252 players will compete for the seven remaining overseas spots in next week's draft for the men's Hundred, with Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, Shakib Al Hasan and David Warner among those to have put their names forward for selection.
The Hundred, the ECB's new 100-ball competition, will finally launch in July 2021 after its inaugural season was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Teams were able to retain as many players as they wished from the squads selected at the initial men's player draft in October 2019, at a mutually agreed salary band. Wages have been cut by 20% from their original level, with the highest salary now set at £100,000 ($140,000 USD approx.) rather than £125,000.
Most teams opted to retain the majority of their squads, with Rashid Khan (Trent Rockets), Andre Russell (Southern Brave), Aaron Finch (Northern Superchargers) and Kane Williamson (Birmingham Phoenix) among the overseas players to re-commit to the competition. 35 players will be selected in next week's draft - 28 domestic, seven overseas - with Manchester Originals and Welsh Fire making nearly half the picks between them after opting for overhauls.
As revealed by ESPNcricinfo, the draft will be staged virtually and behind closed doors, rather than in a live studio setting, with picks due to be announced on Tuesday, February 23, the day after the draft itself.
The availability of overseas players will be a major factor in who is picked up in the draft. New Zealand and South Africa currently have clear schedules for the tournament's window from late July to late August, though the pandemic has left the Future Tours Programme unclear. West Indies are due to play home series against Australia and Pakistan which overlap with the start and end of the Hundred respectively, but Pooran and Pollard could be picked up for short stints with a view to long-term retention.
Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc, who were both contracted to Welsh Fire for the 2020 season, have not put themselves forward for the draft. Trent Boult, Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga are another notable absentees, after they went unpicked in the first draft, while AB de Villiers has again opted not to enter.
10 players have entered with a reserve price of £100,000, meaning at most four of them will be picked up. They are: Shakib, Babar Azam, de Kock, Lockie Ferguson, Jason Holder, Tamim Iqbal, Pollard, Pooran, Rabada and Warner. Teams may be wary about selecting Warner due to the overlap with Australia's series in the Caribbean, and following his withdrawal ahead of the 2020 season after Southern Brave had selected him.
Other players who might attract interest include Shahid Afridi, Jhye Richardson, Imran Tahir (all £80,000 reserve price), Shadab Khan, Chris Morris, Dan Christian, Dale Steyn (£60,000), Dwayne Bravo, David Miller and Mitchell Santner (£48,000). Colin Ingram, Heinrich Klaasen, Tabraiz Shamsi and Rahmanullah Gurbaz are among those without reserve prices.
Overseas players from 13 different nations have entered, including Ireland, Netherlands, Oman and USA. Sandeep Lamichhane, the only Nepalese player involved, was previously retained by Oval Invincibles. No Indian players have put their names forward, after Harbhajan Singh's late withdrawal from the 2019 draft.
254 domestic players have registered for the draft. Several players who were not retained including Saqib Mahmood, Tom Abell, Harry Gurney, Ravi Bopara, Danny Briggs, Ben Foakes and Richard Gleeson will feature on teams' shortlists, while those who went undrafted in 2019 - including Olly Stone, Tom Lammonby, Ian Cockbain, Jamie Overton, Colin Ackermann and Samit Patel - will also attract interest.
Only three domestic players have entered with reserve prices: Tim Bresnan, Ryan ten Doeschate (both £48,000) and Richard Levi (£32,000). Agents have been in discussions with teams for several months, and it is understood that a handful of players have been given assurances that they will be picked at certain salary bands in the draft.
After the draft, each team will have 14 players in their men's squad, including three overseas players, as well as either one or two England players with red-ball central contracts who will be available for a handful of games at the start of the season and for Finals Day, depending on the biosecurity requirements in place for international fixtures. They will pick one final player following the group stage of the T20 Blast as a 'wildcard' selection.
Recruitment in the women's competition falls under a different system, with players able to negotiate directly with teams and agree deals until the end of June. Further players will be announced next week.
Rob Hillman, the Hundred's head of operations, said: "We are delighted with the level of interest we've had from both overseas and domestic players. The calibre of the players involved means that it's going to be an exciting men's draft, with a lot of competition for spaces amongst really top-drawer names."