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McCullum: 'Naive' to think players would turn down longterm franchise deals

England Test coach says boards must "work with leagues" so best players remain available for international cricket

Brendon McCullum and Harry Brook at training  •  Getty Images

Brendon McCullum and Harry Brook at training  •  Getty Images

England Test head coach Brendon McCullum believes international boards, including the ECB, would be "completely naive" to assume their stars would turn down longterm franchise contracts.
Recent reports have suggested that IPL teams are in talks with a number of English cricketers to sign annual deals. Given their investments across other tournaments such as the CPL, SA20, ILT20, Abu Dhabi T10 and the upcoming Major League Cricket in the United States, franchise owners have been working towards a situation where they can extend control over their most valuable assets beyond three months of the year.
At the time of writing, it is understood no formal offers have been made to English players. However, Test nations such as South Africa and West Indies have long been at the mercy of franchise competitions when it comes to controlling the movement of their own players, and it seems only a matter of time before the likes of Australia and England must face a similar reality.
In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, England men's managing director Rob Key spoke of boards needing to work with players regarding franchise competitions for their own good: "You're never going to compete financially with these competitions. So you've got to try and find a way to actually make sure that you do retain control of those players."
Speaking to SENZ Radio in New Zealand, McCullum echoed those sentiments, urging professional empathy in a fast-changing landscape.
"The last few years, there's been a shifting of the sand somewhat around international cricket," McCullum said.
"We'd be completely naive to think that players would turn down huge amounts of money on longterm contracts for a lot less work in these T20 leagues because they should be playing international cricket. Those days are fast approaching to be over. It's definitely a shifting landscape and you've just got to be fluid.
"What you've got to do is you've got to work with these players, you got to work with these leagues and try and allow, ideally, players to have their cake and eat it too because you want your best players playing."
The ECB's more open approach when it comes to the IPL is reflective of the fact it sees no gain in maintaining England's early antagonism to the competition. This year's edition has seen a record 17 Englishman contracted, most notably Test skipper Ben Stokes, Sam Curran and Harry Brook, who all signed on seven-figure deals.
Brook, who has taken Test cricket by storm, is currently on an incremental contract with the ECB, earning around £60,000 (US$75,000) for representing England. That his deal with Sunrisers Hyderabad is £1.3 million (US$1.6 million) speaks of the disparity. While it is due to be rectified in the next round of central contract handouts at the end of the summer, particularly given Brook's role as a multi-format batter, it is unlikely to be more than the eye-catching figure of his first IPL season.
McCullum, however, does not anticipate a situation where he will not be able to call upon his best Test players in the near future. Indeed, he feels making international cricket a more enjoyable and meaningful experience can be an easy remedy as opposed to adopting a hardline stance on those who want to indulge in franchise cricket.
"How much fun they've had, how much those experiences which they've been able to get in an England shirt is so great that they are prepared to continue to put their yards [in] even though it might not be as financially viable as some of the other leagues," McCullum said.
"I think we are a little bit lucky, too, because the amount of money that we can pay players is better than some of the other boards around the world. It's not good enough to say 'You know what, if they don't want to play international cricket for us, then bugger them, we'll move on and find someone different'.
"As a spectator, you want to see the best players in the world representing their countries."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo