England have awarded 20 male central contracts for 2021-22 ahead of this winter’s Ashes tour, with a revamped system in place that no longer indicates which format a player was primarily intended for.
As has been the case since the introduction of central contracts in 1999, there are winners and losers. Ollie Robinson, Dawid Malan and Jack Leach all win their first main contracts, while Dom Sibley has been completely ignored after losing his test spot this summer.
Sibley’s fortune contrasts with that of Zak Crawley, another to be ditched in the recent India series. Kent’s man is on the list for the second year in a row, reflecting England’s investment in his talent, as has Ollie Pope despite yo-yos entering and exiting on the testing side over the past year. Haseeb Hameed, the outgoing opener, remains on his contract with Nottinghamshire, however.
While players still await news from head coach Chris Silverwood, the Ashes’ next team – whose appointment is expected to arrive this weekend after the final tour approval by the England and Wales Cricket Board – they at least have a clear idea of their employment status for the next 12 months.
Previous central contracts expired at the end of September, and talks between the ECB and The England Player Partnership on revised terms ran alongside those regarding quarantine conditions and protocols for the upcoming tour of Australia.
Where Test Contracts were previously a fixed annual retainer, White Ball Contracts a sliding scale, and players have received one or both, the new system offers one contract for everyone. Each player is judged on their past performance, injury record, prospects for future selection – and to a lesser extent, fitness tests and contribution to the squad setup – in a points-based system.
The points for each format are then combined to calculate the player’s final salary. In this equation, there is a weight under which Test cricket is 60%, and the white ball formats 20% each. The result is a set of 20 offers which, according to the Guardian, are worth between £ 220,000 and £ 800,000.
Joe Root and Eoin Morgan still earn a top-up payment to reflect their leadership responsibilities as the respective test and white ball captains, while match fees and win bonuses are reportedly unchanged.
Ashley Giles, England cricket manager who oversees the contract award process alongside Silverwood, said: “I think this is the fairest and most transparent way to reward players in all formats. “
The old system was essentially too rigid and the test contract, worth around £ 650,000 and nearly three times that of white ball cricket, saw some red ball specialists perhaps over-rewarded compared to others. Fast bowler Mark Wood, for example, was previously on the lower paid white ball contract, but often saw his schedule focused on being available for trial cricket.
Another past drawback was that the significant drop in salary resulting from the loss of a trial contract could prove to be a demotivating psychological blow for the player concerned. Moeen Ali, who recently retired from Test Cricket, cited the experience when he was somewhat harshly stripped of his red ball contract in 2019.
Moeen is still on the main roster of his new career path as a White Ball Specialist, while outside of the 20 chosen there are progressive deals – payments made to fringe players in addition to their county contracts. – for Dom Bess, Liam Livingstone, Chris Jordan and Tom Curran.
For the third year in a row, pitch bowling development contracts have also been awarded to Olly Stone, Saqib Mahmood and Craig Overton, covering part of their county contracts and thus allowing England to control their workload.
Elsewhere, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes remain under full contract, with the former having been ruled out for the remainder of the year due to an elbow problem.
Stokes is currently on a mental health break, but is also facing four weeks of rehabilitation after Monday’s second surgery on his finger problem.
Robinson’s move to a first full central contract rewards a revolutionary summer of 28 wickets at 19 races each in five practice matches. Malan recently returned to the testing side and ultimately secured a lead deal that reflects this and his pivotal role in the Twenty20 setup.
Leach’s contract promotion comes despite being overlooked by England all summer. The left gunsmith was however the main wicket taker of the Test team during the sub-continental winter, and after Moeen’s retirement he will travel to Australia as a first-choice spinner.
England male central contracts
Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Sam Curran (Surrey), Jack Leach (Somerset), Dawid Malan (Yorkshire), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Ollie Robinson (Sussex), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Jason Roy (Surrey) ), Ben Stokes (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham)
Dom Bess (Yorkshire), Tom Curran (Surrey), Chris Jordan (Surrey), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire)
Pace Bowling Development Contracts
Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Craig Overton (Somerset), Olly Stone (Warwickshire)