March 30, 2020 5:00:17 PM
England captain Joe Root expects talks over a temporary pay cut for the country’s top cricketers to take place soon as the sport continues to face up to the impact of a heavily disrupted season.
With the entire campaign postponed until at least May 28 due to the ongoing spread of coronavirus, and the likelihood of considerable additional delays, the game is set to endure enormous financial strain.
Many county cricketers, including Root’s Yorkshire team-mates, are expected to be placed on furlough – with the government picking up the tab for 80 per of their wages during the lay-off – but with no England fixtures postponed at present the central contracts of the leading players have yet to become a priority.
The England and Wales Cricket Board is not factoring their deals into the funding package it is close to unveiling for the professional and recreational game but it seems hugely optimistic to suggest the entire international calendar will proceed as planned.
And Root, who earns around £1million from the ECB alongside fellow three-format regulars like Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, accepts the issue is bound to enter the conversation.
“I’m sure at some point in the coming weeks there will be a discussion,” said Root, speaking to journalists from lockdown in Sheffield via the Zoom videoconferencing service.
“I’m also aware they are discussions that will take place between the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the ECB. That’s not my area of expertise.
“I’ve been in touch with the guys at Yorkshire but not a lot of the talk has been around money, to be honest. It’s been about trying to keep each other up, conversations flowing, have a bit of fun. There have been a few quizzes flying around.
“(Not playing all season) has definitely crossed my mind, it is a possibility, but I think we have to try to stay optimistic. I think we just have to concentrate on making sure we are as fit and as ready to go as we can be for whenever we get back to playing cricket.”
Root and his Test team should have still been in Sri Lanka this week, completing a two-match series that was hastily abandoned mid-way through the final warm-up match earlier in the month.
Those matches were due to count towards the inaugural World Test Championship, which is slated to conclude with a Lord’s final in 2021, but should the summer Tests against the West Indies and Pakistan also fall by the wayside rearranging everything on the current timescale would be next to impossible.
With football’s European Championship and the Olympics already pushed back a year, Test cricket’s new flagship event could be next unless a creative solution can be agreed by all parties.
“Until we know when we are going to come back to play it is going to be very difficult to work out when things can be rescheduled,” said Root.
“The six Test matches this summer will be crucial points as the home games seem to be really important in the Test championship. It might be that changes now moving forward – when it comes to those games they might have to be rescheduled or played abroad.
“I am sure there are a number of different scenarios we may have to find ourselves looking at down the line. We have to be adaptable. It will be interesting to see how they can fit it in looking at the schedule as it is right now.”
Root has taken some comfort from his unexpected stint at home with wife Carrie and son Alfred, even though cricket is soon likely to encroach on their family time.
“It’s very strange times we’re living in, but getting the chance to spend time with family at home is obviously something we don’t get a huge amount of,” he said.
“It might be that my wife has to start giving me some throwdowns in the back garden but until things become that drastic it will be simply sit tight and wait. I’ve done a lot of fielding and given Alfie a lot of throwdowns. He’s scored about 500 for four at the minute…it’s bit of a flat track here.”
Root has also managed to start watching ‘The Test’ during his downtime, with the Australian cricket documentary starting to whet his appetite for another crack at the Ashes in 2021-22.
“I resisted watching that for a good while but I’ve started watching the first few now,” he said.
“It’s been a good motivator to get back and train, get back on the exercise bike. I use it as a way of incentivising myself. A lot of the things we do in Test cricket revolves around planning for the Ashes series down under. We’ll really use this time to ready ourselves to do something special down there because we know how challenging it can be to play there.”