Pakistan players set to receive ‘historic’ hike in new central contracts

Pakistan’s players are set to receive “historic” increases in their new central contracts, even as negotiations on their participation in overseas T20 leagues continue. Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi, in the top category of contracts, could be in line to earn as much as PKR 4.5 million (USD 15,900 approx) a month as a retainer, four times as much as was on offer to top players in last year’s contracts.

The new contracts are likely to do away with last year’s format where red- and white-ball players were split, and return to previous years with four different categories of players. Babar, Rizwan and Afridi, as captain and cross-format stars, will be in category A.

Category B players are in line to receive in the region of PKR 3 million (USD 10,600 approx), while those in category C and D will get between PKR 0.75-1.5 million (USD 2650-5300 approx). The retainer values, if signed off on, represent the biggest increase in years, as part of an overall offering that was, according to officials, “historic”.

The hike is offset somewhat by the sharp depreciation of the Pakistan rupee in the last year, as well as an economy in which inflation has been spiralling out of control. But even accounting for that, the retainer increase is more than double, at least across the top category. It also comes a year before the ICC’s new revenue distribution model kicks in, in which the PCB’s annual earnings of PKR 9.6 billion approx (USD 34 million) are more than double what they were over the last ICC rights cycle.

That will make a significant difference for players who have been among the lowest paid internationally, a position exacerbated by often restrictive policies around playing in foreign T20 leagues. Pakistan’s players are not allowed to play in the IPL and their participation in other leagues has been subject traditionally to changing policies each time a new administration comes in.

Only last year, leading players delayed signing the contracts because they were unhappy with the restrictive terms around playing in leagues, under the then administration of Ramiz Raja. That was the second time since 2019 that players had expressed unhappiness with terms, which is as close to a labour dispute as is possible in a landscape without a players’ association.

The number of leagues players will be allowed to participate in next year has not yet been finalised 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, with those in the lower categories to be allowed more than one.

But there is likely to be flexibility on the issue and that clause could change by the time the contracts are finalised. Usman Wahla, the PCB’s international director, and more recently Misbah-ul-Haq, as an advisor to Zaka Ashraf, have been leading discussions, talking to a group of senior players.

Importantly, there is a recognition within the PCB that players who are not a part of these leagues are missing out on big, potentially life-changing earnings. In some cases, senior players in demand on the league circuit could make two to three times more per year from league deals than they do now.

There is also an acknowledgement that, in terms of planning, the league circuit needs to be treated as a separate 12-month calendar and players’ commitments worked out accordingly. Najam Sethi, Ashraf’s predecessor as board head, had also been planning a more open policy with regard to leagues and had been negotiating with the ILT20 about the participation of Pakistan players this season.

The ILT20 was a particularly thorny issue last season, the PCB demanding a fee from the league for each player who took part. Part of that was also because the ILT20 took place in a busy home season for Pakistan in which their best players were bound to be taking part.

Domestic contracts will also be presented to players soon, with likely increased retainers as well as the prospect of enhanced earnings by playing in two first-class tournaments, one for regional teams and one for department-based sides.

Final discussions are due to take place with players over the weekend, the results of which will be presented to Ashraf early next week.

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