Cricket’s governing bodies must move quickly to close the wage gap in the international game or risk a mass exodus to domestic Twenty20 leagues, the MCC world cricket committee has declared.
Following its annual meeting, held in Sydney on Tuesday and Wednesday, the committee used the contrasting examples of the Bangladesh allrounder Shakib Al Hasan and the England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow to highlight the vast discrepancies in player wages around the world. It also discussed the fact that underpaid players will be more susceptible to the lure of corrupt approaches from would-be spot-fixers.
Shakib told the committee, which features the likes of Ricky Ponting, Brendon McCullum and Kumar Sangakkara, that numerous younger Bangladesh players were no longer viewing Test cricket as their goal due to the greater financial security afforded them by T20. “Shakib described how his greatest honour is representing his country, but the financial incentives do not match those available in global domestic T20 tournaments,” an MCC spokesman said.
“He was concerned that many younger players, who don’t share his view of wishing to play Test cricket for a long period, will prefer the shorter format of the game that is more readily available and offers more financial security than playing longer-form cricket. It is a hard choice for players in some countries to make, and the committee feels it has created an imbalance in the international game. Shakib’s experiences contrasted with those of Bairstow, who spoke to the committee at the July 2017 meeting, and highlighted that the choices facing a modern professional vary greatly from country to country.
“The committee discussed how a proper wage structure, together with the provision of more longer-term national central contracts, would entice more players to commit to international cricket, rather than opting out to play in domestic T20 leagues. There is concern that players in the poorer or developing nations are not being paid sufficiently, and there needs to be transparency and accountability of where ICC funds are being spent by some member boards.”
The vastly contrasting levels of remuneration from country to country were highlighted in an ESPNcricinfo investigation in October, which showed that Australia’s captain Steven Smith stood to earn US$1.469 million in 2017, while his Zimbabwean counterpart Graeme Cremer would earn a mere $86,000. India’s captain Virat Kohli would pull in approximately $1 million for 2017, while the coach Ravi Shastri collected an annual salary of $1.17 million.
Wage imbalances were also addressed in the context of the women’s game, which has grown exponentially in terms of exposure and marketability in recent times, underlined by the success of last year’s World Cup in England and the continuing expansion of the WBBL in Australia. While encouraged by these points of progress, the MCC committee’s members noted that the game’s richer countries, England and Australia in particular, were streaking ahead of others in terms of wage growth, and that the WBBL and the English T20 Super League needed to be recognised with distinct calendar windows akin to that for the IPL.
“The committee is concerned, however, of the danger of the rich getting richer and the other countries not being able to keep up,” the spokesman said. “Some form of minimum wage and payment structure should therefore be introduced to help close the gap and the present imbalance in international cricket. For women’s cricket to be really successful, the game needs at least eight nations to compete – with only six realistically challenging for honours at present.
“The committee would also like to see a window created in the international cricket structure for the Big Bash and Super League to ensure that the best players play in it. At present there is some international cricket scheduled during the Women’s Big Bash, which prevents some of the game’s best cricketers from playing in the tournament.”
Players on the committee also expressed the belief that more should be done to utilise the world’s players associations as links between cricketers and the efforts of governing bodies to reduce the risks of corrupt activity around the game. “The World Cricket committee believes that player associations have an important part to play in helping to fight corruption in the game. At present, there is no mechanism to report corruption to a player association or a trusted third party, who would in turn report the approach to the ICC’s Anti-Corruption & Security Unit, therefore protecting the anonymity of the player.
“Having heard from a number of international players on the subject, the committee understands that some players may be reluctant to come forward due to the concern of their protection of anonymity. The committee feels that a player association that protects anonymity would see far more players coming forward as a result. An alteration to the education process for professional players is also required, with the practice of players educating players believed to be the most impactful method of building awareness, trust and acceptance, and helping to augment the work carried out by anti-corruption personnel.
“The committee feels better results would be achieved if the message has been delivered by players with personal experience. Furthermore, the committee believes more needs to be done to improve the education of young players on corruption in cricket. Programmes to prevent corruption should begin well before a player makes it to academy or professional level, potentially starting at the Under-13 age bracket. Education programmes, such as e-learning platforms, would need to be tweaked to ensure ease of access and understanding for these younger players.”
Among other matters, the committee was staunch in pushing for standardised use of DRS technology to accompany the start of the inaugural World Test Championship in 2019. “The committee recommends that ICC standardise the use of DRS technology for all matches in the competition. Currently, not all international Test series are played with DRS, and some contests only use certain elements of the technology, such as ball-tracking, but may lack other elements, like HotSpot.
“ICC’s World Test Championship should be played under the same regulations regardless of which teams are taking part in the matches and where in the world they take place, to ensure a level playing field and consistency of application throughout the competition; the ICC should be prepared to fund the system, possibly through a global sponsor, to assist host countries that cannot at present afford to pay for the required technology.”