England’s injury-prone pace makes it apparent that “an almost endless supply of these leagues” is good for the game and the players’ future.
Reece Topley was speaking at the launch of KP Snacks’ community cricket pitches initiative,
England’s left-arm seamer Reece Topley believes that the debut season of Major League Cricket (MLC) has opened up “a career path that probably outlives your international career” and that the more such global leagues there are, the better for the world game.
Topley was speaking at the launch of KP Snacks’ community cricket pitches initiative, a partnership with the Hundred that will fund 100 new astroturf wickets over the next three years. He is on the comeback trail after a series of freak injuries, including a twisted ankle that ended his participation in England’s triumphant T20 World Cup campaign in Australia last year.
However, the Hundred is feeling the pinch after a successful first season of MLC in the United States, particularly in light of the news that Rashid Khan, arguably the most notable overseas star in this year’s event, has withdrawn on the eve of his stint with the Trent Rockets, citing an unspecified injury only hours after returning 3 for 9 in MI New York’s MLC final victory in Dallas.
Although Rashid expressed sorrow and stated that he intended to return for the 2024 event, his choice fueled doubts about the Hundred’s potential to attract the finest cricketers in the world. Rashid had been retained by the Rockets on a top-tier £125,000 contract, with a pro-rata income due for three appearances before Afghanistan’s Asia Cup campaign in September. However, that sum was dwarfed by the MLC’s offer of US$175,000 for a minimum of five matches spread over two and a half weeks.
And for Topley, whose impressive performances in England’s white-ball team last year made him a similarly hot ticket on the franchise circuit, such opportunities are not to be passed up, especially given his injury-prone nature and the realization that, at the age of 29, he has a limited shelf life as an elite-level cricketer.
Topley, like England teammate Jason Roy, negotiated an early termination of his ECB incremental contract in order to play for LA Knight Riders in this year’s MLC, but that decision was rendered moot when he suffered a dislocated shoulder while playing his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore in this year’s IPL.
“It was getting quite stagnant when it was just the Big Bash, the Blast, and the IPL.” These [new T20] tournaments have nearly brought a breath of fresh air, and it is critical to keep reinventing and striving as a company for the leagues themselves. So I believe it is healthy competition.”
However, he is already considering his options for the 2024 event, and despite reports that fellow England players such as Jofra Archer are being lined up for lucrative year-round contracts to represent their franchises across multiple T20 tournaments, he has made his own decision about the sport’s current trajectory.
“It’s almost as if you’re passing up another career path that will probably outlive your international career if you don’t go to the MLC,” he says. “I’m not saying it’s more important than playing for England.” However, all-year contracts will be introduced. And I believe that having a seat at the table is almost preferable to being left behind, because it will happen. And I believe you should almost embrace the shift.
“We’ve now crossed that bridge.” The players’ feet will speak for themselves in terms of what they prioritize. I mean, the fees are well known. You could probably find out how much someone is willing to sell their soul for.
“It looks like a really good setup, to be honest,” he said, having seen the first MLC from a distance. “Obviously, there has been significant investment, which is encouraging. It has almost come to fruition from a seed in someone’s brain, and based on the reactions of those who have seen it, it appears to be a truly good product. Personally, I believe that the more tournaments that are held in countries, the better.”
Topley’s comments will no doubt concern the ECB, which is already facing a difficult month given that the Hundred will begin not only in the shadow of MLC but also in the shadow of a thrilling Ashes campaign, which concluded at the Kia Oval only hours before the opening fixtures between Trent Rockets and Southern Brave in Nottingham. Despite suggestions that the tournament may be reviewed at the end of this season, the ECB’s current rights deal with Sky Sports, which expires in 2028, remains in place.
“Fortunately, it’s not my job to respond; that’s for the governing body—the ECB, Cricket Australia, or whoever,” Topley said. “They’ve got a job because it’s almost a matter of when [year-round contracts] come, not if.”
“I understand [MLC] conflicts with our schedule, but I believe there is enough [to go around].” There’s also the CPL coming up… There are an almost infinite number of these leagues, and it will be interesting to watch how you keep the talent.
“But, to be honest, I think the more leagues that pop up, the better.” Competition will only drive people to seek to enhance their own competitions. It was becoming a little boring when it was just the Big Bash, the Blast, and the IPL. These events have nearly brought in a breath of fresh air, and it is critical to keep reinventing and striving as a company for the leagues themselves. As a result, I believe it is healthy competition.”