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Who gets paid what in cricket

Are Indian players the world's best-paid cricketers? And where does cricket stand among other sports in terms of player remuneration?

Osman Samiuddin, Nagraj Gollapudi, Girish TS, Srinath Sripath |

The highest-earning captain in international cricket in 2017 stands to make nearly 20 times as much as the lowest-earning; the top cricketers in the world earn around US$1 million from playing international cricket; the top Pakistani annual contract is worth less in monetary terms than the top Ireland one; and coaching a subcontinent side, though bad for job security, is great for the bank balance. These are some of the key findings from figures collected by ESPNcricinfo in a survey of central contract salaries and match fees around the world.

The headline is that Steven Smith, the Australia captain, will earn US$1.469 million this year, while his Zimbabwean counterpart Graeme Cremer stands to earn $86,000. The top Indian earners in international cricket are Virat Kohli, the captain, who pulled in approximately $1 million this year, and coach Ravi Shastri, whose annual salary of $1.17 million is comparable to that of any of the game's top players.

The figures are based on international cricket, and do not take into account player earnings from T20 leagues, other domestic engagements or endorsements. Most boards (see below*) pay their players a share of their commercial rights, while others don't, or distribute them differently. The pay figures in this piece do not include the various bonuses players are paid for wins and individual performances. Factoring all those in might shuffle the rankings, but that is likelier to happen at the top of the list. And if anything, it will increase the disparity in earnings between top and bottom.

What is crystal clear is that the richer cricket has become, the more inequality it has bred. That, you might say, is a modern truism of the game, but as the calendar is being fundamentally reshaped by domestic T20 leagues and the riches they offer players, the magnitude of that inequality should serve as a clear warning to the international game.

In most cases salary figures and contract details are not made available publicly; the information in this article, culled from their contacts by our correspondents from around the globe, strives to be as accurate as is possible.

© ESPNcricinfo Ltd

*Players from England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand receive a share of their board's commercial earnings as a guaranteed part of their contracts. Some boards, like Cricket South Africa and CA add these payments to the retainer.

The BCCI pays 26% of its gross revenue every year to its players; half of that is distributed among international players. How much each players gets, however, is calculated based on the number of matches they play.

The ECB pays the following approximate amounts according to player contract grade: $180,000 (top), $80,000 (mid), $30,000 (lowest). This payment, however, is linked to commercial obligations each player fulfils, and so varies from player to player. It is also not clear whether this is an additional payment on top of each retainer, or whether it is factored into the retainer amounts. For the purposes of this article, we have taken the payment to be part of the total retainer amount - if, however, you add on the full $180,000 to, say, Joe Root's total earnings, he nudges slightly ahead of Steven Smith as the highest earner.

The BCB does not pay any money from its commercial rights earnings to its players. Pakistan's players receive a certain amount - thought to be approximately $3000 per game - from the PCB's main sponsor as logo money, but this is restricted purely to the XI that plays in an international (and so goes also to players not in the central contracts pool).

Because of the different ways in how commercial rights are distributed across the globe - or not - the total earnings figures you see can only be close approximates.

Four divisions, not two
We know that a clear divide has grown in cricket between the Big Three and the rest, the haves and the have-nots. What the total earnings figures show (based on the top-earning player in each country), however, is that there are actually four segments: an elite three of Australia, England and India; an upper-middle-class from South Africa; a middle-class quartet of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies and New Zealand; and finally, a working-class duo of Bangladeshi and Zimbabwean cricketers.

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There are four divisions even when it comes to the lowest contract grades, though grouped differently: England and Australia in one; South Africa and West Indies another; India and New Zealand next; and then Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The disparity remains - at about $265,000, an England player on the ECB's lowest contract (England group their contracts not in grades but in terms of red-ball, white-ball and all-format cricketers) still earns nearly 20 times as much as a Bangladesh player on the lowest contract ($15,000).

Indian riches
Don't be fooled by the central contract figures. If you look only at the contract retainers (and not match-fees payments), Australia and England pay their top players nearly four and three times as much as India - where the top-grade contract is worth $311,745 - and even cash-strapped CSA pays its top player more. But the total payout an Indian player gets is a combination of his contract money and a percentage of the BCCI's gross revenue, calculated on the number of matches he has played in one calendar year. So Kohli, who has a Grade A contract, would earn his retainer plus his share from the 13% of gross revenue. Although no definite numbers for the last two years are available, Kohli's estimated income from his contract payments and his share of the board's revenue has been about $1 million - which places him in the top band of cricket's earners. If you factor in his earnings from the IPL and multiple individual endorsements it ends up making him probably the richest cricketer in reality.

Still, India's contracted players are unhappy with their latest, upgraded annual retainers. In the new pay structure model presented by Anil Kumble to the BCCI in May, while he was still coach, he had argued the team should get a share from the board's media rights. That discontent is additional fuel for those - including the Lodha Committee, incidentally - who feel India needs to establish a players' association.

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Australia and England, not coincidentally, both have well established player bodies, but the examples of South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies are instructive. Despite being among the smaller boards in terms of revenues, the existence of SACA, NZPA and WIPA means their players are relatively well remunerated. South Africa's top contract is worth $363,000 per year, in the Caribbean the top contract is worth $140,000, and in New Zealand it is $143,533. This year both Jason Holder and Kane Williamson have earned over $260,000 leading their countries.

A raw deal for Pakistan?
They won the Champions Trophy in June, were the No. 1-ranked Test side as recently as October last year, and have only just lost their first series at home in ten years, but Pakistan's players are among the worst paid in world cricket.

A player in Pakistan's top contract bracket will be on an annual retainer ($74,014) that is marginally less than the top contract for an Ireland player ($75,000). Let that sink in (Ireland's top salary retainer is also higher than those of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). A player like Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan's captain, will end up earning more in a year, of course - and he quadruples his base salary in 2017 - because he plays more often and plays across three formats.

To some degree the low retainer is compensated by a more generous match-fee structure that elevates them to a mid-ranking side in terms of pay. But Pakistani players will argue their plight is compounded by a lack of access to the richest domestic league in the sport, or an especially bountiful payout from the PCB's commercial rights.

The years of exile have played a part no doubt, as has India refusing to play them (that has also significantly reduced the true value of a broadcast deal reportedly worth $150 million over five years). The cost of running an excessively vast domestic calendar is another drain.

The PCB earns revenue comparable to West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and so the vast differences in retainer amounts between Pakistani players and those representing those three countries stands out: Kane Williamson, Jason Holder and Angelo Mathews all make double, or nearly double, what Sarfraz does on their retainer. Sarfraz makes up for it with his total earnings, but such a system puts intense pressure on the player; an injury in Sarfraz's case is of far greater harm monetarily than it is for Mathews, Williamson or Holder. Like with India, the case for setting up a Pakistani players' association has never been stronger.

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Size (of the pool) matters
One possible reason why Indian players don't receive the same basic retainer as Australian and English ones, or Pakistanis as much as New Zealanders and West Indians, is the size of the teams' central contract pools.

The BCCI and PCB could both argue that they offer financial stability to a far larger pool of players than most other countries do. India has 32 centrally contracted cricketers and Pakistan, with 35, has the largest pool in cricket. By bringing more players into the net, they bring to the game a greater semblance of equality in itself (the fact that these two countries are also the two largest, population-wise, among the cricket nations, plays a role). By contrast, England has an 18-man central contract list and Australia a 20-man one. West Indies pay more to their players than Pakistan but they contract only 15 players.

Sri Lanka is an interesting case. There are 17 players with top-tier national contracts, where the bottom contract is approximately $30,000 annually. Beyond that, they have a group of 30 more who are also on annual contracts, worth anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000.

The BCCI is not killing Test cricket
The BCCI's commitment to Test cricket often comes under scrutiny. It is a bum rap, not least in the evidence of how well it pays those who do play Test cricket. At $23,380 per game, India's Test cricketers are the most well rewarded across the world, earning almost twice what an Australian cricketer gets paid for a home Test (Australia has different fees for home and away Tests).

Again the gaps are stark. The lowest Test-match fee for a player from one of the Big Three boards is still nearly double that of the best paid from the seven beyond.

© ESPNcricinfo Ltd

It's the coach, stupid
If you're still debating the value of a coach to the modern cricket side, don't. They are worth plenty to most boards, a number of whom pay them a basic salary several times that of their top players. Ravi Shastri, at $1.17 million per year, is the world's best-paid coach, and on his salary alone, he earns less only than what the top player from Australia, England and India earns in a year. (Shastri, like all coaches, does not earn match fees.)

But paying the head coach that much more than the top players seems to be a South Asian trend. The BCB pay Chandika Hathurasingha five times the basic salary of their top player; similarly Mickey Arthur is paid three times as much as a top category Pakistan player; Sri Lanka were paying their last full-time coach, Graham Ford, twice what their top player was paid. Perhaps it is because, historically, it is in these countries that the coach's position has been the most vulnerable: the high-risk nature of a subcontinent job means attracting someone, especially from outside the region, requires that much more money.

By contrast, Australia and England pay their coach around half of what their top player earns as a basic salary.

No contest
The world's leading footballers, tennis players, basketball players, golfers and Formula One drivers earn so much more than the leading cricketer that to say cricket is a professional sport feels far-fetched. Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance, earns 40 times as much as Steven Smith just on annual salary; Lewis Hamilton earns 25 times as much; LeBron James 20 times as much; and it goes on.

If you account for the individual endorsement fees and various other sources of income - most notably T20 league contracts - that exist for the richest cricketers like Kohli and MS Dhoni, the gap between them and elite athletes from football and basketball would still be vast (since the top cricketers' earnings would still only be somewhere around $3 million). Cricket claims to be among the world's leading and most popular sports, and its stated aim is to become the world's favourite sport. If it measured itself in terms of how well its players are paid, it would be laughed off the field.

With inputs from ESPNcricinfo's correspondents in Australia, Bangladesh, England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa

October 20, 2017: Faf du Plessis' total earnings have been amended to reflect the exclusion of earnings from the World XI series against Pakistan, of which he was captain, and a lowering of the commercial rights earnings component of his central contract

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo; Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor; Girish TS is a designer; Srinath Sripath is a sub-editor



  • POSTED BY Simon on | October 22, 2017, 1:41 GMT

    Gross assumptions and guess work aside, the idea of the players association has visibly helped Australia and England. With the size of the Indian market an association pushing for more equitable returns for players would have them earning closer to tennis and golf. As for saying BCCI isn't running cricket, huh! There was no other reason for Australia to play India in the recent Pouring Rain Series than an attempt for BCCI to provide content to its TV market. The best the players could hope for was to avoid injury, many didn't. Meanwhile the BCCI make millions which don't flow onto the players and CA picks up more than they would have playing that series against the Bangladeshis.

  • POSTED BY shahzaibq on | October 19, 2017, 19:52 GMT

    Here is one way to solve many problems: Exclusive Franchise contracts. So if Chris Gayle is contracted to RCB for $300k a season, an exclusive contract should be worth about half a million a year. He won't be able to play for any other teams apart from West Indies & their own regional domestic team.

    How does that help? More of Gayle's fans tune in to, or go watch an RCB game. He does not play all year round, stays fit & committed to the 2-3 teams he represents. He stays available for most of the national team's games. Sponsors wanting Gayle to promote their brands bring in their money to RCB/IPL, who can then afford to increase Gayle's price to ensure exclusivity. Players with potentially long careers will stay & stick to playing cricket for their national sides as well. Think Russouw, McClenaghan, Russell, etc. The Cons: The poorer leagues miss out on talents such as Gayle and ABDV. The upside: Emerging players like Tymal Mills, Dawid Malan, Hassan Ali don't go unsold at auctions

  • POSTED BY YOGENDRA on | October 19, 2017, 16:57 GMT

    Purchasing power parity (PPP) is important ingredient missing since 1 million annual income in India is equivalent to about 3 million income in UK and Australia

  • POSTED BY mosesjact on | October 19, 2017, 13:45 GMT

    Brian- The "club culture" that we see in football does not exist in cricket. Cricket has evolved in a different way. The game is controlled by the boards of control of the ten major crocket playing nations. Most of the money is made from the 20/20 tournaments. IPL is paying big money. The other leagues like the Big Bash pay only the fraction of the IPL salaries. Also endorsement money is big mostly for the top Indian players because India has a huge TV exposure. Football is totally different. Some of Europe's clubs pay multimillion dollar salaries to attract the best. Players like Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and many others get multimillion dollar salaries. We cannot expect cricket to change into a "club" system.

  • POSTED BY Brian on | October 19, 2017, 0:41 GMT

    Nothing has hurt Cricket anymore that the lack of a Club culture and the entire sporting culture based on nation to nation match ups. If this was the case in Soccer, then the world would have seen very little of the prolific Christiano Ronaldo; playing for Soccer lightweight Portugal (ironically now Euro champion :-)) . Ryan Ten Deschote never gets regular opportunities because he plays for Netherlands and there is no club to fall back on. OTOH, Sadio Mane of Senegal and Mohammed Salah play the EPL every week. Playing for the country also limits opportunities for players in nations with full test playing status. Padmakar Shivalkar never played for India and Rohit Sharma missed the 2011 WC. And then it comes to earning opportunities for players as this article clearly demonstrates, club is where the money is. Cricket administrators still pursue the path of awarding nations with a "TEST" status (AFG and IRE lately), but what of individual players in Morocco or Papua New Guinea?

  • POSTED BY Ruchit Khushu on | October 18, 2017, 22:43 GMT

    Well cricket players must thank Kerry Packer, Ian Chappell and Tony Greig for this.. They unleased Packer series and that in turn brought in money.. And after they must thank Sachin Tendulkar and Mark Mascerhanas (World Tel) ..They brought in big bucks in Indian cricket and in turn rest of the world cricket fed off that success !

  • POSTED BY Mohan on | October 18, 2017, 16:56 GMT

    Root should be the highest paid. He is the best player in the world. My ranking is 1. Root, 2. Kohli, 3. Williamson, 4. Smith, and 5. Amla.

  • POSTED BY mosesjact on | October 18, 2017, 16:22 GMT

    Nice article with details but it may be a little bit misleading because it doesn't take into consideration the income they make in endorsements. Endorsement money is related to their TV exposure, and it will be much higher for an Indian player like Kohli who endorses products for a population of 1.2 billion compared to a player from New Zealand which has a population of 6 million or a player from Barbados with a population of 400000. IPL gives the Indians very high income compared to other 20/20s. So a player like Kohli may be making about 10 million US$.

  • POSTED BY Chris on | October 18, 2017, 9:43 GMT

    Interesting but also a bit misleading... Average income in NZ is around $38,000 (us) which means you would have to play 6 tests to earn a years average income. Where as in Bangladesh the average income is $1,600 so play one test and you already earned almost 3 years pay for a normal person. Would be great to have a list and compare to National GDP to put this into perspective a little more.

  • POSTED BY nitinb8301816 on | October 18, 2017, 9:24 GMT

    Interesting article, but you miss out a few things. 1. You need to differentiate the salary for actually playing the game versus the media sponsorship opportunities that it generates. That will be much more meaningful when you compare cricketers to other sports. 2. Share of TV rights, etc from Governing Bodies is also a minefield, so you cannot get a like for like comparison. WI cricketers get much lower share so they earn less, but then they get a massive bump up from T20. 3. You could have used the bidding in IPL as a guide to what players make. For example, you know what Stokes was bid for as well as Steve Smith or Mills for that matter, so add that to the figures and your n umber 1 will not be Smith. You could then do some digging on what Kohli gets from RCB for example....and so on

    The issue is that cricketers are not underpaid as they used to be, and that people are generally shocked when they realise how much a central contract in England say is worth.

  • POSTED BY leedai7932857 on | October 18, 2017, 9:17 GMT

    The comparison between earnings of cricketers and other sportsmen done in this article is flawed at best!!!

    You are comparing central contract fees of cricketers with how much, lets say Ronaldo, is getting from his club!?! You should have compared how much Ronaldo is being paid to play for Portugal vs. how much Steven Smith is getting paid to play for Australia!!! That's how you compare!! Ever heard of comparing apples to apples!?!?!

    It would still be more probably but comparison done is incorrect!!

  • POSTED BY Gautam on | October 18, 2017, 9:02 GMT

    @SRT6794086104 - you've partly answered your own question there, on PPP. Boards are a mostly economy unto themselves, and don't fit into the construct of economic comparisons from other fields - here, the greater the interested population in the sport, the richer cricketers are expected to be - the IPL is an example of just that. A fair scale, instead, would be to look at the % of its revenue that the board spends on its players and support staff. For instance, it recently emerged that Bangladesh's board spends less than 2%, which is poor, as you have rightly pointed out at the beginning.

    Sure, Pakistan's cricketers might well be in the top 10 % - good for them - but it doesn't simultaneously mean players get the fair end of the stick. Australia, whose players are right at the top on most counts here, have seen guys like Mitch Starc go ahead and negotiate commercial deals with competing brands of the board's main sponsors, precisely for this reason.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | October 18, 2017, 8:59 GMT

    As mentioned in last Para, if we are to add endorsement incomes, Indian top players are far ahead of their Australian or English counterparts. They earn atleast 10 fold than what their board gives them

  • POSTED BY Rumesh on | October 18, 2017, 8:51 GMT

    I have 12+ years of experience, over 10 qualifications and still struggle to earn even $50,000 per year.. Clearly I should have been a cricketer.

  • POSTED BY suryad5058481 on | October 18, 2017, 8:27 GMT

    So, does it mean Ronaldo earnings $58 muilluon from his country's board? It's a wrong comparison. He earns this much money signing with Real Madrid club. Then why don't you add IPL contracts and other T20 club contracts (for players other than Indian players who play multiple clubs). Then you see Smith or Gayle will earn more than 3 millions (though the figures still at lower end but it's correct)

  • POSTED BY Iain on | October 18, 2017, 8:22 GMT

    Are these figures adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)? If not, Pakistan comparative salary would certainly jump above West Indies, Ireland, New Zealand who all face much higher domestic prices (property, food, etc.)

  • POSTED BY Girik on | October 18, 2017, 8:06 GMT

    The comparison between the pay in cricket and other sports in flawed. The football and basketball contracts are club based while the cricket contracts are only nation based. Football has international competition too though basketball doesn't have much. Adding domestic T20 figures into the cricketers' pay would make the comparisons more credible. And as other have said, purchasing power parity makes a huge difference. Somebody from the subcontinent doesn't need the same pay as someone living in the US and Europe.

  • POSTED BY Saud Umar Khan on | October 18, 2017, 6:30 GMT

    PAK players are among the lowest paid, while the PAK coach is paid in the mid-range. PCB needs to up their game with the sponsors and eventual remuneration.

  • POSTED BY Danish on | October 18, 2017, 5:47 GMT

    @umerma9290440....i hope what you said is sarcasm....if not.....then you must be crazy to bring up such crazy logic....

  • POSTED BY yatin82849492 on | October 18, 2017, 5:03 GMT

    Wow..only article to talk about cricketers pay in such variety and such deatail...

  • POSTED BY sathis9817239 on | October 18, 2017, 3:19 GMT

    Floyd Mayweather laughs at everyone lol.. 30 mins bout and he pockets 300M$ :) ..

  • POSTED BY Malik on | October 18, 2017, 1:49 GMT

    Wow! This is very informative article .. ...

  • POSTED BY umerma9290440 on | October 18, 2017, 1:16 GMT

    Commodity prices in Pakistan are very less as compared to Australia or England, Pakistanis players are earning a lot keeping in mind prices of goods and services in the country.

  • POSTED BY Alex on | October 17, 2017, 22:31 GMT

    One way of looking at the comparison between cricketers and the elites of other sports might be to suggest that the others are paid far too much! I always assumed the Indian cricketers made a lot more so will now follow them with greater interest knowing that, while extremely rich, they are a little closer to me than I otherwise imagined.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | October 17, 2017, 20:06 GMT

    Is it just me or is it impossible to see the pictures / graphics on the mobile version of cricinfo? Tried using the app / Safari / Chrome but the pictures are all cut making this article basically useless to me. It happens often that graphics are cut or don't appear at all

  • POSTED BY srt6794086104 on | October 17, 2017, 18:24 GMT

    This is very insightful. For the most part, Boards have been quite poor payers to their main income generators (i.e. players). Until 1970, players were forced to take on other jobs during off seasons since the salary just did not suffice. This led to Kerry Packer and the rest is history...

    We also see exactly why T20 leagues are so important to so many players. Players from SL, WI and Bang just are not earning enough through international cricket. However, by playing in multiple leagues (especially the IPL), they are able to make more than several 'Test match specialists'. One wonders how Pujara would survive if he was Sri Lankan!

    This article does fail to mention a critical point - Purchasing Power Parity. Osman laments how Pakistani players are paid less than even Irish players, however does not account for the value of the currency. Anyone earning $75k/year in Ireland is middle-class; the same amount in Pakistan probably puts you in the top 10% automatically!!