ICL gathers momentum August 19, 2007

NZ player chief calls for ICL support

Cricinfo staff

Lower pay scales mean players such as Stephen Fleming are at greater risk of joining the ICL © Getty Images

The Indian Cricket League (ICL) has found further support, from the head of New Zealand's players' body, who is concerned that New Zealand will suffer most unless the ICC accommodates the ICL. The ICC is due to meet early September to determine whether the ICL will be officially endorsed.

The players' associations will convene at the same time in Johannesburg. Heath Mills, the manager of the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association, told the Herald on Sunday their message would be for the ICC to get behind the league, rather than ostracise it.

"The ideal scenario from my point of view would be for the ICC to support it as long as it didn't impinge upon international cricket," he said. "I can't see many negatives of third-party funding coming into cricket and another professional league would give players an opportunity to earn more income, just like those who go to county cricket. What would concern me greatly was if the league was not sanctioned and it became a 'rebel' league."

Mills said the comparatively low incomes of New Zealand's players made them a prime target for the ICL, arguing that cricket's big fish - the subcontinent, Australia, England and South Africa - have the resources to pay their players the sort of money that would ensure they don't jump ship.

"Our guys would be hugely at risk," Mills said. "They're paying their players close to a million a year so it's a no-brainer. But a guy who is near the top of the [New Zealand] retainer list and plays most games a year is looking at $250,000 maximum. That makes us vulnerable." Chris Cairns, Nathan Astle and Stephen Fleming have all been linked with the ICL.

Mills's comments provide further momentum for the ICL bandwagon. In recent weeks, the league has received some support from at least two senior Indian politicians; Digvijay Singh, a general secretary of the ruling Congress party, asked the BCCI to help promote the ICL instead of confronting it. Lalu Prasad Yadav, the federal railway minister, has also indicated his support, saying he would allow organisers to host matches in stadiums under his ministry's control.

On Friday, half the Hyderabad first-class team announced it had signed on. Imran Farhat, who is out of favour with Pakistan's selectors in the shorter version of the game, has been released from his central contract with the PCB and has all but sealed a deal with the ICL.

There have been continued reports of big-name but disgruntled Pakistan players signing on as well. Brian Lara remains the only star to have officially committed to the league.