News

Lure of MLC could see English players skip T20 Blast for US payday

Alex Hales, Tom Curran and Jason Roy among those believed to be keen on securing involvement

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
18-Dec-2023
Jason Roy played for LA Knight Riders in the first edition of MLC  •  Sportzpics

Jason Roy played for LA Knight Riders in the first edition of MLC  •  Sportzpics

English players are considering missing up to half of the T20 Blast group stages in 2024 in order to feature in the second season of Major League Cricket (MLC) in the United States.
MLC announced last week that the 2024 season will start on July 4 and will conclude "by early August", with fixtures due to be released early next year. The Blast starts on May 30, running concurrently with the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and the United States, and the group stages end on July 19.
The ECB did not permit players with central contracts to feature in MLC last year and the board's stance is not likely to change ahead of this season. Jason Roy was the only England player to feature in MLC's inaugural season, representing Los Angeles Knight Riders (LAKR), and he arrived late after staying in the UK for T20 Blast Finals Day.
In 2023, MLC lasted two-and-a-half weeks and slotted into the gap between the end of the Blast - Finals Day apart - and the start of the Hundred. This year, the dates do not align as neatly, and an expanded MLC season is likely to run into the first week of the Hundred, which is due to start in late July.
MLC is in the process of finalising its rules around retention for 2024. Last year, the tournament's director Justin Geale told ESPNcricinfo that there had been "an awful lot of interest from English players" and it is understood that a number of England players are weighing up the possibility of being involved next year.
Alex Hales, who played in the Global T20 Canada last year after talks with MLC franchises fell through, is in the final stages of negotiations with his county Nottinghamshire over a new contract for 2024. Hales will feature for them in the Blast in some capacity next year but could miss up to six group games if he receives a lucrative MLC offer.
In theory, Notts could attempt to block Hales from playing in MLC by refusing to release him, but ESPNcricinfo understands that they would not try to do so. He has played for the club throughout his career and, in the event of a clash in his schedule in July, would then return for the knockout stages in September.
The top-paid players at MLC in 2023 earned US$175,000 (£140,000) to play a minimum of five games, salaries that even the wealthiest counties would struggle to compete with across the Blast's seven-week group stage.
Roy, who was retained by Kolkata Knight Riders for IPL 2024, is also expected to play for LAKR again next summer. The Cricketer reported last week that he and Tom Curran have both agreed new contracts with Surrey which will give them scope to play in MLC, though the club declined to comment.
County directors of cricket are also worried that the Blast's clash with the T20 World Cup will make it difficult to secure overseas players for the competition next year until squads have been named. Holding on to any big names for the duration of the Blast will prove even harder, with the knockout stages due to be staged six weeks after the end of the group stage.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98