Joe Root expects talks over a possible pay cut for England’s centrally contracted players may be on the horizon, even if this is not a feature of cricket’s upcoming rescue package.
The England and Wales Cricket Board is expected to announce measures designed to ease cash-flow problems for the 18 first-class counties and the recreational game, having redirected central funds in response to the hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
With the professional season not starting before 28 May – a date likely to be moved back given the ECB has now paused its next two ticket sales windows for the Hundred – a number of counties are expected to use either the government’s furlough scheme or salary reductions to also help negotiate this financially parlous time.
While the ECB insists it is yet to open talks over centrally contracted players sharing the sport’s inevitable hit – it is believed this would need to be voluntary under current terms – the Test captain believes it is coming.
Root said: “I’m sure at some point in the coming weeks there will be a discussion. But I’m also aware they are discussions that will take place between the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the ECB. That’s not my area of expertise.
“[Losing the entire season] has definitely crossed my mind. It is a possibility. But we have to try to stay optimistic, take things day by day and not get too ahead of ourselves. We’ve got to be ready for whenever that opportunity to play again is.”
That negotiations between the ECB and the England Player Partnership are yet to begin officially reflects the fact that, as things stand, no international cricket has been lost, bar the postponed two-Test series in Sri Lanka that was due to finish on Tuesday.
The first Test against West Indies is due to begin on 4 June, in theory, although the prediction from Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, of a six-month wait for normality to resume means a reduced schedule – with matches possibly staged behind closed doors – appears the best hope.
Tony Irish, the chief executive of the PCA, said: “It’s an unprecedented time filled with uncertainty and naturally that brings lots of speculation. Much of that currently is around furloughing of players and wage cuts for players.
“We believe solutions should be sought and where possible agreed collectively. We understand recommendations or proposals will be put to us during this week. We will work through those with the players and then with the ECB and the first-class counties with a view to seeking agreed solutions.”
Root and Heather Knight, the England women’s captain, have signed an open letter to supporters and players urging them to “stay strong and united” as the wait for clarity continues, the former having also contacted all of his squad members individually to check on their wellbeing.
As well as maximising family time during a rare period of rest, Root continues to plan for the 2021-22 Ashes series. Ben Stokes, his vice-captain, recently told Sky “it definitely isn’t too dangerous to look that far ahead”, even if a fixture pile-up could be a feature of the interim period.
Root said: “We have around 17 games until we go down there, if all are played. It will be interesting to see how they can fit it all in, looking at the schedule. We will have to be able to adapt, look at squad sizes and make sure guys are not blown out or overworked throughout that period.
“We have to use every single opportunity to build the team up to be absolutely ready for what those conditions throw at us and what Australia throw at us, on the field and off.”