The players of Pakistan are poised to receive significant increases in their new central contracts, which are being hailed as “historic.”
This development comes amidst ongoing negotiations regarding their involvement in international T20 leagues.
Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, and Shaheen Shah Afridi, placed in the highest tier of contracts, can earn up to PKR 4.5 million (approximately USD 15,900) monthly as a retainer.
This amount is four times greater than what was offered to the top players in the previous year’s contracts.
The upcoming contracts will probably abandon last year’s format, which involved segregating players into red-ball and white-ball categories.
Instead, they are expected to revert to the previous approach of categorizing players into four distinct groups, as in last years.
Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, and Shahid Afridi, who have excelled as captains and have consistently performed across different formats, have been placed in category A.
Players in Category B are expected to receive approximately PKR 3 million (approximately USD 10,600). In contrast, those in Category C and D will be granted a sum ranging from PKR 0.75-1.5 million (USD 2650-5300 approximately).
The approved retainer values signify a significant increase, marking the largest in years. This development is part of a comprehensive offering that officials have described as “historic.”
The price increase is partially mitigated by the significant devaluation of the Pakistan rupee over the past year, coupled with an economy experiencing rampant inflation.
However, even after considering that, the increase in the retainer fee is more than double, particularly within the highest category.
This development occurred one year before implementing the ICC’s new revenue distribution model. Under this model, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is projected to earn approximately PKR 9.6 billion (equivalent to USD 34 million) annually, more than double the amount earned during the previous ICC rights cycle.
This will undoubtedly have a profound impact on players who have consistently ranked among the lowest earners on the global stage, a predicament further exacerbated by the stringent regulations surrounding participation in overseas T20 tournaments.
The participation of Pakistani players in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been prohibited, and their involvement in other leagues has historically been contingent upon the ever-changing policies of each new administration.
Just last year, prominent players postponed signing their contracts due to their dissatisfaction with the stringent conditions imposed on participating in leagues during the tenure of Ramiz Raja as the administrator.
This marked the second instance since 2019 in which players had voiced their discontent with the terms, representing a situation akin to a labor dispute within a framework that lacks a formal players’ association.
The finalization of the number of leagues in which players will be permitted to participate next year is still pending, as it remains a subject of ongoing negotiations.
Currently, players in the highest two categories will be allowed to participate in one league other than the PSL. In contrast, those in the lower categories can participate in more than one league.
However, there is likely room for flexibility regarding this matter, and the mentioned clause may undergo modifications before the finalization of the contracts.
Leading the discussions and engaging in dialogue with a group of esteemed senior players are Usman Wahla, the International Director of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), and more recently, Misbah-ul-Haq, who serves as an advisor to Zaka Ashraf.
It is crucial to acknowledge that the PCB recognizes the significant financial opportunities that players not affiliated with these leagues may be forfeiting, which could have a transformative impact on their lives.
In certain instances, senior players who are highly sought-after in the league circuit could earn two to three times their current annual income through league deals.
It is also important to acknowledge that, when it comes to planning, the league circuit should be regarded as a distinct 12-month calendar, and players’ commitments should be organized accordingly.
Najam Sethi, the former head of the board before Ashraf, had also been strategizing a more inclusive approach toward leagues. He had been negotiating with the ILT20 regarding the potential involvement of Pakistani players in the upcoming season.
Last season, the issue of the ILT20 posed a significant challenge, as the PCB insisted on charging a fee to the league for every player’s participation.
One contributing factor to this was the scheduling of the ILT20 during a hectic home season for Pakistan, during which their top players were inevitably committed to participating.
Players can expect domestic contracts shortly, which will likely come with higher retainers. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to boost their earnings by participating in two prestigious first-class tournaments.
One tournament will be dedicated to regional teams, while the other will focus on department-based sides.
The concluding negotiations with the players are scheduled over the weekend, and the outcomes will be presented to Ashraf at the beginning of next week.