Opening batsman Xavier Marshall is the highest profile casualty from USA Cricket's newly announced list of central contracts, which are only guaranteed through the end of 2020 instead of a 12-month basis as part of a number of severe cost-cutting measures resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. According to multiple sources, the remaining eight players have all been given a flat $1800 a month salary, which is a 60-75% pay cut for most players compared to their original contracts from July 2019.
"The USA Cricket Board identified that the restructuring of the contracting model around the men's national team was an important exercise given the unprecedented events of 2020," said USA Cricket board chairman Paraag Marathe on Monday in a release announcing the new contract list. "We have not played any international cricket since February and we are currently uncertain as to when our next fixtures will be, whilst at the same time we are forecasting a decline in our current and future year revenues as a result of the pandemic."
USA's players had been the highest paid in the Associate world in the previous contracts list, with the highest tier contracts being "in excess of USD 90,000" as per a press release from USA cricket, while the lowest were believed to have been in the $60,000 range according to multiple sources. However, USA's squad struggled at times to justify the pay. Despite being heavily favoured, they lost all four matches to Canada and Bermuda at the ICC Americas Regional T20 Qualifier in August 2019 to fall short of advancing to the T20 World Cup Qualifier in Dubai. Most recently, they were swept in four straight ODIs in February by Nepal and Oman before the pandemic disrupted their fixture list.
USA has had a home ODI series against Scotland and UAE postponed from April, while another ODI tri-series tour to Namibia to face the hosts and Papua New Guinea in September has also been postponed. USA's opening round of qualifying due to take place in Canada this August for the next T20 World Cup has also been shelved after the tournament was pushed back to 2022. The Covid-19 infection rate in the country has also contributed to the postponement of the planned launch of the Minor League Cricket T20 franchise competition this summer, and it is unknown when the national team will be able to resume training activities ahead of their next scheduled series for early 2021 in Oman.
Marshall had been one of USA's key performers at 2019 WCL Division Two in Namibia, scoring a century against Hong Kong in a win that clinched ODI status for USA. But his form was inconsistent upon receiving a central contract. He scored 55 runs in five innings at the ICC Americas Regional T20 Qualifier at Bermuda in August 2019. The last straw was USA's win-less ODI tour of Kathmandu in February where he scored 54 runs in four innings. In all, he averaged just 17.00 in 13 ODIs for USA.
Also cut from the contracts list were Timil Patel and Elmore Hutchinson, USA's two highest wicket-takers in 50-over cricket. Both have played 68 matches in 50-over cricket for USA since their debuts in 2012 with Timil claiming 81 wickets at 21.96 and Hutchinson 68 at 23.34. However, both have had their spots taken by younger men. Karima Gore, 22, has been the lead spinner ahead of the 36-year-old Patel, while Cameron Stevenson, 27, has replaced Hutchinson, who turned 38 on Tuesday.
Though USA captain Saurabh Netravalkar was announced as a member of the pared down list of contracted players to nine, multiple sources have confirmed he is technically not included among the contracted players being compensated by USA Cricket and ACE. Netravalkar works full-time as a software developer for Oracle in San Francisco, California. His work visa status does not allow him to take official employment with other organisations outside of Oracle.
USA central contract list: Aaron Jones, Monank Patel, Steven Taylor, Karima Gore, Akshay Homraj, Nosthush Kenjige, Nisarg Patel and Rusty Theron.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna