Cricket Australia is dissuading its players from participating in the Indian Premier League. Lucrative multi-year contract are being offered to senior Australian players for keeping them away from the lure of IPL’s big fat purse. Trouble seems to have started brewing for IPL. The changing equations and power balance in the International Cricket Council has given teeth to national cricket boards to take on the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
According to a Sydney Morning Herald report Australian Test captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins were contacted individually in recent weeks with verbal offers of three-year deals rather than standard one-year central contracts on the condition that they sit out the IPL.
Pat Howard, CA’s newly re-signed executive general manager of team performance, made the approaches, which have come with the governing body and the Australian Cricketers’ Association still in dispute over a new pay deal for players. The offers were met with a lukewarm response from the players. The terms of the multi-year deals discussed informally with Howard were regarded by the players as underwhelming, with the only perceived incentive for them missing the IPL being the security of a three-year contract.
That could change after the CA board discussed at last Friday’s meeting the introduction of financial compensation to wrest international players away from the IPL.
It would need to be significant to turn the heads of Australia’s top-line stars from a looming windfall on the subcontinent. Smith and Warner, who captain their IPL franchises, collect more than $1 million (Rs 6.5 crore) a year for the Twenty-20 tournament and their earning capacity there is set to rise sharply with a bumper new IPL broadcast deal tipped to see the event’s player payment pool double.
Warner, for example, is arguably now the most valuable foreigner in the league, having led Sunrisers Hyderabad to the title last year and blasted his way to the top of this year’s IPL run-scorer’s list over the past six weeks. The second-ranked player in CA’s 2017-18 contract list behind Smith, the Australian opener’s retainer with CA is estimated to be worth AS$2 million (Rs 9.5 crore) but he could conceivably earn as much as AS$10 million (Rs 47.5 crore) in the IPL alone over the next three years.
Starc, who left Royal Challengers Bangalore before this year’s IPL to focus on the Champions Trophy in June in England, could also command upwards of $3 million (Rs 14.25 crore) a year from a new team under an inflated payment pool. England all-rounder Ben Stokes was bought for $2.8 million (Rs 13.3 crore) by Smith’s Rising Pune Supergiants at auction this year.
With the memorandum of understanding between CA and players to expire on June 30 and no sign of a resolution on the horizon the approaches by Howard have been viewed suspiciously by the players’ union.
CA is adamant, however, there is nothing sinister behind the strategy and that it is simply about ensuring players have a break during their leave period, which falls when the IPL is played in April and May, in the hope that Australia can minimise injuries and avoid the controversial resting of players elsewhere in the calendar such as Smith in Sri Lanka and Starc and Hazlewood in South Africa last year. The international schedule in 2019, which includes an Ashes series and a World Cup, is chiefly in mind for Howard in his efforts to ensure players have a proper off-season.
Meanwhile, sources close to the negotiations between CA and the ACA, which are due to resume on Friday, are doubtful that a new MOU will be signed before the end of June as both sides refuse to budge. It is a stand-off that could leave the game and hundreds of players, who are arguing for the retention of a percentage-of-revenue pay model, in limbo.
One area that shapes as an immediate flashpoint, with players on the verge of becoming free agents, is the use of their image rights. Australia host England in a Test series from November but unless there is a new agreement in place by June Australian players are likely to refuse to do any Ashes promotions in England during the Champions Trophy.