The new contracts are likely to eliminate last year’s format where red and white-ball players were divided, and will see a return to previous years with four different categories of players. Babar, Rizwan and Afridi, as captains and cross-format stars, will be in Category A.
The increase has been offset to some extent by the Pakistani rupee’s sharp decline last year as well as inflation in an economy that is spiraling out of control. But even taking that into account, the retainer increase is more than double, at least in the top tier. It also comes a year before the ICC’s new revenue distribution model comes into force, with the PCB’s annual earnings of approximately PKR 9.6 billion (US$34 million), more than double that of the previous ICC rights cycle.
This will make a significant difference to players who are among the lowest paid at international level, a situation made worse by the often restrictive policies around playing in overseas T20 leagues. Players from Pakistan are not allowed to play in the IPL and their participation in other leagues is traditionally subject to changing policies every time a new administration comes in.
How many league players will be allowed to participate next year has not yet been finalized, but is part of ongoing negotiations. As things stand, players in the top two categories are to be allowed one league other than the PSL, while players in the lower categories are to be allowed more than one.
Importantly, there is recognition within the PCB that players who are not part of these leagues are missing out on huge, potentially life-changing earnings. In some cases, senior players in demand on the league circuit could earn two to three times more per year from league deals than they do now.
There is also an acknowledgment that, in terms of planning, the league circuit should be treated as a separate 12-month calendar and players’ commitments should be met accordingly. Ashraf’s predecessor as board chief, Najam Sethi, was also planning a more open policy regarding the league and was in talks with ILT20 about the participation of Pakistan players this season.
The ILT20 was a particularly thorny issue last season, with the PCB demanding a fee from the league for each player participating. One reason for this was that the ILT20 took place during Pakistan’s busy domestic season in which their best players had to participate.
Domestic contracts will also soon be presented to players, with the potential for an increase in retainers as well as increased earnings from playing in two first-class tournaments, one for regional teams and one for department-based teams.
Final discussions are due to take place with the players over the weekend, the results of which will be presented to Ashraf early next week.