Ashley Giles insisted England’s cricketers are not blind to the financial uncertainty facing the sport after the latest batch of men’s central contracts were announced despite the fact talks over pay cuts are still ongoing.
Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Dom Sibley have earned their first Test deals after encouraging starts to their international careers, while Jonny Bairstow drops off the red-ball list and into apparent white-ball specialism following a year in which he has made only one appearance in the longer format.
Test deals were worth roughly £650,000 last year, albeit with some performance-related grading, while those for white-ball cricket sat around the £250,000 mark. But with the England and Wales Cricket Board hit with at least £100m in losses from the Covid-19 pandemic and slashing 62 jobs, these numbers are set to come down once negotiations are concluded.
“Although the players have been in a bubble for the majority of the summer they are not blind to the reality of what is going on in the world,” said Giles, the director of England cricket. “They understand they have a part to play in that.
“The players have done a huge amount this summer to, in effect, keep the lights on for cricket but they are mature and realistic about what is going on. The discussions have been really positive and I’m confident we are close now.”
The cuts are not expected to be huge given the role England’s men played in getting their full summer played. And in a reflection of the need for bigger squads over the next 12 months, when cricket will probably continue to be played in biosecure bubbles, 24 Test and white-ball central contracts have been awarded to 19 players, up from the 22 given to 16 at the end of the 2019 season.
Test central contracts
James Anderson (Lancashire), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Sam Curran (Surrey), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Dom Sibley (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).
White-ball central contracts
Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Tom Curran (Surrey), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Jason Roy (Surrey), Ben Stokes (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham).
Dom Bess (Somerset), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Dawid Malan (Yorkshire), Jack Leach (Somerset)
Pace bowling development contracts
Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Craig Overton (Somerset), Olly Stone (Warwickshire)
Tom Curran has replaced Joe Denly on the list of white-ball cricketers while increment deals – previously worth around £80,000 on top of a player’s county salary – have gone to Dom Bess, Jack Leach, Chris Jordan and Dawid Malan.
For the latter pair it means they have missed out on full white-ball deals despite both being central to England’s Twenty20 team and with the first of two back-to-back World Cups in the format coming in 12 months’ time. Malan, who is ranked No 1 in the world among batsmen, may wonder why ODIs still carry more weight.
As regards Bess and Leach, it perhaps reflects England’s uncertainty in the Test spin-bowling department, with Giles adding: “I can only hope they continue to develop, because we would love to be offering a Test contract to a spinner.”
Mark Wood is another to miss out on a Test deal. While hHe has won only three caps in the format in the past year, but the 30-year-old will be expected to keep readying himself for the challenge of an Ashes tour in late 2021 when the 90mph pace only he and Jofra Archer currently offer will be crucial.
As Giles stressed, there are only so many contracts that can be handed out and little doubt that Crawley, Pope and Sibley – all 25 or under – are worthy recipients. Each has registered a maiden Test century in the past year, with Sibley, the team’s only ever-present, making two and Crawley fresh from his stunning 267 against Pakistan at the end of the Test summer.
Where it leaves Bairstow remains to be seen, given he will be much coveted on the Twenty20 circuit and first-class appearances for Yorkshire are likely to remain fleeting. “I hope this leaves him still hungry to have a big role in Test cricket,” said Giles, before adding the 31-year-old took the news as well as could be expected.
Giles also said that a white-ball tour to South Africa before Christmas, and Test series against Sri Lanka and India from January onwards, remain on track even if confirmation of all three may have to wait “until the last minute”.