The PCB and the Pakistan men's team players have reached a landmark agreement on central contracts, ending several months of deadlock and uncertainty. For the first time in Pakistan, three-year contracts have been put in place - rather than the standard 12 months - along with a significant increase in player earnings, as well as a fixed share of revenue from the PCB's earnings from the ICC.
The agreement comes nearly three months after the most recent central contracts expired on June 30. Ever since, Pakistan's players had been playing without receiving any retainers or other financial compensation. ESPNcricinfo understands the PCB offered the players the option to continue the payment structure of the old contracts until the new deal was struck, an offer the players turned down.
As such, there was an impasse between the two parties, with the Test series in Sri Lanka, an ODI series against Afghanistan, and the Asia Cup all played by players without active contracts. It looked inevitable that Pakistan would play the World Cup without contracts too, with the captain Babar Azam
offering no indication that an agreement was close during his pre-departure press conference.
While the players and the board were far apart in terms of what they were willing to agree to for much of the last few weeks, the deal that has been struck is more generous for players than any in recent history. The monthly retainer was never really a sticking point, with Category A players receiving PKR 4,500,000 (USD 15,590), a more than four-fold increase over the previous year. The PCB had initially offered Category A players the option to play just one T20 league aside from the PSL, but agreed to allow all centrally-contracted players two additional leagues regardless of category of contract.
By far the biggest sticking point, though, was the possibility of revenue sharing. The players demanded a percentage of the revenue the ICC pays annually to the PCB, something the board was reluctant to agree to. In the end, the parties agreed to the players receiving a 3% share of revenue, which amounts to around USD 1 million (the PCB is set to earn USD 34 million per year from next year as a share of ICC revenue). This will be paid to players over and above their monthly retainers and match fees, which are also set to increase by 50% in Tests, 25% in ODIs and 12.5% in T20Is. While it is a far cry from Cricket Australia's 27.5% revenue-sharing deal with its centrally-contracted players, or the BCCI's 26%, the Pakistan players were keen to agree to any percentage, however small, to set a precedent.
"This deal signifies our commitment to improving the financial health of our players, acknowledging their hard work and dedication to the game," Zaka Ashraf, the PCB management committee chairperson, said. "We firmly believe that a financially secure and motivated team is more likely to excel on the field.
"As we move forward, the entire nation stands behind these players to do well in the upcoming ICC Men's World Cup. We have faith in their abilities, and we are confident that they will make the nation proud with their outstanding performances."
The main reason the players managed to get the PCB to agree to most of their terms was a collective bargaining position. It is understood the four players leading the negotiations - Babar, Mohammad Rizwan
, Shaheen Shah Afridi
and Shadab Khan
- put up a united front for these talks, and retained the trust of the rest of the team to negotiate on everyone's behalf.
"It is by far a historic deal," Babar said. "I am extremely happy and satisfied that we have reached an agreement with the PCB. It has been a lengthy and, at times, challenging negotiation process, but I believe we have reached a fair and beneficial agreement for both parties."
The decision to extend these contracts to three years also provides all parties with medium to long-term certainty. This does not mean all players currently offered central contracts will keep them for the next 36 months, or even that they cannot be demoted. The contracts will be subject to annual review, with players potentially coming in or dropping out, but the infrastructure and framework of the contracts is set to remain unchanged till 2026.
Pakistan arrived in Hyderabad in India earlier today, where they play their warm-up games against New Zealand on September 29 and Australia on October 3. Their first game of the World Cup is also in Hyderabad, against the Netherlands on October 6.
List of centrally-contracted players
Category A: Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi
Category B: Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah and Shadab Khan
Category C: Imad Wasim and Abdullah Shafique
Category D: Fahim Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmad, Saud Shakeel, Shahnawaz Dahani, Shan Masood, Usama Mir and Zaman Khan
Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000