January 6, 2009

Paul Ford

Stopped making sense

Paul Ford



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

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Posted by Sunil on (January 14, 2009, 0:36 GMT)

I am wondering why no individual who is a professional Cricketer, challenging BCCI in court. If my profession is to play Cricket, BCCI cannot tell me whom I can or cannot work for unless they are guaranteeing employment and income - and that applies to every cricketer, Indian or non-indian, who is playing in ICL. No one can force ICL and IPL to join and in fact by not joining, they are providing double the employment opportunitites for professional cricketers.

An employer cannot enforce a non-compete for people that it does not employ. I think this is a very basic and natural principle that is being violated - discrimination and being stopped frm earning a livelihood.

Can someone with legal experience throw some light?

Posted by Paul on (January 13, 2009, 23:56 GMT)

At least NZ cricket let Bond play. Jason Gillespie was ruled out from taking up a coaching role with Cricket Australia purely because of his ICL links.

It's madness. So much talent being lost to the game.

Posted by Steve B on (January 13, 2009, 6:07 GMT)

Fantastic commentary / debate. A country with a population and player pool as small as NZ cannot ever afford to have anything better than its best 11 on the park. NZC needs to take fair portion of the blame here. With such a small population and the mass appeal of Rugby, cricket will always be the poor relation. No one can blame Bond & Co. for taking the ICL riches given their ages and the differential between that offer and what they could earn from remaining "on the tour" from NZC.

It is no surprise that so many have opted to join the ICL.

Until the IPL/ICL are joined it will always be a problem for the smaller nations and will always prevent them from moving up the ladder.

That Stephen Fleming left the Test Arena prematurely is a tragedy and one that lays squarely at the feet of NZC.

Posted by Shark on (January 9, 2009, 10:24 GMT)

It would be so easy for the NZC to follow the path the SLC have taken, and to simply re-establish these players that have signed with the ICL. Anyway, it doesn't appear this will happen anytime soon -- the end of India's tour will be when the NZC shows its cards.

Homer's argument, that the ICL would challenge the BCCI monopoly and, as a result, Indian cricket stability, is unsound. The ICC remains cricket's governing body and, despite history suggesting that they would do very little, they would certainly ensure that the BCCI would reign supreme in India.

I think that the ICL should complement the IPL: young Indian cricketers may not be given a chance to play in the IPL, and thus want to prove themselves in a non-world class, 20/20 competition. Now these promising talents are being left high and dry and can't play first class cricket! THAT is where the BCCI conduct has been despicable.

Posted by Gopi on (January 8, 2009, 9:42 GMT)

Guys, don't forget - it's the NZC that first gave Bond full clearance to play in ICL before tamely bowing down in front of BCCI and banned him to please the arrogant BCCI. NZC is impotent and doesnt have a backbone. As simple as that!

Posted by Strike on (January 8, 2009, 2:25 GMT)

Homer, take a leaf out of Jay's book, that's how you present the argument. Persisting with the apartheid argument is wrong because it wasn't just about the money, if it was no board would have banned any players from going to SA...they would have just demanded a cut from the proceeds. NZC fight tooth & nail for its players? You definitely don't now NZ crickets history, NZC goes with the most powerful body that delivers the most for its interests, Eng & Aus in terms of votes as their cricket culture and ideas tend to be the same (this is despite poor treatment from Aus until the 70's) & now in a chase for $$ NZC has gone with the IPL, no surprises here. An entrepreneur wouldn't be treated any different. The IPL as a reaction to the ICL? Maybe with helping to speed things up but the BCCI was heading that way anyway. Bond was musing about retiring from tests to lengthen his career & thus his source of income but the salary from the ICL would've meant he could damn the consequences & play

Posted by simu55 on (January 7, 2009, 21:36 GMT)

strip away all the politics, and the fact of the matter is NZ cannot select their best XI (which would always include a fit Bond). International cricket is suffering as a consequence of this.

Posted by Tim on (January 7, 2009, 9:29 GMT)

Shane Bond decided to join the ICL because they had offered him a contract that was properly set up and written. The IPL contract was vague, didn't specify how long he would play for and was nowhere near as explicit as that of the ICL contract. Justin Vaughan probably wrote it up on the back of his newspaper, then got the BCCI rubberstamp for it. So why whould he sign a contract that could backfire and cause him to be locked up in Indian cricket forever, for example? So he signed the ICL contract and the the "moral" and "ethical" thing and stuck with it, like a gentlemen, something quite uncommon in modern cricket. He also knew that his time as a Test cricketer was drawing to a close, leaving the possibility of only limited-overs cricket. Scott Styris now only plays limited-overs cricket for NZ. And he is earning peanuts. Bond needed financial security, not just for himself, but for his family also. So maybe he was not being so selfish after all.

Posted by Labrat on (January 7, 2009, 0:49 GMT)

Most of the players named: Astle, Harris, Cairns, McMillan, Fleming etc are in their late 30s, or were fringe players. I dont think they had the pins pulled on their career.

Astle could have played the world cup then retired and Fleming could have gone to england last year. But you couldnt say that the others would be playing in the team anymore.

Only Bond would make the team and maybe H Marshall. And in the match before Bond took 1 for 24 he had figures of 1 for 70odd off 10 overs, and would we really need headlines about another Bond injury scare on match day - we have enough to worry about keeping Oram fit.

Posted by Hamish on (January 7, 2009, 0:01 GMT)

One point not made here is when Bond signed up to the ICL he received approval to do so from NZC. The board then showed it spineless nature by revoking this approval when pressured by the BCCI after it launched the IPL.

As an Australian it is such a shame that the recent NZ touring team was without Bond. Even when we were dominating world cricket he was the one bowler to shake things up. Please NZC get him back into the international arena now!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Ford
Paul Ford (aka Paul Holden) is a co-founder of the beloved Beige Brigade, the patriotic and long suffering Kiwi supporters' cult that is a bastion of things brown, tan, tongue-in-cheek and tenuously cricket-related. Paul lives in Wellington, somewhere between the Basin Reserve and Karori Park, and his favourite shot is the front-foot pull. @beigebrigade

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