Jason Roy forfeits England contract to play in new US T20 cricket league

<span>Photograph: R Satish Babu/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: R Satish Babu/AFP/Getty Images

Jason Roy will become the first current England player to sign up for the inaugural Major League Cricket (MLC) competition in the US after forfeiting the final months of his contract with the ECB, having first secured reassurance that the move will not endanger his chances of international selection. Roy has been offered a two-year deal by Los Angeles Knight Riders and will travel to the US at the end of Surrey’s T20 Blast campaign.

“I hope to play for England for many more years, that remains my priority,” Roy wrote in a statement. “It benefits me as an England player to play as much competitive cricket as possible. Just to be clear, my priority is England cricket, especially with a World Cup soon upon us.”

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Los Angeles Knight Riders share ownership with Kolkata Knight Riders, the Indian Premier League franchise for whom Roy played this season. Though the MLC schedule has not yet been released he could play as many games for their teams this year as he will for Surrey, which would represent a significant step on the much-discussed path towards year-round franchise contracts.

His county, however, expect to retain his primary allegiance and if they qualify for the Blast’s finals day, which will be played two days after the start of the MLC on 15 July, his departure would be delayed. The MLC Twenty20 competition is due to end on 30 July, two days before the start of the Hundred and three before Roy would be due at Lord’s to play his first game for Oval Invincibles.

No England-qualified player can play in a foreign league without being issued with a no-objection certificate by the ECB, and after what Roy described as “clear and supportive conversations” with the governing body it was happy to oblige. In a statement the ECB said it did so “on the proviso that he gives up the remainder of his incremental contract”, and that it has “absolute confidence and faith that Jason is committed to England cricket”.

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Roy is not the only player on an ECB contract to have been contacted by MLC teams. David Willey has so far turned down approaches, not wanting to jeopardise his potential involvement in this autumn’s 50-over World Cup, while Reece Topley has also been sounded out, but is recovering from the dislocated shoulder that ruled him out of the IPL. Having missed much of the last year through various injuries Topley is keen to play as much cricket as possible for whichever teams want to have him, but will need to prove his fitness before making any new commitments.

Roy, 32, has become a key player for England’s white-ball sides since his debut in 2014, and was part of the team that won the 50-over World Cup in 2019. But after a miserable summer last year he was dropped from the T20 squad for the World Cup in Australia, which England also won, and downgraded from a full central contract to an incremental contract.

These deals are worth about £70,000 and are intended for “players who may feature for England on a less predictable basis”. They are considerably less lucrative than the rumoured £300,000 Roy has been offered for perhaps as little as five weeks’ work, split over two years, in the US.

None of those on full central contracts with the ECB are expected to play in the MLC this year – the competition also clashes with the last two Ashes Tests – and though several high-profile white-ball specialists from other countries have already signed up, including Quinton de Kock, Glenn Phillips and Wanindu Hasaranga, many more will wait to see if the debut season is a success before deciding whether to get involved.

Though the inaugural competition will last only 17 days and clash with only one day of senior white-ball cricket in England it is expected to expand into August from 2024, forcing players to choose between it and the Hundred.