For many aspiring cricketers, Cricket Australia’s contract list is highly desired.
Being recognised as one of the best cricketers in the nation, as well as receiving the warm reassurance of valued selection, is represented by whether you make the final list on the cutthroat catalogue of names.
The pay cuts that came with the COVID-19 pandemic meant CA’s contract list once again dropped for the 2021/22 season, as 20 players were squeezed down to 17 for the upcoming year of cricket.
With this change came a raft of players who can consider themselves unlucky to be left out, as the bold list of contracted stars only creates more questions regarding the future of Australian cricket.
Some hefty batting omissions
Despite a crop of young batters finding some solid form over the last summer of cricket, many big names were instead removed from the latest contract list.
Travis Head may have found himself in and out of the test team, but his sustained golden run with the bat in domestic cricket had many penciling him in for the upcoming Ashes series. A former test vice-captain, Head should be right in the frame of selection for all forms of international cricket going forward, but this latest omission would deal a cruel blow to his hopes going into the upcoming summer.
Matthew Wade’s time in the Australian test team may be officially coming to a close, as he found himself on the outers when the contract list was announced on Friday. Wade has been a handy veteran since crashing back into the test team during the 2019 Ashes, but his recent form against India worried many about his ability to convert starts into defining scores. In a grand statement of trust in a handful of batters, Cricket Australia reverted to leaving Wade out.
But the most startling exclusion was the one of victorian prodigy Will Pucovski. The young Victorian finally made his long-touted international debut after a raft of health issues to make his maiden test half-century on debut, as he looked a class above many of his compatriots when taking on India’s blistering bowling attack in Sydney.
Despite falling to a shoulder injury that saw him sidelined for the rest of the summer, Pucovski is tipped to be David Warner’s opening partner come the Ashes series in November, so being left off the contract list is an intriguing blow for the Victorian’s prospects.
Juggling various forms of cricket
Although the upcoming 2021/22 summer may be momentous in regards to the Ashes series on the horizon, back-to-back Twenty20 World Cups, including the postponed one on home shores also shares the limelight.
With this tournament also getting closer, Cricket Australia had an awkward time squeezing limited-overs stars in with an ever-changing test team.
From the white ball spheres, Ashton Agar, Glenn Maxwell, Aaron Finch, Kane Richardson, Jhye Richardson, Adam Zampa, and Alex Carey all secured contracts, while the likes of Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, and David Warner will likely play all three formats for Australia in the next year.
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But including so many T20 and one-day players means the state of all three sides has been left in disarray. Cameron Green is a big positive out of the announcement, as the young Western Australian’s rise into the test team and prolific summer at state level was confirmed and duly rewarded with his spot on the contract list
Without many new inclusions, it’s hard to know who is in line to make the Ashes squad, and which players are being considered when it comes to replacing veterans like Tim Paine, Steve Smith, and David Warner.
Is Alex Carey’s inclusion a sign that he is the heir to take the gloves in the test team? or is it just a reward for his work in the one-day team?
Many unanswered questions have arisen from the contract list, and they may not be answered for months.
The impact on state leagues
If Cricket Australia was struggling for money after COVID-19, then the state sides were crying out for coin. With the national contract list downsizing, this means more high-class players instead have to turn to their state organisations to get hefty contracts this season.
Players like Head, Pucovski, and Wade will now command maximum state contracts with their respective states, inflating costs for the states who previously didn’t have to pay them when they were on Cricket Australia’s payroll.
It may result in the money being compounded onto states who are already struggling to recover from the past year of interrupted cricket.
Looking for money to cut, the fear is that states will be forced to abandon grassroots or junior programs that are crucial to the future success of the Australian cricket teams.
The contract list is always an interesting study into CA’s intentions going forward. But without a proper explanation for decisions, Australian cricketers, and their fans, will be left in the dark throughout the winter while we wait for more information regarding the Ashes squad for 2021/22 and the makeup of the national team moving forward.