ECB offer incentives to tempt England stars back to the Men's Hundred
Bairstow, Stokes among players who opted out due to workload in 2022
The ECB will make additional funds available to incentivise England's leading all-format cricketers to take part in the Hundred in 2023, as part of a revamped recruitment system for centrally-contracted men's players.
The Hundred has an exclusive four-week window in England's men's international schedule for the first time in 2023, running from August 1-27. It starts immediately after the fifth Ashes Test and ends three days before the first of eleven limited-overs internationals against New Zealand and Ireland, which will serve as preparation for England's 50-over World Cup defence.
While there is an expectation that those involved in the fifth Ashes Test will not immediately return to play in the Hundred, the ECB hope to ensure that all-format players are available for a significant proportion of the competition. Several multi-format players including Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes pulled out of the Hundred altogether in 2022 in order to rest before England's Test series against South Africa, and the standard suffered as a result.
ESPNcricinfo understands that players on all-format central contracts were paid around £50,000 to play three games in 2022, with an additional £5,000 for any further games. In 2023, they will be paid £125,000 to play the full season, or the same fee on a pro rata basis if they make themselves unavailable for a portion of the season.
The ECB's increased investment in the biggest English names mirrors Cricket Australia's renewed attempts to involve its leading men's players in the Big Bash League. David Warner made his first appearance for Sydney Thunder since 2013 earlier this month after signing a lucrative deal, the majority of which fell outside of the BBL's salary cap.
The revamped regulations dictate that each team will sign a single 'all-format' centrally-contracted player, assuming player and team reach an agreement. The eight players who have that status and the teams who have the option to retain them are: Jofra Archer (Southern Brave), Bairstow (Welsh Fire), Jos Buttler (Manchester Originals), Sam Curran (Oval Invincibles), Joe Root (Trent Rockets), Stokes (Northern Superchargers), Chris Woakes (Birmingham Phoenix) and Mark Wood (London Spirit).
In the unlikely event that two or more teams decide not to retain - or do not reach an agreement with - those players, a mini-draft will be held to determine which player joins which team. England's other centrally-contracted players, including Moeen Ali, Zak Crawley, Liam Livingstone, Ollie Pope and Adil Rashid, will be part of the main draft mechanism, and can be retained by their teams if they reach an agreement on a salary for 2023.
Intriguingly, Buttler remains on an all-format central contract despite the fact he has not played Test cricket since the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney. Ben Foakes signed his first central contract in October and has impressed in the last year and England are not lacking for attacking middle-order batters, but Buttler's contract status suggests that his Test career might not be over yet.
The Men's Hundred's retention window officially opened on January 13 and will close at 11.59pm on February 14. Teams can retain up to 10 players who held a contract with them in 2022, plus a centrally-contracted player.
The ECB have also doubled the number of 'wildcard' signings from one per team to two, meaning each team will sign two players for £30,000 based on performances in the group stage of the T20 Blast. Overall squad sizes remain unchanged.
ESPNcricinfo revealed in November that the 'overseas wildcard' spot has been scrapped, meaning teams will have three overseas players in their squad at any one time, rather than four. All three will be available to feature in any given playing XI.
Women's teams have been discussing their 'marquee' retentions with players over the last two months, ahead of the inaugural women's draft in March.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98