Cricket according to cricketers

The Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), of which the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) is a founding member, recently released a global survey of the employment of men’s professional cricketers.  

The survey is compiled mostly from data from the 2018/19 season.  The report is increasing in significance and authoritativeness because it is the fifth such report and comparisons can now be drawn with similar reports from 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2016.  The report is compiled from data from 4,191 professional cricketers from all twelve countries with Test match status plus Scotland.

The report found that cricket continues to lag the world’s other major team sports, such as football and rugby, in the recognition of player associations and generally accepting the role of players in the game.  This is mainly because India and Pakistan (which collectively represent 35,6% of all professional cricketers) still do not have a fully-functioning, recognized players’ association.  As a direct consequence of India’s disproportionate influence at international level, the International Cricket Council (ICC), unlike its football and rugby counterparts, is steadfastly refusing to enter into an agreement with FICA to deal with player issues on a global level.

The hallmarks of FICA’s findings are the persistence of payment issues for players and the erosion of their earning potential.  A full third of the players questioned experienced some sort of payment issue on a playing contract during the 2018/19 season.  In reality this percentage is much higher as it does not consider non-payment in countries that host international T20 tournaments but were not part of the survey, like the UAE.

The earning potential of players continue to be eroded by national boards that put unfair restrictions on players to play in other parts of the world.  This is in the form of blanket bans on players from certain countries playing abroad, the setting of arbitrary ceilings on the number of overseas league contracts a player may hold and attempts to unreasonably withhold No Objection Certificates (NOC’s).     

FICA also noted that around 50% still feel insecure in their employment.  This number is high, but also not surprising as that is the nature of professional sport.  Performance, more than in most employment contracts, is a key factor in any professional sports contract.  Most professional contracts in cricket are not longer than two years.  Longer term contracts could alleviate some of the players’ insecurities.  It is therefore somewhat ironic that FICA should highlight this as a problem when, at least in this country, they do not advocate for contracts longer than two years. 

On the upside, purists (would it be right to say real cricket lovers?) will be pleased to know that, despite the proliferation of short-format cricket around the world, a whopping 82% of professional cricketers still regard Test cricket as the game’s most important format.  The percentage of Test match cricket has stayed virtually the same since 2011.  During the 2018/19 season, Test cricket and white-ball international cricket enjoyed more or less an equal split of days.  The current crop of professional cricketers is also vehemently opposed to 4-day Test cricket.

It would be interesting to see in the next report what the effect of the coronavirus pandemic will be on players’ perception on the state of cricket…

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