Daryl Mitchell has warned the ECB that “there’s no competition without any players” and insisted the future of The Hundred is “not set in stone” as England’s professional cricketers press for more information about the controversial tournament.
Mitchell, the chairman of the PCA, was among a delegation of players who met ECB representatives at Edgbaston on Tuesday to discuss plans for The Hundred – the ECB’s new-team 100-ball a side competition proposal.
Among the 27 professional players in attendance were Paul Collingwood, Jonny Bairstow and Tamy Beaumont, while the ECB were represented by their chief executive, Tom Harrison, and the managing director of the new competition, Sanjay Patel.
And while Mitchell described the meeting as “a good starting point” and stressed the union’s desire to “work with the ECB” to find consensus, he also confirmed there were “an enormous amount of unanswered questions” over the new competition and described the lack of plans for a domestic women’s T20 league as “a huge negative.”
As a result, he has warned the ECB the cooperation of the players cannot be taken for granted and requested more clarity over their plans as a matter of urgency.
Part of the players’ frustration would appear to be a lack of consultation – only three players (Mitchell, Beaumont and England’s white-ball captain, Eoin Morgan) were alerted to the idea ahead of its announcement a couple of weeks ago.
But there is also a concern over moving away from the T20 format that is now accepted worldwide as cricket’s biggest revenue raiser and changes to playing regulations that could see a 10-ball over each innings. The prospect of losing the KSL – the women’s domestic T20 competition – has also caused dismay.
“What would it take for this competition not to happen?” Mitchell asked rhetorically. “Probably the players saying they don’t want it. We have the power to do that but whether it does happen or not, I’m not sure. It’s important we work with the ECB and try and shape how it looks for the benefit of our members and the game as a whole.
“One of our huge concerns is time frames. Here we are, two years out and there are many, many unanswered questions. The ECB don’t officially have a format that is set in stone. The drafts, general managers, the pay bands there’s an enormous amount of unanswered questions and the worry for me is that we don’t even have a timeframe as to when we’re going to get those answers.
“Why we are moving away from the T20 format, which has been successful around the world? That was a big concern.
“And there might not be a domestic T20 for the ladies, which is a huge negative. There’s no getting away from that: they need to be playing T20 cricket if there’s world competitions in that format.
“There is no competition without any players, is there? As a union, we would have to feel very, very strongly to go completely against it. Whether that is likely to happen, I don’t know. We need to canvas opinions when we have more details of what it looks like.
“The ECB are very keen to stress that the idea is still a concept. It’s an idea that all stakeholders will be consulted on and we’re a huge part of that. So it is not set in stone. It is a concept, but one they are very keen on.”
“Root and Stokes will be allocated to a team for marketing purposes, but they won’t be playing. The ECB made the point that this new audience won’t necessarily know who Stokes and Root are anyway”
While few more details were provided how the competition would work, there was a little more detail over the payment structures. As things stand, it seems each of the eight new teams would have a salary cap of GBP 1m with the top pay-band likely to be somewhere between GBP 110,000-130,000. As the competition is likely to clash with the CPL, however, that figure may need to rise.
There is also no change in the expectation that England cricket’s biggest stars – the likes of Joe Root and Ben Stokes – would not be available for the new competition as they would be involved in a Test series.
“That’s another concern,” Mitchell said. “The likes of Root and Stokes will be allocated to a team for marketing purposes, but they won’t be playing. The ECB made the point that this new audience won’t necessarily know who Stokes and Root are anyway.”
Mitchell also confirmed that, as far the 27 representatives at the meeting were concerned, it would wrong to play Championship cricket at the same time as the new competition.
“We’re still very keen that the pinnacle of the domestic game is the Championship and the pinnacle of the international game is Test cricket,” Mitchell said. “The ECB also said their No.1 priority was red ball, Test cricket which was reassuring to hear.
Championship cricket is very marginalised at present. We’ll have to have a bit more red-ball cricket – and more changes of format – in the summer months rather than April and September. We’re probably going to have to move away from the blocks we have now to a degree.”
The next step in the negotiations is for those PCA members who were present at the meeting to go back to their county dressing rooms to discuss the issues raised. “The ECB have promised we’ll meet more often and be kept in the loop more,” Mitchell said.
The ECB also released a statement following the meeting. Repeating the word “concept”, they sought to reassure the players that no firm decision had been taken over the format of the new competition at this stage.
“Today’s meeting with the PCA’s Player Representatives gave us constructive and valuable feedback on the 100-ball concept,” they said. “It was invaluable to talk through the concept after sharing it with the ECB Board, first-class county chief executives and chairmen and PCA management.
“Players are the core of the game and we look forward to further discussions with them as we continue to develop the new competition.”