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News

FICA president Sthalekar: men's calendar 'reaching a point where things may break'

The women's game is some way away from such a situation, and "we have to nip things in the bud before it gets too big," Sthalekar says

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
23-May-2023
FICA president Lisa Sthalekar attends a press conference in Dhaka, Dhaka, May 23, 2023

"Ideally, we want a strong competition internationally where countries want their best players to play against each other"  •  Daily Star

Lisa Sthalekar, the Federation of International Cricketers' Association (FICA) president, is concerned that the men's international cricket calendar could reach breaking point soon if solutions aren't found quickly.
There is the matter of franchise T20 leagues taking over larger chunks of the calendar with each passing year, and also the reports of ongoing informal discussions between IPL franchise owners and international cricketers about long-term contracts.
"The game is changing at a rapid rate. These conversations have been happening for a while behind closed doors [between the ICC, the cricket boards and FICA]. We are getting to a point where things may break," Sthalekar, in Dhaka for a three-day visit at the invitation of the Cricketers' Welfare Association of Bangladesh, said. "I know that the ICC is speaking to the national boards. We are speaking to the ICC as well. We have to wait and see how that happens.
"We all see the benefit of T20 cricket. We understand players have a small window to maximise their earnings. A lot of our players are enjoying playing bilateral cricket, ICC events and the T20 leagues. We understand that the men's calendar is getting quite big. We are urging the ICC and national boards to come together because it is not a solution that can be solved straight away. Certainly, the players would like to play a role in that, to see if there's a way forward for everyone to have their cake and eat it as well."
Heath Mills, FICA's executive chairman, had last month confirmed that a lot of such informal contract discussions have taken place between the IPL team owners and players from at least five countries.
Sthalekar said that the national boards would want to keep their best players for international cricket, with the FICA trying to make decision-making easier for the players so that they are not forced to choose.
'We represent a big proportion of players that travel around the world. We want to make their decisions easier so that they don't have to choose one or the other"
Lisa Sthalekar
"The challenge is not for FICA; it is the national boards wanting to keep their players to play for the country," Sthalekar said. "Ideally, we want a strong competition internationally where countries want their best players to play against each other. We are seeing a number of leagues come up, which clash with bilateral cricket.
"Men's calendar is getting pretty full. We are working with the ICC. We are happy to work with the national boards. We represent a big proportion of players that travel around the world. We want to make their decisions easier so that they don't have to choose one or the other."

Sthalekar: Women's cricket 'can learn some lessons from the men's calendar'

The same is not the issue, at the moment, with women's cricket where T20 leagues are yet to break into the playing calendar in a big way. Sthalekar would like it to remain that way.
"People have been crying out for the WPL for a long time. It was very successful. The appetite was great. Crowds came in, the broadcast numbers were excellent," she said. "The great thing is that female players can earn a decent living playing the game. When I was playing - I retired ten years ago - I had to have a full-time job [outside the game]. It is no longer the case for a lot of cricketers. Obviously, there's still a long way to go.
"Ideally we would like to see the women's calendar fit in T20 leagues, bilaterals and ICC events so that players don't have to choose one or the other. We can learn some lessons from the men's calendar. We have to nip things in the bud before it gets too big."
Sthalekar's Bangladesh visit will include a meeting with some of the leading women's cricketers, including national captain Nigar Sultana and star quick bowler Jahanara Alam.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84