New Zealand could waive one-year 'cooling period'
New Zealand Cricket (NZC) could waive the one-year "cooling period" proposed by the Indian board for players returning to international cricket from the unsanctioned ICL. Such a move would provide exiled pacemen Shane Bond and Daryl Tuffey with added incentive to break ranks with the ICL and return to the fold for New Zealand's next bilateral international assignment, the August tour of Sri Lanka.
While Bond responded cautiously to news of the BCCI's amnesty to its ICL players - opening the door for them to return to first-class cricket with immediate effect, and international cricket in 12 months, provided they severed ties with the Zee Group-owned competition - NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan was hopeful the development represented the first significant step towards resolving the ICL issue.
"This is a positive move," Vaughan told Cricinfo. "Hopefully this will lead to the ICL issue being resolved pretty quickly. If there is a mass exodus of players from the ICL, then hopefully we will all be back to being able to field our best teams, and international cricket will return to normality."
Vaughan added that NZC would not necessarily follow the "cooling off" sanctions of the Indian board, citing that the ICC board meeting this month gave national bodies the freedom to determine what sanctions, if any, they would level against players returning from the ICL. Should the likes of Bond and Tuffey break ranks with the ICL, a NZC board meeting in June would decide whether they could return to international cricket immediately, or at a later date.
"We've made no secret of the fact that we would welcome players back if they were to leave the ICL," Vaughan said. "The question is exactly when they would be available for selection, and that is something the (NZC) board will make a decision on. We're slightly different to India in that Bond and Tuffey have already played domestic cricket with us, and if those players did decide to terminate their ICL contracts, it would be up to our board to decide when they would be available. We will watch with interest what other countries do."
Bond, rated among the world's elite fast bowlers at the time of his defection, said he would reconsider his position in the game if the carrot of international cricket was again dangled before him. Now 33, Bond was initially cleared to represent New Zealand by his national board when he signed with the ICL, but that decision was reversed after pressure was applied by the BCCI. He has not played an international match since 2007.
"As far as I'm aware, I'm not available for international cricket yet," Bond told Cricinfo. "It will all depend on what is happening with the ICL. At this stage I'm still contracted to them, but if that was to change then I would have to have a look at things."
Bond recently revealed his desire to return to first-class cricket in New Zealand, and has hinted that he is among the ICL players yet to have been paid in full for their services. But with a year remaining on his reported $800,000-per-season contract, Bond is remaining guarded about his international playing future.
"I am interested in playing at the top level," he said. "The hardest thing this year is that my season only lasted two months. That was pretty hard work for me, because it wasn't long enough. I have been training for five weeks, and actually had my first bowl today, so I'm in pretty good shape. I would like to play the (first-class season). I don't want the big break. That's my intention. But until I learn more about (the BCCI's amnesty) it doesn't really change anything for me at this stage."
Tuffey said he was keen on returning to the national team. "I'd love to get back in and play Test cricket," he told New Zealand radio. "I haven't played Test cricket for about four years now, so I'd really love the opportunity to get back in and play again."
Bond and Tuffey are considered the only ICL players who would contend for places in the current New Zealand squad. Others, including Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan, Chris Harris, Andre Adams and Lou Vincent have either retired, or fallen behind other candidates in the national set-up.
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo