The new contracts are likely to do away with last year’s format where red and white-ball players were split and return to previous years with four different categories of players. Babar, Rizwan and Afridi, as captain and cross-format stars, will be in category A.
The hike is offset somewhat by the sharp depreciation of the Pakistan rupee in the last year, as well as an economy in which inflation has been spiralling out of control. But even accounting for that, the retainer increase is over double in real terms, at least across the top category. It also comes a year before the ICC’s new revenue distribution model kicks in, in which the PCB’s annual earnings of USD$ 34 million, are more than double what they were over the last ICC rights cycle.
That will make a significant difference for players who have been among the lowest paid internationally, a position exacerbated by often restrictive policies around playing in foreign T20 leagues. Pakistan’s players are not allowed to play in the IPL and their participation in other leagues has been subject traditionally to changing policies each time a new administration comes in.
The number of leagues players will be allowed to participate in next year has not yet been finalised but is part of ongoing negotiations. As things stand, players in the top two categories are to be allowed one league other than the PSL, with those in the lower categories to be allowed more than one.
But there is likely to be flexibility on the issue and that clause could change by the time the contracts are finalised. Usman Wahla, the PCB’s international director, and more recently Misbah-ul-Haq, as an advisor to Ashraf, have been leading discussions, talking to a group of senior players.
Importantly, there is a recognition within the PCB that players who are not a part of these leagues are missing out on big, potentially life-changing earnings. In some cases, senior players in demand on the league circuit, could make two to three times more per year from league deals.
There is also an acknowledgement that, in terms of planning, the league circuit needs to be treated as a separate 12-month calendar and players’ commitments worked out accordingly. Najam Sethi, Ashraf’s predecessor as board head, had also been planning a more open policy with regards to leagues and had been negotiating with the ILT20 about the participation of Pakistan stars this season.
The ILT20 was a particularly thorny issue last season, the PCB demanding a fee from the league for each player who took part. Part of that was also because the ILT20 took place in a busy home season for Pakistan in which their best players were bound to be taking part.
Domestic contracts will also be presented to players soon, with likely increased retainers as well as the prospect of enhanced earnings by playing in two first-class tournaments, one for regional teams and one for department-based sides.
Final discussions are due to take place with players over the weekend, the results of which will be presented to Ashraf early next week.
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo