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PCA want new-look central contracts

David Hopps at The Oval

July 19, 2012

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Kevin Pietersen and Andy Flower during England training, The Oval, July 17, 2012
Kevin Pietersen's recent stance has brought the issue of England players at the IPL to a head again © Getty Images
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England's elite players would have more of a say in the management of their workloads under proposals that are being drawn up by the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) ahead of the redrafting of central contracts next year.

If PCA proposals are accepted, England would shift slightly towards the sort of squad system that has become an accepted part of Premier League football, as the most senior and successful players such as Kevin Pietersen were given more licence to miss matches regarded as less important.

Angus Porter, chief executive of the PCA, facilitated unsuccessful negotiations last week between Pietersen and his representatives and Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, which failed to end the stand-off which has led to Pietersen's premature retirement from all England limited-overs cricket.

Pietersen wanted rest from more one-day matches and also proposed missing at least one of England's May Tests to enable him to play a full IPL season.

Porter remains adamant that a more formalised rotation system is essential if England's top players are to maximise their time in the game. The current three-year agreement expires in autumn 2013 and the PCA and ECB are anxious to draw up a new deal before next summer's Ashes series.

"This is an issue we need to get to grips with and one that we will be discussing in the next central contracts negotiation," Porter said. "We all recognise that with a really hectic schedule managing workloads is important particularly for senior players who have played the longest and who play in all formats of the game.

"We need to find a way to provide a little bit more structure to what is already happening - to develop England cricket as a squad game where you not only try to win every game but you try to keep the talent fresh and at the top as long as possible.

"Some kind of process that introduces some form of flexibility for those players who have been at the top for a good length of time is desirable and consistent with that."

Porter also pointed to the example of the ATP circuit where leading tennis players are exempt from less prestigious tournaments and so delay their retirement as a result. Roger Federer, who defeated Andy Murray in the Wimbledon men's final earlier this month, may already have retired without the management of his playing demands.

Reducing the amount of international cricket is virtually impossible under the self-perpetuating system where the Future Tours Programme is fixed until 2020 and TV rights have been sold well ahead - Sky TV in the UK have a deal until 2017 with a further two-year option - on the basis of these deals. That only leaves the options of rest and rotation and a more orderly fixture list.

"The existing rules work well in some cases - Andrew Strauss is a good example of somebody who has benefited - and less well in others," Porter said. "It is not inconceivable that they might allow players to retire from Test cricket and play in both forms of one-day cricket."

What central contracts could not resolve, said Porter, was the ECB's uneasy relationship towards IPL.

"I do think the ECB and the other boards have to grasp that nettle, accept the IPL exists and identify a window for it so we do not always have to manage the consequences of an event which without constraint will continue to grow and move around the schedule. It shouldn't be the most difficult thing in the world.

"IPL is this dirty great big thing that is not fixed in time and space in the FTP and until or unless the Boards and the ICC get to grips with it, accept that it is here to stay and identify a window of a sensible length for it, it is impossible for any of us to plan."

That will become increasingly evident between 2014 and 2016. ICC one-day tournaments are scheduled in March and April for each of those years, pushing IPL even later into the year - infiltrating England's international season to an even greater extent.

"Like most traditionalists, I believe that Test cricket is the priority," Porter said, adding that it was an understandable ambition for England players to want to take part in "the most lucrative, high-profile and fantastic tournament. Being practical about it, IPL is different and is bigger. It is not impossible for us to do something about it if we can get the IPL placed in a window. "

Unless accommodation between English cricket and IPL is found, Pietersen, depicted by many as a self-obsessed maverick, might turn out to be the harbinger of a battle-scarred future as future England players are frustrated in their desire to play in cricket's most glamorous and rewarding T20 tournament.

Porter, closer to the negotiations than most, said: "I can't take issue with either side in the argument. Both have been very reasonable in their points of view and have tried to find some middle ground but you come back to the fact that at the moment there is an irreconcilable issue that IPL clashes with test cricket and the ECB regards Test cricket with absolute primacy. Much as they want to be reasonable they can't and won't budge."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (July 20, 2012, 20:57 GMT)

why not play the IPL big bash and BPL only...and mind u...it is not premier league type at all...internationals arre chalcked out in football only when there are breaks!! unlike cricket!! ICCis a PRO indian body...it's failure to have a suitable schedule for all hurts good teams!

Posted by JG2704 on (July 20, 2012, 20:45 GMT)

@Damo_s on (July 20 2012, 12:34 PM GMT) SA weren't playing a test series clashing with IPL 2012. Aus/WI test series overlapped with IPL and WI stars Gayle and Bravo sr chose IPL whereas Clarke,Hilf,Watson etc played the test series before joining IPL. I think the thing which irks most Eng fans re KP is the way he intimated that he wanted more time off to prolong his career and spend with his family when it now seems he just wanted the time off to play IPL.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 20, 2012, 20:45 GMT)

@satish619chandar on (July 20 2012, 11:07 AM GMT) I wouldn't blame IPL as such. It is down to the player whether they want to play IPL fully , play IPL when it doesn't clash with anything else or ignore IPL. Re England , KP was the only test player who played any part in the IPL this year. Broad was signed but was injured. I only half agree with "If a player is so good and MUST in the team, the board should be nice to him". Obviously like everything in life you'd think the better one is treated the better they respond but sometimes people who are treated well behave like primadonnas when the grass looks greener elsewhere. Obviously we'll see how other Eng players react if they get bought in IPL 2013 but IMO the Aussies did the right thing in that they played the tests but played IPL after the WI series finished.

Posted by   on (July 20, 2012, 16:46 GMT)

I can understand the dilemna ECB is facing; they can sense that in future. if they give an inch now, their roles will be diminished. IPL has taken a lead in this direction with their financial muscle backed by loyal and admiring crowd. A new set up has to be evolved where all playing nations will have to sit together. Why not ICC or boards start getting a slice (money) from these tournaments such IPL, BBL, BB etc and invest in the development of new cricketers and then these can be sold back to these leagues at hefty prices.

Posted by Selassie-I on (July 20, 2012, 16:36 GMT)

The difficulty I think is that the IPL and then the champions league are scheduled at either end of the English cricket season; the season already startes too early to accomodate the champ's league, so it can't thus begin later as well to accomodate the IPL as there is already too many matches in too little time.. what should the ECB do? completley truncate the season to accomodate a dozen players? all the boards need to get together and work something out to stop this problem.... soon. However futle it sounds, it's best just to all get on for the greater good but unfortunatley cricket is run by a bunch of stubborn old stuffs!

Posted by JG2704 on (July 20, 2012, 14:30 GMT)

I'm not sure there is an easy solution here. As JM put , it would depend on BCCI cooperating and as YP put , the other problem is that every board would want to make sure their international matches don't clash with IPL which is impossible. One thing I will disagree with in the article is that it seems to suggest that it is the football players who choose when they play and when they don't. I'm not a Man U fan but Fergie has obviously rotated his side expertly for years. But the point is that it's Fergie who decides when to rest players and which players and if Rooney or whoever started to try and call the shots we all know what would happen. The other point is that EPL players only play for their club and their international side and whenever there's an international (even just a poxy friendly) during club season there are no club fixtures so they never overlap.

Posted by i_witnessed_2011 on (July 20, 2012, 14:03 GMT)

@jmcilhinney: Why should BCCI held responsible for not having an IPL window. BCCI has organised the tournment and asked players to get NOC from their respective board to be part of it. Now if BCCI had tried for a window, the everybody starts complaining about lobbying for a IPL window. The another point everybody is missing out here is BCCI or ICC is not (only) responsible for not having IPL window. Boards have agreed to play some number matches and sold their TV rights. and now they can not let their players go free for 6 -8 weeks to play IPL. Boards have agreed to tight schedules and many matches in a year to earn more money. Players want some more money by playing IPL. Boards,Players,Brodcasters everybody needs money. BCCI is just part of this race. I do not see any logic in blaming BCCI\IPL alone for the whole mess.

Posted by Damo_s on (July 20, 2012, 13:34 GMT)

I really dont understand the chin strokers who make comments such as "where is the loyalty" "all about the money". Sporting careers are very short lived therefore it is not unreasonable for individuals to try and maximise their income whilst they are at the peak of their sport. It only seems to be made an issue for England players. Half of the current SA side were in the IPL. Its the ECB thats killing cricket by scheduling too manny non-events and being completely inflexible. Move with the times or get left behind, a simple rule of business.

Posted by MartinC on (July 20, 2012, 12:46 GMT)

So now we are pushing the restructuring of central contracts to accommodate players wanting to play in the IPL?

The only player really effected right now is Pietersen. He is the only English player getting the kind of bid from IPL to make him want to play IPL instead of take up a full central contract. Totally understand his position - play IPL then and decline the central contract. We have young players waiting to take Pietersens spot and the England side will carry on without him.

Same goes for other English players - accept the central contract and take the money from that or decline and try your luck with the IPL - I suspect very few will go down that route.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (July 20, 2012, 12:39 GMT)

@YorkshirePudd, KP is the only 1 at the mo but it is only a matter of time before others will want the same. the likes of Swann & Prior enter the auction every year & never get picked up because they have limited availabilty, this would not be the case if they were available for the whole season. I also don't agree that putting the season back a fortnight to the end of May(I made no mention of starting in Jun) would neccesarily mean any reduction in Int games. Next summer would have been an exception owing to the staging of the CT, with the ashes and a full tour by NZL it could be argued the ECB has bitten off a bit too much next summer. I am in no way a fan of the ipl but every other int CB (expect PCB) has had to face the club vs country argument and I just feel that sooner rather than later Eng will be facing the same. I don't have the answers to how this can be resolved but there it is an issue that the ECB cannot afford to ignore any longer.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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