Jason Roy is close to becoming the first current England international to sign up for the debut season of Major League Cricket in the United States, after being offered a two-year deal by Los Angeles Knight Riders. The 32-year-old is planning to negotiate his release from the central contract he has with the England and Wales Cricket Board to free himself to spend the final fortnight of July in America, before returning to play for Oval Invincibles in the Hundred.
Los Angeles Knight Riders share ownership with Kolkata Knight Riders, the Indian Premier League franchise for whom Roy played this season. If the move goes ahead he could play as many games for their various teams this year as he does 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 Roy would play for them throughout their T20 Blast campaign. The MLC season starts on 13 July, two days before that competition’s semi-finals and final are contested at Edgbaston, and he would be forced to delay his departure if his side qualifies for those games. The MLC ends on 30 July, in time for players to get back for the start of the Hundred two days later.
No English player can play in a foreign league without being issued with a No Objection Certificate by the ECB, and Roy is believed to have been told that he must cancel his central contract before the NOC will be granted. He is not the only player on such an ECB contract to have been contacted by MLC: David Willey has turned down approaches, not wanting to jeopardise his potential involvement in the 50-over World Cup which begins in October, 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 him, but he will need to prove his fitness before making any new commitments.
Roy has become a key player for England’s white-ball sides since his T20 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 increment contract. Such deals are worth around £70,000 and are intended for “players who may feature for England on a less predictable basis”, and thus considerably less lucrative than the rumoured £300,000 Roy has been offered for five weeks’ work, split over two years, in the United States.
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.