David Warner, Marcus Stoinis and Sophie Devine have pulled out of the inaugural season of the Hundred, with the ECB bracing for further withdrawals amid clashes with international tours and restrictions on overseas travel.
Warner and Stoinis were both contracted by the Southern Brave on deals worth £100,000 and £80,000 respectively, but have opted to withdraw from the competition. Both players have been named in Australia's preliminary squad for white-ball tours to the Caribbean and Bangladesh, which overlap with the Hundred's window from July 21-August 21, but are expected to withdraw in order to spend time with their families.
Trevor Hohns, Australia's national selector, added six players to the preliminary squad for those tours following discussions with those initially named. "During the course of those discussions, it has become clear that recent experiences abroad, including but not limited to extended periods in bio-secure hubs and hard quarantine, have had an impact on the health and wellbeing of some players and their families," he said.
"CA has maintained that the wellbeing of players, staff and officials is a top priority, and never more so than during the Covid-19 pandemic given the extraordinary challenges it has placed upon international athletes and sporting teams."
"It is obviously disappointing to lose players with the ability of David and Marcus, but the realities of Covid mean there are practicalities that are difficult for some overseas players to overcome," the ECB said in a statement to ESPNcricinfo. "Replacement overseas players will be signed by Southern Brave, and we look forward to the Hundred showcasing world-class cricket this summer."
Their third men's overseas player, Andre Russell, is likely to miss the first half of the tournament's group stage on international duty, during West Indies' home T20I series against Australia and Pakistan, but the Brave hope he will be available for their first three or four games plus the knockouts. They are lining up a temporary replacement for the start of the Hundred, likely to be an overseas player in the Vitality Blast.
This is the second time that Warner has pulled out of the Hundred, after he initially did so in March 2020 citing "family and personal reasons". Stoinis was lined up as his replacement before the tournament was postponed to 2021 and was then retained before February's draft, in which Warner was re-signed as a first-round pick.
Seven other Australian men's players - Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Adam Zampa, Aaron Finch, Chris Lynn, D'Arcy Short and Nathan Coulter-Nile - are contracted for the tournament. Lynn and Coulter-Nile are expected to fulfil their deals at Northern Superchargers and Trent Rockets respectively after missing out on Australia's enlarged squad, while Short is also likely to spend the full season with the Rockets following his stint with Hampshire in the T20 Blast, but the availability of the other four players is also in doubt.
Shaheen Afridi is also set to withdraw from his Birmingham Phoenix deal after being named in Pakistan's T20I and Test squad for their tour to the Caribbean, while Shadab Khan - named in the T20I squad - will miss at least the first half of the group stage for Manchester Originals.
The nine New Zealand players involved in the T20 Blast are expected to attract interest as potential replacement players in the Hundred, with Lockie Ferguson understood to have agreed a deal. Finn Allen, who made his Lancashire debut on Wednesday, said earlier this week: "Hopefully I can slide in as a replacement player. I've heard a few players might potentially be pulling out from different countries, so hopefully an opportunity pops up."
The ECB confirmed on Friday that five India women's players - Shafali Verma (Birmingham Phoenix), Deepti Sharma (London Spirit), Harmanpreet Kaur (Manchester Originals), Smriti Mandhana (Southern Brave) and Jemimah Rodrigues (Northern Superchargers) - will stay on to play in the competition following their multi-format series against England, as revealed by ESPNcricinfo.
Verma is a replacement for Devine, the New Zealand allrounder, who has pulled out "in order to be in the best position to prepare for international cricket, particularly with the ICC Women's World Cup due to be held in her native New Zealand in February," according an ECB release.
Rachael Haynes and Jess Jonassen have already withdrawn, and further Australia players may pull out in order to rest and prepare for their home series against India, which starts on September 19.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98