Big names miss out in CA contract shake-up

Travis Head, Matthew Wade and Will Pucovski among those to miss out on a national contract for 2021-22 season, which will include a T20 World Cup in India and home Ashes series

Former Test vice-captain Travis Head is among five recent national representatives to be cut from Cricket Australia's contract list for the upcoming season, which sees budding allrounder Cameron Green included among a cohort that's been pared back to its bare minimum.

Green earns his place on the 17-man list – down from 20 players awarded deals last year – at the expense of fellow allrounder and Western Australia teammate Mitchell Marsh, while opener Joe Burns and the Test team's "Mister Fixit" Matthew Wade have also missed out.

Cricket Australia men's contract list 2021-22: Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Adam Zampa.

Allrounder Marcus Stoinis did not receive a CA contract despite being elevated to the national list last season after his recall to Australia's ODI and T20I ranks.

In addition, the national selection panel could find no room for openers Will Pucovski (who, like Green, made his Test debut against India during the summer) and Marcus Harris, but it was Head's exclusion that came as the biggest surprise.

The left-hander showed great form in both halves of the Marsh Sheffield Shield season where he finished as the second-highest run-scorer behind Green, but lost his place in the Test line-up after failing to convert a couple of starts in the Boxing Day Test against India.

The 27-year-old, who last week cleaned up at South Australia's end-of-season awards night, is scheduled to travel to the UK next week where he will begin a stint with county outfit Sussex.

Those who miss out on the initial contract list can be upgraded during the year by earning selection in national teams. Players need to accrue 12 upgrade points to earn a contract, with Tests worth five points, ODIs two points and T20s one point.

Men's team coach Justin Langer revealed the contract list was scheduled to be released publicly yesterday but was held back because selectors had been unable to contact one of the players, with contracted cricketers currently on a period of mandated annual leave.

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Langer also noted the rationale for reducing the number of CA contracts was to generate increased competitive tension among top-level players, a message that was reiterated by national selection panel (NSP) chair Trevor Hohns when names were released today.

"There are two main reasons behind the size of the contract list announced today," Hohns said today.

"Firstly, we have seen format specialisation become increasingly prevalent in recent seasons which, accordingly, has resulted in a broader group of players representing Australia, often beyond the initial list of contracted players at the start of each year.

"Secondly, we want to create an environment where players strive for national selection through consistent domestic performances and earn national contracts through consistent international performances.

"There will continue to be opportunities and support for players outside this group to represent Australia and earn an upgrade to a central contract with strong performances throughout the year.

"But in naming these 17 players, we believe we have a strong core group which cover all forms of the game for the 12 months ahead."

The contracts are largely based on player performances over the preceding 12 months, with the national selection panel choosing those expected to represent Australia over the coming year, which will include a home Ashes series against England and a T20 World Cup scheduled for India.

Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding between CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association, CA must award a minimum of 17 and maximum of 20 men's contracts each year with contracts weighted more heavily towards Test players.

Head has held a CA contract since 2017, the year before he played the first of his 19 Tests to date against Pakistan in the UAE, while Burns, Marsh and Wade were all returned to the national contract list last year.

Burns retained his Test berth at the start of the summer despite a lack of runs in the early rounds of the Sheffield Shield, but was replaced by Pucovski for the third Vodafone Test against India at the SCG.

Pucovski subsequently suffered a shoulder injury while fielding in his debut Test, which saw his Victoria teammate Harris recalled for the series decider in Brisbane.

With incumbent opener David Warner absent from the first two Tests against India due to a serious groin tear, Wade was promoted to the top of the order with Langer lauding him as the team's "Mister Fixit".

Wade finished the Test campaign batting at No.5, and in four matches returned 173 runs at an average of 21.63 with a highest score of 45.

The 33-year-old also captained Australia in a T20 International against India at the SCG last December (in which he top scored) when Aaron Finch was unavailable due to injury, and opened in all-but one game of the subsequent five-match T20I series in NZ last month.

He was not named in the 19-man squad for the planned Test series in South Africa earlier this year that was ultimately postponed due to COVID19 concerns, with ODI keeper Alex Carey preferred as back-up gloveman to skipper Tim Paine.

Marsh was sidelined for the start of the 2020-21 season after suffering an ankle injury while playing in the Indian Premier League, but returned to Australia's T20 line-up for the recent NZ series and is expected to figure in the ICC T20 World Cup scheduled in India.

"There is a considerable amount of international cricket to be played across all formats in the next 12 months and the door to national selection is never closed to players outside this list," Hohns said.

"The NSP continues to hold Joe Burns, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis in high regard and expect that they, and many others across Australian Cricket, will continue to make strong cases for national selection next season.

"Competition for spots has always been a hallmark of strong Australian cricket teams and we are happy with the depth across all our disciplines entering next season.

"In the fast bowling ranks, Jhye Richardson is a player we believe has a big future across multiple formats and his return to the game has been strong.

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"We are equally impressed with and optimistic about the form of fellow quicks James Pattinson and Kane Richardson.

"Nathan Lyon took on a huge workload in red ball cricket this summer and bowled impressively throughout, while Alex Carey has been excellent with both bat and gloves for Australia in white ball cricket.

"We are also fortunate to have two outstanding captains in Tim Paine and Aaron Finch, and we look forward to them once again leading their respective teams with pride over the next 12 months."

Green's inclusion comes after he finished his maiden Test campaign as Australia's third-highest run-scorer with 236 at 33.71 and a highest score of 84 in the third Test at the SCG.

The 21-year-old also topped the Shield run-scorers' list with 922 at 76.83 (with three centuries and a top score of 251) and this week was named WA's Lawrie Sawle Medallist as the state's pre-eminent men's cricketer.

Best of Cameron Green from the 2020-21 Sheffield Shield

"Cameron is a player we believe will play an important role for Australian cricket after his impressive breakout summer," Hohns said.

"His 84 in the second-innings against India at the SCG demonstrated excellent technique and resolve and we are confident his bowling will be impactful at international level.

"His domestic form was also outstanding, and we expect he will only get better with more international exposure."

Each contracted player receives a ranking which dictates the value of their overall contract, with Test and limited-overs vice-captain Pat Cummins believed to have retained top billing while Labuschagne – who earned his maiden CA contract last year – is understood to be the biggest mover.

The current MOU, completed in 2017 and due to expire next year, declares the minimum retainer for nationally contracted men's players is just over $300,000 while the average contract value across the list is more than $800,000.

The minimum retainer for men's state contracts is around $75,000 for 2021-22, while in the KFC BBL that figure is $40,000.

CA last week announced their list of 15 nationally contracted women's players, with teenage fast bowler Darcie Brown earning a call-up in place of Delissa Kimmince who has retired from top-level cricket.

Cricket Australia men's contract list 2021-22: Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, James Pattinson, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Adam Zampa.