Ollie Pope will represent Welsh Fire in the inaugural season of the Hundred, after England’s centrally contracted Test players were reallocated teams following the postponement of the tournament’s launch until 2021.
Pope, signed by Southern Brave in 2019’s draft, won his first red-ball central contract last month, and will replace Jonny Bairstow as Welsh Fire’s Test player, with the Southampton-based team opting to keep hold of Jofra Archer rather than retaining Pope in his place.
Bairstow is in talks to secure a top-band deal with Welsh Fire, which would lessen the blow of losing his Test central contract. Salaries were cut by 20% ahead of next season due to the impact of the pandemic, meaning top earners will now be paid £100,000 rather than £125,000, but a deal would mitigate Bairstow’s financial hit from moving to a white-ball, rather than cross-format, central contract.
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The ECB also confirmed that Zak Crawley, a £40,000 pick by London Spirit in the 2019 draft, will replace Rory Burns as their Test-contracted player. Burns will move to Oval Invincibles as a supplementary Test-contracted player alongside Sam Curran, while Dom Sibley has joined Chris Woakes as one of Birmingham Phoenix’s two Test-contracted players. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are the two men with red-ball central contracts not involved in the Hundred.
Test-contracted players earn a retainer for their involvement in the tournament – expected to be three group-stage games plus Finals Day – plus match fees for any additional games they are involved in, and are treated separately to the main draft. Players on white-ball contracts enter the main draft, but can negotiate with their teams to be retained beforehand.
Last week, it was confirmed that teams will be able to retain as many men’s players as they want from the squad picked at the 2019 draft, provided they can agree on a salary band during a retention window running until January 2021. Kolpak players would have to be retained as overseas players, with the limit of three per squad still applying for next season.
A mini-draft will then follow in early 2021, when it is hoped that there will be more clarity over the international calendar and therefore the availability of overseas players.
In Bairstow’s case, Welsh Fire would likely have to lose one of their two Australia internationals – Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc – to accommodate him, after both picked up £125,000 deals in last year’s draft. With Tom Banton also signed on a £100,000 contract in 2019, they face a difficult set of decisions going into the 2021 season.
But even if Bairstow does not re-sign with the Fire, he can expect to be the most in-demand English player at the mini-draft in 2021, and would be almost certain to secure a £100,000 payday. Welsh Fire would also be able to use their ‘Right to Match’ card on him at the draft, but only if they had a slot free at the right salary band.
“I’m incredibly excited to be joining Welsh Fire,” Pope said. “The side had a really strong squad lined up and I’m sure they’ll be working hard to retain some of the star names and further strengthen the side in the upcoming draft.”
In the women’s competition, every player who held a contract for the 2020 tournament before its postponement can opt to roll it over to 2021, with salary bands frozen. Anya Shrubsole has previously confirmed that she had decided to stay at Southern Brave.
Each team has now announced one retained player for next season, including West Indies internationals Deandra Dottin and Stafanie Taylor who will remain at London Spirit and Southern Brave respectively.
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Katie George, who re-signed for Welsh Fire, said: “We were building a really strong side… I can’t wait to see how the rest of the team falls into place and I’m really looking forward to getting going next summer. The Hundred is hugely important to the ongoing growth of the women’s game, from both a performance and profile perspective. As a player I am hugely excited to get to play with and against some of the best cricketers in the world.”
Sanjay Patel, the tournament’s managing director, said: “Over the next few months we will see world-class players and massive names from around the world committing to the Hundred and we can’t wait to launch the competition in 2021.”
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