“This is the big kicker, isn’t it, of possibly the step towards being contracted to club before or over country for the predominant amount of cricket you play,” Gilchrist said. “I think it would almost be commercial suicide for them to allow a player like him to go head-to-head up against their own competition.
“They can’t force David Warner to play in the BBL. I understand that. But to let him then go off, or another player, let’s not just single out Warner, because there will be other players on the radar, it’s all part of this, I guess, global dominance that these IPL franchises are starting to create.
“David Warner, again using him as an example, we can’t question his commitment to Australian cricket over the years. He’s carved out one of the great careers. So if he rides off into the sunset and says, ‘sorry Australian cricket, I’m finished, I’m just going to become a gun for hire for my Indian franchise team in various tournaments’, you can’t question him on that. That’s his prerogative and he’s done everything he needs to, to get the profile and get that sort of market value. It’s the new younger player that comes in and starts to make those noises where it will be really challenging.”
“Perhaps it is the first example where David Warner doesn’t sign a contract with Cricket Australia at all, he just plays for a match fee”
The hope was that Australia’s Test players would be free to play in the BBL after the South Africa Tests, but Warner does not have a contract with a BBL club, and hasn’t played in the competition since 2013. CA-contracted players do not have to play in the BBL as part of the agreement. BBL clubs negotiate with Australian-based players individually as there is no domestic draft or auction for the tournament. Clubs haven’t contracted players like Warner, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green or Steven Smith in recent years to avoid wasting large chunks of the salary cap on those players when they are not available to play because of international duty. But they are set to be available for the last three weeks of the upcoming season.
Warner is contracted to Delhi Capitals in the IPL and their co-owners GMR Group now own the Dubai Capitals, which are one of the teams in the new UAE league [ILT20]. The ILT20 is scheduled to run from January 6 to February 12. The BBL is scheduled to run from December 13 to February 4.
Despite not being required to play in the BBL, Warner would need a no-objection certificate [NOC] from CA to be allowed to play in another league. CA issues NOCs for players to play in the IPL.
Gilchrist felt that a move where Warner, or other players, are allowed to play other leagues could completely change the face of how international players were contracted.
CA is already facing that challenge with Tim David, who is on the cusp of Australia’s T20I side. David is contracted to Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL but does not have a state contract in the domestic system, which has allowed him the freedom to play in the PSL despite the tournament falling during Australia’s domestic season when the Marsh Cup and Sheffield Shield are played. There have already been informal discussions within CA’s high-performance unit about how contracting would work in the future to allow T20 specialists, like David, to play in leagues around the world while being able to represent Australia without a significant loss of potential franchise earnings.
Gilchrist suggested that if Warner were to play in the UAE, it could reshape how Australia representatives are contracted in Australia.
“Perhaps it is the first example where David Warner doesn’t sign a contract with Cricket Australia at all, he just plays for a match fee,” Gilchrist said. “He goes and plays whatever he wants but says, ‘I’m available for every Test match, for every one-day international, every T20 international’ by way of example. ‘I’ll be there for you in national colours, but other than that I’m going to play my club, my franchise cricket wherever I want to’, knowing that none of those big tournaments will be clashing with international cricket. That might be an opportunity to explore that and see how it looks. It’s a tough one.”
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo