Paul Ford January 6, 2009

Stopped making sense

All this goes to show that “overlooking” players who dare to try and earn some mortgage money in an Indian domestic cricket is a complete and utter nonsense

It remains unfathomable, preposterous and ridiculous that Shane Bond is not considered for the New Zealand team, yet is being watched and no doubt admired by selectors as he tours the country wreaking a little havoc here and there for his domestic team, Canterbury. In recent weeks he has played at obscure venues such as Mainpower Oval in Rangiora and Fitzherbert Park in Palmerston North, thundering in before “crowds” comprising just a few hundred fans.

It is utter nonsense.

This week Bond was at the 1974 Commonwealth Games venue, QEII Park, on the outskirts of his home town of Christchurch. He delivered a genuinely hostile spell of fast bowling (10 overs, 3 maidens, 1 for 24) to the Wellington top order and impressed his domestic coach Bob Carter who told The Press: “I think when he bowls like that and with that pace, our attack becomes that much more potent. I think they were 94 for eight at one stage and a lot of that could be put down to the pressure…in the first 10 overs." NZ coach Andy Moles was behind the rope watching, along with selection panel convenor Glenn Turner.

The landscape of international cricket has been transformed with the rise of Indian domestic leagues, and New Zealand has paid a hefty price. The Indian money men have reaped a rich harvest from the relatively low-paid meadow of New Zealand cricket. Along with Bond, Stephen Fleming, Craig McMillan, Nathan Astle, Hamish Marshall, Andre Adams, Chris Harris, Chris Cairns, Lou Vincent and Darryl Tuffey all had the pin pulled on their international careers and headed off to play on the sub-continent.

Fleming is the only one of the 10 to have joined the establishment-endorsed IPL, where he plays alongside several current international players. These include Scott Styris whose withdrawal from Test cricket also coincided with the emergence of the Indian domestic league, robbing the NZ Test team of yet another experienced middle-order batsman.

Initially there was much gnashing of teeth about the prospect of the domestic associations daring to select ICL players. The BCCI was reportedly “seething in anger” when Darryl Tuffey was selected to play for Auckland against Bangladesh in a warm-up game last season, given that NZC was part of the “gentlemen’s agreement” to encourage the non-selection of any player involved in an “unauthorised tournament”.

The official position in NZ is that ICL players can play in domestic cricket as non-contracted players (earning NZ$1425 for a first-class match, NZ$710 for a 50-over match, and NZ$450 for a Twenty20) but will not be eligible for selection for any national representative teams. In other countries the players are variously banned, overlooked or embraced depending which way the wind is blowing (and which way the BCCI is looking).

The irony is that “outlaws” like Bond, Marshall, Tuffey and Harris continue to do their bit on the home front by playing on the New Zealand domestic cricket circuit - showing their wares, testing their skills, and sharing their experience and nous – but IPL player Stephen Fleming is nowhere to be seen.

The second irony is that although any cricketers who dare take part in unsanctioned tournaments will be sidelined from involvement in national teams, that doesn’t apply to the selectors themselves. Selector Dion Nash and recently appointed “domestic cricket selection panel adviser” Mark Greatbatch won’t be out walking the dog like Andrew Hilditch, but they will be on the Gold Coast of Australia playing in the 2009 XXXX Gold Beach Cricket tournament from January 10-25 alongside Sky commentator Martin Crowe (captain), Danny Morrison, Fleming and ICL players Astle, Harris and McMillan.

The beach cricket is unofficial – and the naming rights sponsor is a competitor to the official beer sponsor of Cricket Australia. Similarly, the NZ beach cricket team is sponsored by Speight’s, a NZ beer and stablemate of the Australian XXXX brand that is also a direct competitor of NZC’s beer sponsor Export Gold.

NZC CEO Justin Vaughan told the Dominion Post: “Players go off to the IPL and we've accommodated that and selectors sometimes have the odd commitment. It's only for two weeks so I'm comfortable with it.”

Like the ICL, the beach cricket is a non-establishment tournament, but the crucial difference is that the BCCI don’t care about it so there are no arbitrary ramifications for those who participate.

All this goes to show that “overlooking” players who dare to try and earn some mortgage money in an Indian domestic cricket is a complete and utter nonsense. It is depriving New Zealand of the ability to select from its very limited pool of quality players and the world game is weaker for it. The sooner common-sense is applied to resolve this issue the better.

Paul Ford is a co-founder of the Beige Brigade. He tweets here