Sports writer, Harry Wilkinson, looks at how wages differ by competition and team within the sport of cricket.

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Money in sport is a vast and fascinating concept, each sport with its own unique and abundant financial infrastructure. Some sports though, are more abundant than others. Here I examine cricket, or rather, cricket players and their respective salaries. After football, cricket is the most played sport in the world (primarily due to its massive popularity in India); an interesting fact that may be able to put into perspective the money-related gap between the two sports.


The ECB (England cricket board) have been using a Central Contract system to pay the England players for fourteen years. This system includes two categories: central contracts for the core collection of players involved in most test matches, and increment contracts for new players or ones who are regular in ODIs and T20s. Players awarded a central contract sign a 12-month deal, replacing their existing their county salary. Those who are in the Central Contract category receive a yearly wage of £700,000 plus £12,000 for tests, £5,000 for ODIs, and £3500 for T20s – Alastair Cook also gets a captains bonus of approximately +25%. In the increment category, players remain on their county salary but also get the said match bonuses for each game they are involved in.

England's Contracted Players

Central: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Moeen Ali, Mark Wood, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan

Increment: Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, James Taylor

County cricket salaries

Salaries in county cricket range quite a lot: from £25,000 to £100,000, with the average being around £50,000 per year. The ECB implemented a minimum salary recommendation for all teams in the County Championship. It recommends around £16,000 for 18 year olds, with this figure steadily increasing to just under £24,000 for 24 year-old players.

Some people might be surprised as to the modest nature of these county cricket wages, especially considering that most players in the English football Premier League make more money in a week. But when you make that comparison you have to also consider: is it that the cricket wages are too low and the football wages fair; or is it that the cricket wages are fair and the football wages way too high? Alternatively, is it because unlike in football, where the domestic leagues are probably more gripping than the internationals, that the cricket domestic leagues just don’t have the same kind of appeal- in England anyway.

IPL (Indian Premier League)

Since 2008, the IPL has been a twenty20 tournament in which eight Indian teams compete, each with a squad composed of the majority of the game’s top players. It is an event that has brought in some serious money, with the salaries of some individuals rivalling that of the top footballers. The tournament receives a tremendous amount of attraction. This is mainly because of popularity of cricket in India, as well as the supposedly more exciting and shortest format used – T20. Add to this the prospect of watching the world’s best and you get a pretty attractive viewing for cricket fans (and therefore television companies).

Talking about some of the world’s best – Jos Buttler, England’s eccentricly hard-hitting wicket-keeper batsman, was recently bought by Mumbia Inidans for £385,000 in the recent IPL auction. Moreover, Shane Watson was bought for £950,000- the highest bid ever in the auction- by Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The top ten highest paid players in the IPL, in terms of salary alone, include six Indians (of which five are in the top five). The other four are AB de Villers (South Africa), Shane Watson (Australia), Chris Gayle (West Indies) and Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka). It is also interesting to note that of these top ten, the top nine are all batsmen. This could simply be because of the way twenty-over matches are played, but could also be an indication of which aspect of the game spectators find most entertaining. In other words, in order to win t20s you need batsmen who can smash the ball out of the park, and, unsurprisingly, people also enjoy watching that spectacle.

Number one in this list, Virat Kohli, earns $2,500,000 from the tournament, with Lasith Malinga (number 10), earning $1,350,000. It is important to note that this is simply the earnings these players get for their services in the IPL, not taking into account the salaries the players earn for their country or sponsorship deals.

India, like England, also have a central contract system. However, the Indians get paid a whole lot more..


Each player in the system receives up to a $190,000 retainer fee, AT LEAST $300,000 for each test they play ($500,000 for Grade A players), as well as bonuses that reward players $500,000 for getting a hundred or five-wicket haul, and $700,000 for getting a ten-wicket haul in a test. Also, if the team wins a test against a top 3 test ranked side, the match fee increases by 50% – 100% if they win the series.

For ODIs players get $200,000 each (Grade As $300,000); for t20s $150,000 each. The match fee is tripled for winning a World Cup (One-day or t20).

'So then, it should come to no surprise that MS Dhoni, India's long-term captain, is the highest earner in world cricket; said to be earning between 25-32 million (US Dollars) a year.'

So that is the nature of money in cricket; the respective earnings of those who play it, from County Championship to the IPL. To give a summary, it seems that to earn the most money in cricket you have to have great ability, yes; to be highly skilled, yes (especially as a batsman) but it also helps to play for India.