David Warner is unlikely to play in the UAE’s inaugural International League T20 (ILT20) in January, and looks set to remain in Australia with negotiations ongoing to have him play in the Big Bash League (BBL) for the first time since 2013.
Warner, who is contracted to Cricket Australia but doesn’t hold a BBL deal, is set to be available to play franchise cricket in January 2023 after the three-match ODI series with South Africa was cancelled and there was significant interest for him to play in the UAE, particularly given his IPL franchise Delhi Capitals own the Dubai Capitals franchise as well.
But ESPNcricinfo understands that a potential deal to sign Warner to the ILT20 is almost certainly off and Warner’s manager James Erskine confirmed to the Sydney Morning Herald that they were in negotiations with CA and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) to have Warner play in the BBL.
CA has found itself in a bind over the prospect of Australian contracted players, who are not contracted in the BBL, potentially being offered US$ 450,000 to play in the UAE.
The last Test of a three-match series between Australia and South Africa concludes in Sydney on January 8, 2023, with Australia’s next international commitment not until mid-February when they are due to tour India for a four-Test series. This means that Warner, Steven Smith, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, among other Test players, will be available to play franchise cricket in that period. CA had hoped that all would play in the BBL given it runs from December 13 to February 4, while the ILT20 is scheduled to run from January 6 to February 12.
The CA-contracted players are not obligated to play in the BBL under their contracts and Warner and Starc haven’t played since 2013 and 2014 respectively, while Smith, Cummins and Hazlewood also don’t have BBL contracts. Starc has already confirmed he won’t make himself available in order to rest while Warner is the only one publicly linked to the UAE so far, although Cummins and Hazlewood have been sought-after recruits in the IPL in recent years and would attract a lot of interest.
Australia’s high-profile T20 players like Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa, Aaron Finch and Tim David all have BBL deals. The big restriction for the players’ potential earnings in the BBL is the AUD$ 1.9 million (US$ 1.32 million approx.) salary cap with top contracts in the BBL for Australian players maxing out at roughly AUD$ 190,000 (US$ 132,000 approx.). There are significant marketing bonuses available on top of that but the total a player can earn in the BBL is still dwarfed by the top contract in the UAE for a shorter tournament.
There has been disquiet among the players about the BBL’s decision to offer AUD$ 340,000 (US$ 236,000 approx.) to top overseas players who have been nominated in the draft. A significant portion of that contract will be topped up by CA outside of the club’s salary cap. There is further disillusionment at the fact that a number of those overseas players are likely to only be available for the December portion of the BBL and will then head to the UAE to play the full ILT20 in January for nearly twice the money.
It is written into CA, Australian domestic and BBL contracts that players need “written approval” in the form of no-objection certificates (NOCs) to play in overseas leagues but it is understood that a restraint of trade argument could be mounted under Australian common law should a player wish to go down that route. That contract clause has warded off players from making any decisive moves to the UAE this year but the ILT20 has given Warner the ability to bargain with CA and command a similar sized and structured BBL contract to what the “platinum” overseas players will get this season.
There has been speculation that Chris Lynn would also require an NOC despite not being contracted to a BBL club due to an ICC player-release regulation stipulating players still need NOCs for two years after holding a contract in Australia. But ESPNcricinfo understands that it would be unenforceable as an unreasonable restraint of trade under Australian law. Shane Watson, the current ACA president, previously played in the Bangladesh Premier League in 2019-20 without an NOC having retired from the BBL earlier in the year. It is unlikely, however, that Lynn could play in both the BBL and the ILT20.
Ricky Ponting and Usman Khawaja forecasted these issues last month highlighting the potential earnings gap between the BBL and the South Africa and UAE T20 leagues for both Australian and overseas players.
All of this is taking place as CA and the ACA prepare to start negotiations in the coming months on a new long-term MoU for the players to come into effect in 2023. One of CA’s major broadcast partners Channel Seven has also filed a Federal Court action against CA to terminate their current deal that expires in 2024 over perceived quality breaches in regards to the BBL specifically.