June 5, 2003

Wiseman, McCullum and Mills get central contracts

Wisden CricInfo staff

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) has offered contracts to 20 players for the next 12 months (from June 1), based on criteria which assessed a player's likely playing value to NZC over the contract period. The national selectors had the final say, though the individual player rankings were kept confidential.

National contracts were first offered in November 2002, after intense negotiations with the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association (NZCPA). They were backdated to May 1, and lasted for 13 months. The player rankings were based on performances up to May 1, 2002, meaning that performances on the tour of the West Indies in June-July 2002 had to be ignored. That tour however was included in ranking calculations for the current group of contracted players.

There are three changes from last year - Paul Wiseman, Brendon McCullum and Kyle Mills are included for the first time, while Chris Nevin, Chris Martin and Paul Hitchcock no longer figure in the elite list.

Martin Snedden, NZC's chief executive, said that being specialists (Nevin and Hitchcock in One-Day Internationals, Martin in Tests) went against the three left out, as those who play both forms of the game have a greater chance of earning points under the ranking system used.

Snedden talked at length about the three new inclusions at a press conference.

"He's [Paul Wiseman] been rewarded for a solid tour of Sri Lanka, and it also recognises the fact that our spin bowling depth is not as deep as we would want it," said Snedden. Wiseman was the second-choice spinner for the Sri Lankan tour, with the dearth of quality spin bowlers after Daniel Vettori a problem that has haunted New Zealand's domestic ranks for many years.

"Brendon McCullum has made excellent progress in the last 12 months, from a shaky start to his career to the stage now where he's clearly the No 1 wicketkeeper in one-day cricket, and is also no doubt challenging [Robbie] Hart in the Test arena. He is also starting to develop with the bat. He's certainly got promise in that area."

"Kyle Mills is a one-day specialist. The opportunities he's had in the last few months, he's performed very well, so he's forced himself into that line-up."

Snedden said he was happy with the system used to find the top 20, and that he found that the players were very conscious of where they were ranked.

The five categories of annual retainers for the ranked players are:

Category A (1st-3rd) - NZ$120,000
Category B (4th-6th) - $100,000
Category C (7th-10th) - $80,000
Category D (11th-15th) - $60,000
Category E (16th-20th) - $40,000

On top of this, players will earn match fees of $6000 per Test, and $2500 per ODI. There are still ongoing discussions between NZC and the NZCPA over possible adjustments to the amount earned by each player, based on an incremental system to differentiate each player based on their ranking, rather than the broader tiered groupings.

Among those to benefit the most since the last contracts were issued will be Jacob Oram - who has proved a highly dependable third seam option, taking 15 Test wickets at 15.86, and 34 ODI wickets at 17.02 with an economy rate of 3.85 since September; and Stephen Fleming - believed to have missed out on the top category last time - is also back in the big-time after a Test century in the West Indies and a marathon 274 not out in Sri Lanka, as well as the stunning century against South Africa in the World Cup.

Chris Cairns and Craig McMillan are among those likely to be adversely affected. Cairns has been blighted by injury to such an extent that he now plays as a specialist batsman - with few substantial knocks to commend him - while McMillan hasn't been able to put bat to ball for much of the past 12 months. Only his reputation as a decent player of spin bowling might win him a place on the upcoming tour of India.

The chosen few: Andre Adams, Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, Ian Butler, Chris Cairns, Stephen Fleming, Chris Harris, Robbie Hart, Matt Horne, Brendon McCullum, Craig McMillan, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Mark Richardson, Mathew Sinclair, Scott Styris, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent and Paul Wiseman.