England wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow has lost his Test central contract but Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley have been added to the red-ball retainer list announced by cricket chiefs on Wednesday.
The move by the England and Wales Cricket Board was not unexpected as Bairstow, 31, has played just one of the past 12 Test matches since the 2019 Ashes.
The World Cup winner has been handed a specialist limited-overs deal, with Pope, Crawley and Sibley all promoted after scoring their maiden Test centuries over the past year.
England managing director Ashley Giles said he hoped Bairstow, who has played 70 Tests, scoring six centuries, would stay hungry to play a role in English Test cricket.
“It’s a knock for him, I’m sure,” he said. “Jonny’s played one Test match in a year. We only have so many contracts that we award and it’s a tough call to make because Jonny’s been a very good servant for the team.”
Giles said the contracts for the three young batsmen showed England’s top-order was “starting to function”.
“When I came into post about 18 months ago, one of my aims was to have a bigger group of players capable of playing at the highest level and I guess this is a demonstration of that – three fine players,” he said.
Fast bowler Mark Wood, thought to be a key part of England’s plans to retain the Ashes, has also been named in the white-ball only list. There are a dozen names in each group, with just five – Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes – appearing in both.
On the 2019/2020 terms, red-ball deals were understood to be worth around £650,000 ($835,000) before bonuses, with white-ball contracts worth about £275,000, but the financial impact of the coronavirus means there is uncertainty over this year’s payments.
The ECB estimates the pandemic has already cost £100 million, with further losses likely, and is currently undergoing a round of redundancies.
Giles was asked during a press conference whether it was inevitable that players would have to take a pay cut.
“If our revenues are decreasing, if pay was to stay the same, then clearly it would squeeze other areas so it’s about all of us doing our part across the business,” he said.
Giles added: “Although the players have been in a bubble for the majority of the summer, they are not blind to the reality of what’s going on out in the world and I think they understand they have to play a part in that.”
England are due to travel to South Africa, Sri Lanka and India in the coming months.
Giles said he was confident the tours would take place but that it was important to remain “flexible and agile” due to the global uncertainty.
England contracts for 2020/21:
Test and white-ball: Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes
Test only: James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Sam Curran
White-ball only: Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Tom Curran, Eoin Morgan, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Mark Wood