The Cricket Australia (CA) governing body is to consider introducing a draft system for its young players in a bid to better compete with rival sporting codes and ensure a more even distribution of talent in the country.
The proposal, along with a host of other reform ideas, is set to be discussed at a meeting of Australian cricket stakeholders on Thursday. CA’s general manager of team performance Pat Howard told the Fairfax news agency: “We’re not after all athletes but we want to make sure we keep the cricketers. I’m open to things like drafts. We’re going to throw a whole heap of things on the table.”
Fairfax said the AFL Aussie rules football league is considered the main threat to the development of fresh talent for domestic cricket. Currently Australia’s state cricket teams can offer six rookie contracts, but cannot spend more than A$132,000 (€92,000/$115,000), with contracts ranging from A$22,000 to A$44,000. By contrast, AFL rookies earn a minimum of A$53,875 with three times the number of places available.
Howard said: “Should we look at how we deal with rookies, by increasing the number of contracts or making sure there is an opportunity there for a long period and a better offer? We introduced BBL (Big Bash League) rookies last year to give those talented kids an opportunity at the back end of a squad. We think that was a good start but we think we've got to have a mechanism there for when a kid is 17, 18, 19 and maybe getting a draft offer and a contract from another sport that we've got something equally as compelling.
“We've got 160-odd contracted spots and (the other codes) have significantly more than that. But our view is in cricket you've got the longest career span, you can play for your country and you've got the highest average wage…it's well into the A$300,000s, and that's without the IPL (Indian Premier League). So we think we've got a really attractive offer but we've obviously got to be very competitive.”
A draft system is also being looked upon as a means of balancing the talent pool in Australian cricket, with states such as New South Wales forced to offload youngsters through their ability to produce more players than they can accommodate.
Howard added: “We want the top 150-odd contracted players in the country playing and we want them spread around the nation and making sure that competitiveness is there. We see it happen occasionally – the (Ed) Cowans and (Jackson) Birds head off to Tasmania, Pete Forrest headed to Queensland and Ryan Harris moved to Queensland. But we've got an opportunity to get that talent spread and make sure that competition at domestic level is very competitive.”