Representing a cricketer is like representing no other athlete in the world. Whilst agents managing clients in Football, Hockey or Basketball only need to deal with one league at a time, the ever evolving cricket landscape means it’s conceivable for a cricketer to be employed in a number of countries. In fact, a cricketer may be employed over different forms of the game.
With the introduction and subsequent growth of 20/20 cricket over the last 10 years, the role of representing a cricket player has become much more complex. Let’s take the example of Ryan Harris. Ryan Harris is managed by Essentially Group. He currently holds contracts with Cricket Australia, Cricket Queensland and the Brisbane Heat (Australia) & Kings XI Punjab (India). That’s four leagues over two countries. Four playing contracts his agent must negotiate that run concurrently over a year, not to mention planning and negotiating which league takes precedence can prove to be difficult.
I reached out to Essentially Group‘s Global Head of Cricket, Rick Olarenshaw, for a comment on what managing a cricket player is like. He had this to say:
“The playing landscape for cricketers has changed dramatically in recent years, largely attributed to the rise of T20 cricket and franchise-based competitions. The agent is now faced with a much more sophisticated global marketplace, so players need to rely on their agent more so now than ever. The Essentially Cricket division is unique; we have a global network of agents who are knowledgeable and networked across all markets, including the developing ones, ensuring we give our clients (players and coaches) the best chance to secure contracts.”
As Rick points out, agents would have a hard time operating in the current environment without a worldwide network.
The International Cricket Committee (ICC) has been set an arduous task, with international fixtures overlapping with cashed up 20/20 leagues. This can at times prove to be a logistical nightmare. Many cricketers are retiring from international level to fully maximise their worth in these leagues. In the Indian Premier League (IPL), a mid-tier player who can play all games during a season will command a much higher fee than a superstar with international commitments. You’ll see them on Cricketics – Cricket Stats more prominently, that’s for sure. With the success of burgeoning leagues such as Australia’s Big Bash and Bangladesh’s Premier League, it is now conceivable that the ICC will tweak their schedule to accommodate for more 20/20 series.
The earning potential for players has also hit new heights, with some players making upwards of $2 million over a 6 week period in the IPL. Though still lucrative, other leagues haven’t hit those heights yet. Australia’s Big Bash League has a salary cap of $1 million for 18 players, with a base contract worth about $20,000.
The endorsement side of cricket is also going through a boom phase. It is unprecedented to think that there are Australian players who have a higher profile in India than Australia. Former cricketer Brett Lee even had a hit song in India in 2007, yet it met little success on his home soil. An international batsmen will often have a bat sponsorship, with endorsement figures reaches up to $500,000 annually.
Looking to the future, the USA is set to introduce a 20/20 league next year. Often seen as the next big market cricket has wanted to target, the recent international matches show that the format would be widely accepted. There are a few challenges this league will face, though. The biggest will be fitting into the international cricket calendar, but they will need to decide whether to allow the use of a synthetic cricket pitch in matches amongst other things too. Though the format may be regarded close to baseball, the high amount of emigrants from countries such as England and India will no doubt fuel the league to success. With any new league, marquee players are a must. The organisers will need to spend up big to attract the best in the world to help it succeed. Thus, another opportunity for many cricketers, and agents, will begin.