Teams in the Hundred will be able to retain as many men's players as they wish for the 2021 competition, as details for next season's draft were revealed on Thursday.
The Hundred, the ECB's new flagship 100-ball competition, was due to be staged for the first time this summer before the Covid-19 pandemic caused its postponement to 2021. The competition's regulations had initially allowed teams to retain up to 10 players at a mutually agreed salary band for the second season, but that has been extended to the full squad on account of the delay.
In practice, teams are unlikely to retain their entire squads due to a number of factors, including the end of Kolpak status, a lack of clarity over the international calendar, and form over the last 12 months.
The ECB is due to release a list of centrally-contracted players for 2020-21 - likely to be within the next two weeks - at which point teams will be able to negotiate to retain a player at a mutually-agreed salary. That could be higher or lower than their salary last year, meaning that Dawid Malan (a £40,000 pick by Trent Rockets) could negotiate up after an impressive 12 months, while a player who had struggled for form could agree a deal worth less. As revealed by ESPNcricinfo, all salary bands have been cut by 20% from last year.
Teams will have from October through to January in which to negotiate with players and agents, with a mini-draft to follow at some point in early 2021. In that draft, each team will then have a 'right to match' option, allowing them to retain players with whom they failed to negotiate a deal, if they have a spot remaining in the draft at the salary band at which another team picks him.
Each team will still be able to pick one 'wildcard' player, who will be chosen after the T20 Blast season in 2021 and will sign a £24,000 contract for the competition.
The early stages of retention will depend on England's red-ball central contract list, with the competition again set to overlap with a Test series, this time against India, and their Hundred deals falling outside of the main draft system. It is unlikely that many of the 10 players currently with deals will fall off the list, with Jonny Bairstow the main exception, but a handful of players - Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Dom Bess - will come under consideration for red-ball contracts.
Players with red-ball central contracts both years will be able to be retained. Ultimately, each team will have at least one, and at most two players with a red-ball central contract, which will be confirmed in October.
A spokesman for the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) said: "The PCA was supportive of the process in confirming the retention details for the 2021 Men's Hundred.
"The players were consulted through PCA representatives, including those who were not originally contracted for the 2020 Hundred. The PCA Players' Committee fed back their approval of the process to the ECB which allows players an element of control and freedom to negotiate for 2021 while offering opportunities for those who impressed during the 2020 Vitality Blast."
There will be several sub-plots regarding retentions, not least questions over the availability of certain players on Kolpak deals. Dane Vilas, for example, was signed by Manchester Originals as a top-price pick in last year's draft. He hopes to continue playing as a local via a UK ancestral visa next year, but would be less likely to command a top salary if competing for one of three overseas spots. Cameron Delport, signed by Birmingham Phoenix, is in the same position.
The process for women's retentions has already been confirmed, with players given more control in that they are able to choose to roll their contracts over at the same salary if they choose to do so.