This year's negotiation of New Zealand Cricket player contracts could threaten the Black Caps' depth.

Several top players face a dilemma, with the annual list of 21 retainers expected to be announced after the Champions Trophy.

Do players commit to international selection and the security of regular income, or chance their arms as freelance contractors to Twenty20 leagues worldwide?

New Zealand are the world's No1-ranked T20 side. A record number of Kiwis, 11, are represented in the Indian Premier League, and that trend is expected to filter through to the other competitions.

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The conundrum is unlikely to impact players in the top echelon such as Kane Williamson, Trent Boult and Ross Taylor, or those considered test specialists such as BJ Watling, Neil Wagner or Jeet Raval.

However, those further down the contract list, such as all-rounders Corey Anderson, Colin de Grandhomme, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner, or pace bowler Adam Milne, would be justified in doing due diligence on their futures. Depending on injuries, form and conditions, the sextet are not guaranteed a starting spot in every international format.

They will often be required to tour, which sounds idyllic, but means months away from home in hotels and practice nets.

It effectively creates a tipping point between "time absent" versus "income earned". Individuals must decide whether representing their country or playing cricket as a vocation takes precedence.

The greater threats are from what might, on the basis of income, be termed "second tier" T20 leagues such as England's T20 Blast, the Pakistan Super League, the Caribbean Premier League and the Bangladesh Premier League.

A new South African league consisting of eight privately-owned franchises is also touted to begin in November and December. New Zealand players are among those considered the most vulnerable of becoming free agents because the governing body cannot afford to pay them the same as peers operating under larger economies of scale in India, Australia and England.

New Zealand's playing retainers range from around $205,000 to $83,500 at present. Add in match fees of $8495 per test, $3682 per ODI and $2407 per T20I.

Balance that against standard contracts in the US$30,000 to US$50,000 bracket across the PSL, CPL and BBL.

Any rough calculation suggests signing with two to three of those leagues might match a NZC income and enable players to better balance their lives.

The figures can be supplemented by signing a domestic contract with a major association (maximum $43,500 plus match fees) as employment through the local summer.

The Herald on Sunday was told a player's performance in the "second tier" T20 leagues might have as much impact on a securing a future IPL or BBL contract as their efforts at international level.

Alternatively, signing a national contract and requesting an NZC-issued "no objection certificate" could still get players access to global T20 deals.

It depends how much energy they are prepared to commit to the game, and where their loyalties lie.