West Indies players will be offered more flexible and enhanced contracts, including exclusive retainers for Test and limited-overs cricket, according to a new Cricket West Indies policy. The highest-paid category will be for players who feature in all formats, with a maximum retainer of over US $300,000 including match fees. The three-man selection panel, led by Courtney Browne, has shortlisted players for every category, which is expected to be made public soon.
The new contract policy is one of CWI CEO Johnny Grave's visions for the board, along with the previously-announced amnesty. The policy has three levels, and will initially last for nine months. The new contracts will be offered on July 1, 2018, at the same time as the domestic retainer contracts.
The contracts have been split into three categories. Category A will comprise players who play predominantly Tests and ODIs. Category B will be for only Test specialists, while Category C will cover players featuring in only ODIs and T20s.
ESPNcricinfo understands six players have been offered Category C contracts in the first batch: Carlos Brathwaite, Jason Mohammed, Evin Lewis, Rovman Powell, Ashley Nurse and Kesrick Williams.
According to Grave, the board will keep player remuneration private and confidential. He also highlighted that a player contracted in Category can earn over US $300,000, independent of domestic T20 deals, while players in other contract categories will also stand to earn six-figure retainers.
ESPNcricinfo believes the dollar value of the new retainers are more than double the previous highest-earning contracts that have been offered to players in the past three years following the abandoned 2014 tour to India.
Under the previous contract arrangement, players were contracted for one year only. A category A contract was worth US $140,000, Category B US $120,000 and Category C US $100,000, with reduced match retainers that were redirected to pay domestic players in the revamped Professional Cricket League.
Although unconfirmed by CWI, it is understood that individual match fees for ODIs and T20s will now be US $5000 per match.
The CWI also extended the existing Memorandum of Understanding with the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) by another year. "The first thing we did was extend the CWI-WIPA MoU by one year until the end of the 2019 World Cup cycle", Grave told ESPNcricinfo. "While the overall aim was to create flexible contracts, when I realised the MoU was ending in 2018, but yet our television and sponsorship deals were ending in 2019, it made sense to extend it and link our major revenues with WIPA."
Grave further explained why only six players received Category C contracts, highlighting they were solely chosen by the selection panel. "I create paper work and numbers, selectors chose those to award contracts. Jimmy (Jimmy Adams, CWI director of cricket) and I weren't involved in that.
"However the logic behind those is - Carlos, although he is not in ODI team, is our T20 captain, Jason [Mohammed] is the ODI vice-captain and Nurse has performed well this year in limited-overs cricket. Evin, Rovman and Kesrick are upcoming players. We want to offer incentives to want to play and be loyal to West Indies and not T20s leagues, which, for good reason, are already after their talents."
None of West Indies' high-profile players have been offered contracts yet. Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Samuel Badree and Darren Sammy will all be offered pro-rata contracts based on their performances in the upcoming series in the short term.
"Sammy and Bravos don't play for West Indies at the moment, so we can't offer contracts to people who are not in the team," Grave said. "Pollard, Narine and Badree are only in the T20 team, (and) white-ball contracts are for those who play ODIs and T20s. It's a view of the selectors that both Pollard and Narine have to show form in the Regional Super50 one-day competition to regain selection in the ODI team. If they play that tournament and perform I don't see why they wouldn't get recalled.
"Obviously post amnesty, Gayle and Marlon played in England, if we had won the series and they had made lots of runs, they probably would have got contracts. So I think the selectors want to see them in New Zealand, Super50 and World Cup Qualifiers, but I suspect at some stage in 2018 they will get contracts given the new system," Grave said.
Grave is currently in Auckland to meet the West Indies players to explain the details of the various contracts and address their concerns. Both Grave and Adams agreed with the selectors that the main priority is for West Indies to qualify for the 2019 World Cup, and players will need to commit to that task ahead of T20 tournaments like the Big Bash League and the Pakistan Super League. The Big Bash League starts from December 19 and runs till February 4. The PSL will begin from February 22.
The Regional Super50 falls between the BBL and the PSL - from January 31 to February 24, ending a week before the World Cup Qualifiers, scheduled to begin on March 2.
Grave said CWI will be flexible in allowing players to play T20 Leagues, but the priority will be the Qualifiers. "Flexibility is there given that these (domestic Twenty20) leagues' schedules change yearly and we will certainly treat players on a case-by-case basis," Grave said. "But considering the importance of qualifiers right now, that will take priority over a player's individual needs, so I'd imagine if players seriously want to be part of World Cup plans they will play Super50.
"I will tell players that to effectively get in the ODI team someone has to be dropped. If they can play the full Super50, and perform, it gives themselves a better chance of getting in than playing 2-3 games and having to perform superbly."
According to Grave, the amnesty will soon lapse, and the players will be told about the minimum number of domestic matches they are expected to play in order to qualify to play for West Indies. "The amnesty will be replaced by a technical committee which will work out eligibility criteria," Grave said. "The meeting probably will happen either before Christmas or early in the new year. And I would be surprised if they suggested anything else other than players have to play Super50."