20th June, India v South Africa, 09:30 GMT
In his weekly column, Daniel Grummitt asks what are the options open to county cricketers when they are told by their employers that they are no longer wanted.
Six county cricketers – Jack Manuel, Jacques du Toit, Nadeem Malik, Garry Park, Vikram Solanki and David Sales – have each had the dreaded news from their employers over the past week that their services will no longer be required next season. Some will, of course, inevitably, find new teams, but others will not be so lucky. So what exactly does happen to a county cricketer, who may have never had another job and may have foregone further education in order to pursue cricket as a career, when his dreams of playing the game professionally are shattered so suddenly?
Well, firstly, the brighter news. It is likely that at least two, and perhaps as many as four, of the players listed above will find new counties for next season. Indeed, one, Vikram Solanki, has already done so and signed a two-year deal with Surrey. He, as the chairman of the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA), will have been only too aware of the vulnerabilities of the county cricketer and was released by Worcestershire after 20 years service. It is believed that his departure owed much to his relatively high salary and the club’s poor financial position.
Another of the six mentioned above who is almost certainly in that boat is David Sales. He may have struggled with injuries in recent years, but he is still an exceptional county performer. His long service at Northamptonshire will inevitably have pushed his salary quite high and that is likely to have been the main factor in letting him go.
Solanki and Sales are also not helped by the financial penalties that the ECB impose on players aged over 26. It is supposed to encourage counties to field younger players and is admirable in its intention, although it does often mean that the more experienced players end up moving away from clubs that they have spent their whole careers at and are forced to move to clubs that do not rely on ECB handouts to such a large extent.
This age discrimination, for want of a better term, is likely to have been at least a contributory factor to Derbyshire’s decision to release all-rounder Garry Park. He agreed a one-year contract extension at the end of last season to be the club’s second XI captain and has also played in some limited-overs cricket for the first-team.
It is his case that perhaps sums up the uncertainty that a player is faced with when he receives the bad news, and may help to partly answer the question posed at the end of this article’s first paragraph.
Park has been openly discussing his future with his followers on his Twitter page. Firstly, he was asked by former Derbyshire player Steffan Jones what his plans were for the future and his reply betrayed his uncertainty. He wrote “not sure yet, bn released yesterday though so [will] hav to wait and see if anyone needs my services. Fingers crossed! (sic)”
Later that day, in reply to a tweet from Rochdale CC, who asked what his plans were and for who it appears he hopes to play for later this summer, he wrote, “Am hoping [to find a new county], if not then minor counties and possibly unicorns next year, we will just hav (sic) to wait and see. Job centre? :)”
So, in short, a player’s options are limited. Minor counties and Unicorns cricket is mostly amateur and is not really a viable career choice in the long run so, unless a player was fortunate enough to attain a high level of education while he was trying to forge a professional cricket career, then the jokey reference to the job centre at the end of the tweet may not be quite such a jokey one.
Perhaps it is worth remembering the next time that you hear Kevin Pietersen talking about ‘only’ being able to fulfil half of his $2 million IPL contract that there are players at the other end of the scale who, despite the help provided to them by organisations such as the PCA, will be worrying about how they are going to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.
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