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Rob Key says Ben Stokes remains entirely focused on representing England cricket for years to come – despite only choosing to sign a one-year deal rather than a multi-season option.
The Test captain had the opportunity to be one of the initial group of players to land a new multiple-season contract, which have been handed out for the first time.
But he has turned it down partially in favour of putting himself in a stronger negotiating position a year from now, when a new round of broadcast rights begins and central contracts could be worth more accordingly.
Managing director Key insisted it was primarily this, rather than any feeling from Stokes that he may not continue to represent England, which was behind the decision.
“By no means is it Ben Stokes saying, ‘I don’t want to play for England’,” Key told BBC Sport.
“All he talks about is being completely committed to playing for England and also captaining that Test team – planning for India, planning for the Ashes, planning for West Indies and Sri Lanka next summer.
“I don’t think it has crossed his mind not playing for England for the next four, five, six years.
“Ben, quite rightly, feels when the next memorandum of understanding starts and the contract cycle changes he will be in a stronger position. Other players have gone for that security [of the fixed-term contract].”
Central contracts’ values are tied to the worth of broadcasting rights deals at the time of signing, so would not change next year if a more lucrative deal is in place.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have handed out a total of 18 multi-year deals, with players signing them including Jofra Archer, Joe Root, Ollie Pope and Rehan Ahmed. The contracts give England greater control over their players when there are schedule clashes, though it does not immediately mean individuals will not play franchise cricket.
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