence felt on a WhatsApp group between 11 am and 12 pm to discuss laws and solve knotty umpiring problems. As the incomes of most umpires and scorers are dependant on the matches they officiate in, this group has helped 62 needy individuals (47 umpires and 15 scorers) with an amount of Rs 3000 each, made through bank transfers. An additional amount of R2000 will be deposited to the same 62 persons today by the umpires group.

"With no matches to officiate, it's tough as there's no income. But thanks to our senior umpires, we are getting some financial help. Besides, we come together online everyday to upgrade our knowledge of the game," says a beneficiary umpire.

MSSA groundsman Rakesh Gaud (centre), son Veer, daughters Sanchita (to Rakesh’s right), Ankita and wife Manita play carrom at their Sion Koliwada homeMSSA groundsman Rakesh Gaud (centre), son Veer, daughters Sanchita (to Rakesh’s right), Ankita and wife Manita play carrom at their Sion Koliwada home

A scorer, who officiated last on March 11, says: "My family is totally dependant on me. With no matches on, I am helpless. I too received Rs 3000 from the umpires group, which is big help in this crisis."

"We have no option but to wait for things to normalise. I got my dues on March 31 from MCA for officiating matches for the last three months. So, I got around Rs 25,000, which I am using during this lockdown period," says another scorer. Umpires and scores get paid R2000 and R1500 per match respectively.

The lockdown has prevented some groundsmen, who don't live in the maidans, from making it to their respective clubs. But former Mumbai and India captain Dilip Vengsarkar was thrilled to learn that Fullan, the watchman of his Oval Maidan academy, has been watering the ground and cutting the overgrown grass in the absence of the groundsman. Sport is all about taking the rough with the smooth and these unsung heroes of the city are doing just that. Life goes on even though the games can't.

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