English counties are holding firm over releasing their players for the inaugural Euro T20 Slam amid concerns over a potential clash of dates with their own fixtures, in the latest in a series of conflicts between county cricket and franchise leagues regarding player availability.
Several players holding county contracts were picked up in Friday’s draft for the Euro Slam, which will take place between August 30 and September 22, but will likely be unavailable for the majority of the new competition if their counties reach the knockout stages of the Vitality Blast.
The Blast’s quarter-finals run from September 4 to September 7, with Finals Day on September 21. Further, there are two rounds of Championship cricket – starting on September 10 and September 16 – that clash with Euro Slam fixtures.
Nottinghamshire, for example, saw three important members of their Blast side picked up in Friday’s draft, in Samit Patel – who is contracted for all formats – and T20 specialists Harry Gurney and Dan Christian. “In all three cases, Notts cricket will take precedence,” confirmed the club.
Sussex, meanwhile, will be without Rashid Khan for the final four group games of the Blast after he signed as an ‘icon’ player for Rotterdam Rhinos, while Tymal Mills and Luke Wright were also picked up in the draft.
A club statement said that Mills and Wright would only be available for the start of the Euro Slam if Sussex failed to reach the knockout stages of the Blast.
Both counties were among a handful of clubs that issued similar statements ahead of the draft for the Caribbean Premier League, which runs from September 4 until October 12.
While counties have generally accepted the reality of losing players to franchise T20 leagues in recent years, there have been intermittent flashpoints of tension.
Yorkshire were left spitting after both Liam Plunkett and David Willey were selected as late replacements in the 2018 IPL, which left them facing an “impossible situation” according to director of cricket Martyn Moxon.
Moxon chaired a meeting between county bosses last year which resolved to lobby the ECB for a greater share of compensation payments for the loss of players.
In 2015, Hales missed a handful of Notts’ Blast fixtures to fill in as a late replacement for Mumbai Indians, thanks in part to a clause in his contract that permitted him to miss games if he was picked. Previously, Hales had been instructed by the club to enter the 2014 auction with a $400,000 base price, to ensure they would be well-compensated if he missed games.
A handful of other counties had contracted players selected in the Euro Slam draft. For example, Essex saw Ravi Bopara, Varun Chopra, and Shane Snater picked up; Freddie Klaassen and Hardus Viljoen, the Kent pair, were both chosen; and Somerset’s Roelof van der Merwe and Peter Trego were selected. None of the three clubs have commented.
Babar Azam, who is with Somerset for the Vitality Blast was also selected, but as a marquee player his involvement was known at the time of his arrival. He is expected to miss the Blast’s Finals Day, but might yet be made available for a potential quarter-final.
The availability of other overseas players, including Imran Tahir, Dwaine Pretorius, and Martin Guptill, has yet to be confirmed by their respective clubs.
The Blast has regularly had to contend with fixture clashes in previous years, regularly losing out on international stars to the CPL, and this year has seen various high-profile players including Andre Russell, Faf du Plessis, and Shakib al Hasan choose to play in the Global T20 in Canada rather than staying in England after the World Cup.