Ben Stokes insists he is comfortable with players choosing franchise cricket riches over England

Ben Stokes has returned to ODI cricket for the World Cup  (PA)
Ben Stokes has returned to ODI cricket for the World Cup (PA)

Test captain Ben Stokes says England must be prepared for the possibility of key players putting franchise riches ahead of international duty, after Mark Wood admitted he could turn down a central contract.

Wood is expected to be one of several players offered a multi-year deal in the next round of contracts later this year as the ECB look to stave off the threat of domestic T20 leagues, but in an interview with The Telegraph, the 33-year-old admitted there are “more things in play than just solely my love of playing for England” as he approaches the final years of his career.

The fast bowler is already facing a potential conflict in the New Year, having been offered a reported £500,000 to play in the UAE T20 League. Were Wood to play that competition in full, he would miss the first three matches of England’s five-Test tour of India.

The quick’s absence would be a major blow to England’s hopes of becoming the first side to win in India in more than a decade, but Stokes is realistic about the prospect of such availability issues becoming commonplace.

“Everyone’s at a different point in their life, not just in their career, where other things have to be thought about by the individual,” he said. “If a person makes a decision because they think it’s not only best for themselves but also the future and security of their family then it’s very hard to disagree with that.

“We’ve got to understand, and I’ve got to understand as a captain, that there might be some decisions players make and I’m very comfortable and aware that something like that might happen.”

Stokes was speaking ahead of his return to England’s 50-over side for the First ODI against New Zealand on Friday, the 32-year-old having come out of retirement to aid the World Cup defence in India next month.

England’s provisional World Cup squad features nine of the players who lifted the trophy in 2019, including opening batter Jason Roy, who earlier this year cut short his incremental central contract in order to be freed to play in Major League Cricket, the USA’s new T20 franchise league, in a telling sign of the times.

“We know now that the whole landscape of cricket is changing,” Stokes added. “That is great for the individuals who are still within the game but also the guys who are coming through. The opportunities that are presented now for cricketers are amazing and it’s great for the sport.

“The more opportunities that come, the more people will be attracted to the sport and trying to make a career out of it.”