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England players cannot be exempt from ECB cuts, says Chris Woakes

ECB redundancies overshadow final ODI as central contracts loom for England players

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Chris Woakes has admitted that the England team cannot be "exempt" from the cost-cutting measures that the ECB have been forced to implement, after extending his sympathies to the 62 board employees who have lost their jobs due to the financial impact of the the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, speaking on the eve of the final international fixture of the summer, Woakes added it was too soon to speculate on how the pandemic would impact on the next round of ECB central contracts, which are up for renewal at the start of October.
Instead, he reiterated just how important it had been that West Indies, Ireland, Pakistan and Australia all agreed to tour to prevent the board's financial losses from being even worse.
"It's incredibly sad news, really," Woakes said, after it was confirmed that the ECB would be reducing its workforce by 20 percent, in a bid to mitigate projected losses of £200 million if Covid continues to disrupt the sport in 2021.
"There's a lot of people behind the scenes at the ECB who work incredibly hard, important cogs in the wheel," Woakes added. "In the current climate, these sort of things are bound to happen in cricket, and in all sports around the world.
"Of course it's a sad time, and it does resonate with the players, but we're also very fortunate that cricket has gone ahead this summer, [because] that figure of £200 million could have been a lot worse. I suppose that is the only positive outcome, really.
Victory over Australia in the third and final ODI would complete England's unbeaten record in international series across formats this summer, and defend a perfect record in bilateral ODI series at home that dates back to 2015 and the start of their emergence as a force in white-ball cricket.
But more importantly, the mere fact that the fixture is taking place means that England's men will have completed their full roster of 18 international fixtures for 2020, an achievement that seemed unthinkable back in April, when the ECB projected worst-case losses of £380 million if the full season had been wiped out.
"The fact that we actually got some cricket on this summer is just a bonus," Woakes said. "At one point it didn't look like there'd be a ball bowled, so credit to everyone who made that happen."
West Indies and Pakistan, in particular, went to extreme lengths to make the Test leg of the summer, happen, with each team spending two months in lockdown to complete series that were worth in excess of £120 million to the ECB's coffers. Ireland and Australia's visits have been less extreme, but undeniably valuable in the current climate.
"We thank them greatly, really," Woakes said. "They took the effort to come across when no-one really knew what cricket was going to look like in a bubble. We're really thankful because getting cricket on our shores has been really important."
But the England players themselves have had to play their part in arduous circumstances. Speaking on Monday, Jofra Archer told of the mental toll that life in the England bubble had taken on him, after 87 days in the bio-secure environment, the longest of any of the players. And Woakes agreed that it had been a challenge over and above the usual touring lifestyle.
"There's been times when it's been brilliant, particularly when you are performing well and we're winning. And there's times when it's not gone quite so well, and when you have a bad day, it's hard to get away from. You're constantly looking at the pitch, which can be tough at times, and you're obviously away from friends and family, which also makes it hard.
"So there's definitely periods where you wish you could get away from the game and get back home and see friends and family, but I think we've all stuck to the task really well. It'd be nice for us to finish on a high, but I think everyone has done a great job."
In ordinary circumstances, such over-and-above efforts might qualify England's players for hardship bonuses, rather than the prospect of pay cuts. But, with the Team England Player Partnership group beginning their negotiations for 2020-21, and with the top multi-format men's players earning close to £1 million before bonuses, Woakes was realistic about the prospect of further financial sacrifice.
"It is a situation where we have to sit down as players and see what happens with regards to these contracts coming up," he said. "We'll know more in the next few weeks. We'll reassess at that point.
"At this moment of time, it is hard for me to say 'we're going to take X cuts, and there are going to be donations here, left right and centre'. Until we've seen what happens from above we'll then get more of a feel for it. I certainly wouldn't rule that out."
As Woakes pointed out, the England players have already made a voluntary contribution to the cause, donating a combined sum of £500,000 back in April when the pandemic's impact was first felt.
"That hasn't really been discussed since and we haven't been spoken to by the hierarchy of the ECB," he added. "In the current climate, with contracts around the corner, you have to expect anything. We have to wait and see. as players, you can't say we're exempt from it."
In the meantime, however, there's a series to be won on the field against Australia.
"The environment that we're in certainly has had its tough times," Woakes said. "But the team has pulled together and played some really good cricket, and that's obviously the most important thing for us when we're out there, performing as well as we can. And we've certainly done that, which has been brilliant."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket