Nagraj Gollapudi and Osman Samiuddin
The ICC has approved a cap of four overseas players – active or retired – aand seven local players, which can include Associate players, for all new T20 leagues. The ruling will not initially affect existing tournaments such as the UAE-based International League T20 (ILT20), the US’s Major League Cricket (MLC) and Canada’s Global T20 (GLT20), all of which allow more than four overseas players in the playing XI. These leagues will, however, have to conform to those limits within a reasonable period of time. Additionally, leagues will have to pay a 10% release fee to the home board of each player it hires every season.
The new regulation was voted in by cricket’s chief executives, though not without hiccups after intense deliberations over two days in Durban, where the ICC’s AGM ended on Thursday. The recommendation to limit the number of foreign players in a league had come from an ICC working group tasked last year to fight the player drain feared by some Full Members from the mushrooming of T20 leagues, especially in non-Full Member countries.
On Tuesday, when the ICC’s chief executives committee (CEC) first met, the original working group proposal which capped overseas players at four and required a minimum of four local players in all leagues was actually voted down 8-6. However, the CEC continued discussions and reconvened on Wednesday to discuss an amended recommendation (redrawn by the working group) through which this new consensus was reached: all new T20 leagues cannot have more than four overseas players in an XI, but they can list Associate players as locals, providing them exposure as well as expanding cricket’s growth in smaller countries.
The ICC Board, which met on Thursday, then ratified the CEC recommendation.
The development will come as some relief to the ILT20 and MLC, which allow nine and six overseas players respectively in their playing XIs. The Global T20, which has been revived by Cricket Canada and starts later this month, allows five overseas players from Full Member countries in the playing XI alongside minimum of three locals with the remaining slots filled by a combination of players from Associates and Americas. The ILT20 was launched this January, and the MLC’s inaugural season kicks off on Thursday in Dallas.
How much time these leagues are given to get within the representation caps of the new regulations will likely be decided on a case by case basis, depending on the commercial agreements each league has in place as well as agreements with franchises on the composition of a starting XI.
The ICC working group which has been working on the proposal comprised Wasim Khan (ICC general manager of cricket), along with Arun Dhumal (IPL chairman and BCCI representative on ICC’s CEC), Johnny Grave (CWI CEO), Nick Hockley (Cricket Australia CEO) and Mubashir Usmani (Emirates Cricket Board secretary). It was formed after members began to express concerns at last year’s AGM in Birmingham about the emergence of leagues which, at that time, were under no hard cap restrictions for overseas players.
BCCI initially voted against hard cap
The Emirates Cricket Board and Cricket Canada both are currently represented at the CEC, which is made up of the 12 Full Members and three Associate Members. During the Tuesday vote, all three Associate members are believed to have voted against the original proposal that would have seen a minimum of four local players in the XI in a T20 league as well as a maximum of four overseas players.
ESPNCricinfo understands that the BCCI, NZC, the BCB, SLC and Zimbabwe Cricket joined the Associates in voting against that proposal. The PCB, CWI, Cricket Australia, the ECB and Cricket Ireland, meanwhile, voted for the regulation.
Regardless of that first vote, however, there was a resolve among CEC members for some regulation that, according to an official present at the meeting, “protects the sport”. Members agreed that cricket must avoid conditions, for example, that could lead to the kind of breakaway and eventual takeover of the sport that golf has undergone recently.
That began with prominent golfers defecting to a parallel circuit, LIV Golf, owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, after being offered unparalleled financial rewards. After a brief, troubled period, the end arrived last month with an agreement forged between the PGA, who hitherto ran golf, and LIV Golf, who had set up the breakaway circuit.
Though a commitment to international cricket remains among Full Members, the spread of IPL franchise owners into other leagues worldwide is heralding major change and forming, essentially, a parallel calendar. Four of the six franchises in MLC, cricket’s next attempt to the break into the US market, belong to owners of IPL franchises. Three of those owners have a franchise in ILT20, too. The MLC allows six overseas players in the XI and with salaries as high as USD$175,000 on offer for less than a month, several leading players globally – barring India – have signed up.
That league comes hot on the heels of CSA’s SA20, launched earlier this year at the same time as the ILT20 (nine of the 12 franchises across those two leagues are owned by IPL owners) and Canada’s Global T20 which starts on July 20.
The working group’s recommendations first came to light last month, after the group met during the World Test Championship (WTC) final between Australia and India at The Oval. The group has been driven by the concern that T20 leagues running parallel in different continents with international and domestic cricket has created scenarios such as that faced by New Zealand and Trent Boult. Boult effectively became a free agent after turning down a national contract last August so that he could shape his time and commitment towards a better work-life balance by playing in leagues.
10% release fee proposed
The CEC also accepted the working group’s proposal to have T20 leagues pay a 10% release fee to players’ home boards every season. The 10%, described as a solidarity fee, is a proposed amount and can be negotiated between the host board conducting the league and the player’s home board.
The IPL has been paying release fees since its inception – the BCCI pays boards a minimum 10% release fee per player. Other leagues, too, have negotiated similar amounts in bilateral agreements with fellow boards, in order to obtain no-objection player certificates.
One concern raised during an earlier meeting in London was whether Associate boards could afford the release fee considering the limited funding they get from the ICC. Passing the onus to the franchise, at least one working group member said, wouldn’t be easy, since no such clause might exist in current contracts. The other solution, the group had suggested, would involve deducting it from the player’s fee. It is not yet clear who will foot the release fee eventually.
Additional reporting by Firdose Moonda
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo