The England coach believes the cricket chiefs must find a way to ensure top players can “have their cake and eat it” but insists the kind of environment he and captain Ben Stokes have created in the men’s Test side will help keep the best players turning out of their country.
With Indian Premier League owners now increasingly invested in other T20 tournaments around the world - including in South Africa, the UAE and America’s new Major League Cricket - it appears inevitable that players will be offered annual or multi-year deals, to play in competitions across the globe.
Those agreements would dwarf the central contracts on offer from national boards and give franchises greater say over workloads, perhaps even to the point of players needing permission to join up with their international sides.
“The last few years, there’s been a shifting of the sand somewhat around international cricket and we’d be completely naive to think that players would turn down huge amounts of money on long-term contracts for a lot less work in these T20 leagues because they should be playing international cricket,” McCullum told SEN radio in his native New Zealand. “Those days are fast approaching to be over.
“So, what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to work with these players, you got to work with these leagues and try and allow ideally players to have their cake and eat it too because you want your best players playing (international cricket).
“It’s not good enough to say, ‘You know what if they don’t want to play international cricket for us, then bugger them … we’ll move on and find someone different’, because as a spectator, you want to see the best players in the world representing their countries.
“I think you’ve got to work with them and that’s something which we’ll be challenged with.”
McCullum and Stokes have led the transformation of England’s Test side since taking over as head coach and captain a year ago. The team have won 10 of 12 matches under the duo’s leadership and head into this summer’s Ashes series against Australia with a real chance of regaining the Urn.
As much as the upturn in results, the new regime has been notable for a culture shift both on and off the pitch, with the aggressive ‘Bazball’ approach thrilling fans and the players clearly thriving in a more relaxed environment.
Private investment in franchise leagues means that even with plans to increase the value of central contracts and match fees, the ECB will be unable to compete on a purely financial basis, but McCullum believes the experience of playing for his England side will remain a strong pull factor.
“The thing from our point of view is how do we ensure that when that decision comes, they’re thinking about how great of a time they have representing the England Test side,” McCullum said.
“How much fun they’ve had, how much those experiences which they’ve been able to get in an England shirt is so great that they are prepared to continue to put their yards and even though it might not be as financially viable as some of the other leagues.
“But I think we (England) are a little bit lucky too because the amount of money that we can pay players is better than some of the other (cricket) boards around the world.
“But it is a shift, it’s definitely a shifting landscape and you’ve just got to be fluid.”