London: More of England's best cricketers will become near full-time internationals following an announcement on Monday to extend the central contract system.
Members of England's First Class Forum (FCF), which comprises the 18 counties and MCC, voted by an overwhelming majority of 18-1 to increase the number of central contracts and their length. As the English game is financially dependent upon the proceeds of domestic Tests and One-day Internationals, together with the associated television income, the counties eventually agreed to the system when it was first introduced in 2000. And England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tim Lamb said Monday the system had aided the national side's results. "There has been a very discernible improvement in the performances over the past couple of years. "This decision is all about giving the England management further control and resources to produce a world-class team." But now instead of 12 players on six- month deals as happens at present, the new set-up will allow the England management to hand out 20 contracts - with no more than between 10 and 16 to be of a 12-month duration. The rest will be used to give other players a six-month summer contract. Counties will have to seek the permission of England head coach Duncan Fletcher when they want to use one of their centrally contracted players the national side will now be their employer. The year-long contracts will run from October 1 to September 30th each year, covering an England winter tour and the subsequent home international programme. According to an ECB statement, the additional cost of the new scheme will be Pounds 980,000 ($ 1.5 million). But deducting county salaries of England players from the additional expense of the set-up, will make the net cost Pounds 350,000 ($ 536,000). However, plans to make counties pay the ECB a fee when they wanted to use a centrally contracted player in a domestic match have been shelved. It is highly doubtful if the new scheme would have gone through otherwise. Central contracts, a system already in use in Australia and South Africa, were introduced to English cricket back in 2000. They aimed to give the national management greater control over their top players by preventing burnout and injuries caused by playing too many matches.
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