Eoin Morgan: Proposed ICC cap on T20 leagues unlikely to work

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The ICC will face considerable opposition from players if it tries to bring in a cap on involvement in T20 leagues around the world, according to England’s limited-overs captain, Eoin Morgan. Plans to limit players to three T20 engagements a year have been mooted but Morgan warned there would be “huge legal ramifications” to such a restriction of employment.
Morgan, who has been named as one of five “icon players” for the UAE’s new T20x competition to be played in December and January, believes that far from impacting negatively on international cricket, the growth of T20 leagues has benefited the player pool by providing increased exposure and opportunity. The Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) is also thought to be against the idea of a cap.
Eoin Morgan has played down the possibility of disruption for England’s one-day side if the ECB Cricket Disciplinary Commission decides to hand out further punishment to Ben Stokes and Alex Hales. Stokes was cleared of affray earlier this month but he and Hales could still be punished for the incident in Bristol last September.
The CDC is expected to convene after the end of the season – possibly as late as December – with suspensions a possibility. Both players missed two ODIs against West Indies last year, while Stokes was omitted from the entirety of England’s tour of Australia.
England go to Sri Lanka in October and November, playing three Tests, five ODIs and a T20, followed by a trip to the Caribbean in the new year, but Morgan said he was not worried about losing the services of either player in the run up to the 2019 World Cup.
“We’ve spent a winter dealing with everything in the lead up to the court case,” he said. “Ben was away, he missed the Australian ODIs, which was disappointing but it is what it is. Certainly as a team we were able to deal with that and move on – a similar case with Alex, towards the back end of the summer. When it all happened, I thought the team were outstanding dealing with any noise outside what we were trying to do.”
“I’m sure there would be some huge legal ramifications, of restricting guys’ employment, so I’m sure that would be met with quite a big [resistance] … I’m not sure how it would work,” Morgan said. “I don’t see that going through.”
Some boards are stricter than others on whether they issue no-objection certificates – the BCCI, for instance, does not allow Indian players to participate in overseas T20 leagues. CWI has been at the forefront of lobbying for reform but, in the absence of ICC regulation, the main lever for retaining control is through central contracts, with the PCB and BCB recently introducing limits for their contracted players.
Earlier this year, FICA warned that more and more young players were considering becoming free agents in order to play T20 around the globe, which could in turn undermine the value of international competition. However, Morgan believes prohibition is not the way to go.
“It creates a question, if you’re a young up-and-coming player, whether you want to make a decision early about sacrificing playing international cricket or going to one of the leagues,” he said. “It’s not really a question you want to be asking yourself – or you shouldn’t have to ask yourself.”
Rather than just another league clogging up the calendar, the UAE T20x, run by the Emirates Cricket Board, is being championed as a vehicle for growing the game in the region. In addition to six international players, each of the five franchises will be expected to have three UAE internationals, three players from Associate nations and four “emerging and junior” cricketers in their squads. Morgan said that commitment to development set the tournament apart from most others.
“I’m really excited about being part of it,” Morgan said. “Being part of a new tournament, there’s always that bit more behind it because it’s a new step, in the right direction, for an association. And with it being T20, it always has that financial incentive, in order to bring money back into the grassroots of the game.
“One thing about this tournament over every other that stood out for me – every tournament around the world you play in, there’s probably one stipulation where you have to pick an Under-23 or an emerging player in your squad, whereas this new tournament, you have to have three UAE current players in your squad and three Associate nation players in your squad. And that being set out from the very beginning rally does put the development of the ECB’s future players at the forefront of the tournament.”