England are facing an extraordinary stretch on their resources for the white-ball tour of Bangladesh with around 15 players set to be unavailable for the start of the trip.
As a result of scheduling clashes with the Test team, and the ever-increasing paying power of franchise leagues, England are likely to name a squad with a mixture of established players and those a long way down the pecking order.
As revealed by Telegraph Sport, Alex Hales will not be included in the squad for Bangladesh as he is set to remain at the Pakistan Super League where he has a lucrative deal. It is understood Sam Billings, Liam Dawson and James Vince will do the same.
Kent’s Jordan Cox, Somerset’s Tom Abell and Warwickshire’s Sam Hain are among those who could benefit from the lack of availability.
England’s selectors will name the squad this week for the tour, which comprises three one-day internationals and three T20s and starts on March 1.
The games were originally scheduled for October 2021 but the two nations mutually agreed to delay them due to the pandemic. That has seen them squeezed into this winter, during which England are playing six series in five countries.
One of those series, two Tests in New Zealand, ends on February 28, the day before the ODIs in Bangladesh start, making it impossible for any player to play both.
That automatically robs England of the likes of Joe Root, an ODI regular, as well as Ben Duckett and Harry Brook, who are playing in the three-match series in South Africa, which concludes today. There is a possibility that Will Jacks, if he was not selected to play in the final XI in New Zealand, could depart early to play in Bangladesh.
Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone are set to remain on the sidelines through injury, while further complications are provided by the Pakistan Super League, which clashes with the tour.
England are happy for their non-contracted players to pursue franchise opportunities with the likes of Billings, Dawson and Vince having spent plenty of time around the England setup since 2015, without being regulars in the XI.
Players opting not to play for England has raised further questions over England’s contracting structures and, with franchises increasingly powerful, whether greater weight should be given to tour and match fees (currently around £5,000 and £2,500 for ODIs and T20Is respectively) rather than retainers.
One leading cricket agent, however, told Telegraph Sport that would not necessarily improve the situation.
“I don’t think just ramping up international match fees is the answer and going head to head with the ever expanding premier standard of T20 leagues. That’s probably the unhealthiest way forward for all involved.
“A more pragmatic approach is to widen the international pool of players and explore flexibility with respect to playing an appropriate amount of international cricket in order to prepare for the big events, which everyone will be available for and want to play in.”
There is still expected to be a senior core to the squad, with Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jason Roy all expected to tour.
Stone filling 'the Liam Plunkett role'
Olly Stone has been among the positives England are able to draw from the first two matches of the series in South Africa, but he is set to be unavailable for Bangladesh because he is playing Tests in New Zealand. England play the third and final ODI against South Africa today on a five-run losing streak, and with electrical storms in Kimberley threatening to wash the game out.
Stone has excelled in what has become known as “the Liam Plunkett role” following the success of the former Durham quick as a wicket-taking threat in the middle overs in ODIs, hitting the pitch hard bowling cross-seam deliveries. Stone had no experience doing that job in 50-over cricket, and joked that he “did wonder whether Jos had forgotten about me”.
“It's not something I've been used to,” said Stone. “I've always been used to bowling up the top and at the death but any way in the England team, I'll snap someone's hand off. It's great to be out there, great to be performing and if that's the role I'll feature in the future then I'll happily do it.
“He [Plunkett] obviously played a massive part in that World Cup-winning side, it's not something I've been used to doing, still working out what works.
“That obviously adds to your armoury and my strength is to be hostile and try to bowl as quickly and as accurately as I can through that middle, so it's difficult for them to take me on.”
Stone has been playing with Jofra Archer, who is set to return to the XI today, all month at MI Cape Town in the SA20 and with England. The pair have both suffered significant injuries, including stress fractures of the back (Stone has two screws in his spine), but hopes that they and Mark Wood can all play together this year, whether in the Ashes or World Cup.
“It’s very exciting. I love watching anyone run in and bowl fast,” he said. Having three of you together can create havoc and if we can have all three of us fit, maybe playing two of us at the same time and the other one rests, it’s great for English cricket going forward.
“Jofra’s had a few injuries and hopefully he now can put it behind him, and hopefully we can have all three of us fit and firing on all cylinders this summer and hopefully show the Aussies what it’s all about.”