Cricketers’ dilemma: Gearing up for Test match or IPL money-spinner

On Saturday evening, Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan and the hero of the ODI series, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, spun a web around Indian batsmen in the second Test against India at Mirpur. Like a pack of cards, K.L. Rahul, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara returned to the pavilion without scoring double digits. This was after Litton Das’ brilliant knock under pressure, which ensured that Bangladesh got a decent total. On Sunday, the retreat continued with Mehidy getting a fifer after he bamboozled both Rishabh Pant and Axar Patel. With India tottering at 74 for 7, Ravichandran Ashwin and Shreyas Iyer joined hands to chase down the remaining 71 runs in a nail-biting finish denying Bangladesh their first Test win against India.

The thrilling encounter will fetch the Indian players a match fee of $18,000 each and Bangladeshi players $5,600 each. In addition, the players get a central contract amount annually. All figures are approximations and based on last Friday’s exchange rate.

Less than 24 hours before the drama started to unfold in Mirpur, in a mini-auction of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Mehidy was not even part of the shortlist. Shakib and Das remained unsold in the auction in the initial rounds and were picked up at the last moment as teams had many slots to fill.

Das and Shakib were picked up for about $60,500 and $1,80,000, respectively, by the Kolkata Knight Riders. Even after accounting for TDS and other similar deductions, this is a lucrative deal for a minimum of 14 T20 matches regardless of their inclusion in the playing XI. All the Indian players listed above except Pujara were retained by the respective IPL teams. The retention deals ranged between $19,00,000 and $7,00,000.

Such massive variance between median player earnings in international and domestic leagues existed in eight out of the 10 teams analysed by the Federation of International Cricketers Association (FICA) as shown in  Chart 1. Domestic leagues earnings are based on the average contract size from The Hundred, IPL and BBL. The report further notes, “This (gap) is further amplified by the workload of domestic leagues being generally half that of international cricket on a time / wage basis – i.e. “twice the pay for half the work.”

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Given the variance, it comes as no surprise that 49% of cricketers across 11 countries surveyed by FICA said they would reject a central contract if they were paid more in domestic leagues. This is despite the fact that 74% of them still consider Test cricket to be the most important format. The survey also revealed that 69% of the players had less than 12 months to run on their current national contract with 46% rating their relationship with their National Governing Body as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

Even the national cricket associations are increasingly scheduling more T20 matches between countries given the popularity of the format.  Chart 2 shows the percentage share of international matches played by eight countries across different formats. In 2022, 50% of all international matches were T20s, 30% were ODIs and 18% were Tests. A decade ago, the ratio was 30% T20s, 45% ODIs and 25% Tests.

Chart 3 shows the absolute number of T20s, ODIs and Tests played by select nations in the last decade. India played 40 T20s in 2022, the most by any nation in any year. England continued to play a high number of Tests even while increasing their T20 count. However, in general, the number of T20s is increasing at the cost of ODIs and Tests.

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Source: Federation of International Cricketers Association, Cricinfo

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