Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood lost their test contracts with England on Wednesday as the country’s players from all formats prepared for pay cuts over the next year because of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 31-year-old Bairstow, a wicket-keeper-batsman, has appeared in only one of England’s 12 tests since last year’s Ashes and wasn’t part of the red-ball squad for series against the West Indies and Pakistan this year. Wood was, but only played in one of the six tests and looks to be behind James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer in the fast-bowling pecking order.
“He’s taken it as well as you could expect — and I mean that genuinely,” Ashley Giles, England’s director of men’s cricket, said about Bairstow, who has played 70 tests and scored more than 4,000 runs.
“It’s hard news to hear, especially as someone who’s played so much cricket for England across all forms. It’s a knock for him, I’m sure. But I think he truly still does have a desire to go on and play test cricket.”
Bairstow and Wood are mainstays in the limited-overs teams — they were members of England’s World Cup-winning line-up last year — so they retained their white-ball contracts.
Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley have all had breakthrough performances over the previous year and were rewarded with test contracts for the first time for the next 12 months.
But, with the England and Wales Cricket Board estimating initial losses of 100 million pounds ($127 million) because of COVID-19 restrictions such as matches in empty stadiums and having recently announced imminent job losses, the value of the contracts has been reduced.
During lockdown, contracted players came up with a voluntary donation to support the national game and that looks likely to evolve into a reduction on annual packages that were reported to have been worth 650,000 pounds ($830,000) for test players and 275,000 pounds ($350,000) for limited-overs players in 2019-20.
“Although the players have been in a bubble for the majority of the summer, they are not blind to the reality of what is going on in the world,” Giles said. “The players have done a huge amount this summer, saving a lot of money for cricket across the board and, in some aspects, keeping the lights on across the country in cricket.
“But we are mature and realistic about what is going on and revenues are likely to be less in future and that has impact on everyone … I can’t over-emphasize that the players are aware of what is going on and that there is a part to play for them.”
After staging a full men’s international program despite the COVID-19 restrictions, England has no matches arranged for the winter given the global uncertainty.
Giles, however, is confident that series against South Africa, India and Sri Lanka can all take place.
“We are in constant dialogue with teams around the world and we are confident all this cricket will happen, but we have to remain flexible and agile,” he said. “If we don’t play any cricket at all in the next 12 months then the impact is huge. It doesn’t matter what contract you have, for any one of us, if there is no income they are not worth the paper they’re written on.”