New Zealand news July 24, 2009

Contracts dispute resolved but no future guarantees

Six New Zealand players had to "agonise for two weeks" over the decision of signing their national contracts because their marquee homes series against Australia clashed with the IPL. They finally chose to represent their country over their IPL franchises but the New Zealand players' body has warned that this might not be the case if a similar situation arose again.

Daniel Vettori, the captain, Brendon McCullum, the vice-captain, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor, Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills will now miss close to half of the IPL, which is tentatively set to begin on March 12. Australia's tour across the Tasman Sea is also set for March-April.

"It has been a tough two weeks for the players," Heath Mills, the NZCPA head, told Cricinfo. "This was a very difficult decision for them all. While it is a good result for New Zealand cricket, and the players have shown how much they value international cricket, I am not at all convinced that we are going to see players make this choice in the future.

"It is unfair to ask the players to make this sort of decision. It's an awful choice to make, they love playing for their country but at the same time IPL has been fantastic for them in terms of financial security. The financial rewards for our players in the IPL are significantly greater than those playing international cricket for New Zealand. Everyone wants to see international cricket maintain its primacy, but if we can't sort out a window for the IPL I suspect we will slowly find our players choosing to participate in the IPL and other events like it ahead of international cricket. This situation cannot be the right answer for cricket."

The six players, who had shown reluctance in signing the contracts in the first place, were given extended deadlines to make up their minds and choose between New Zealand and the IPL. The Australia series could not be shifted owing to Australia's tight home schedule and there was no compensation for those players opting to forgo the IPL monies. During this period, there were also suggestions Oram might retire from Tests to prolong his career in the more lucrative formats of the game.

Mills defended the players' indecision at a time when Test cricket is fighting to continue as the No. 1 form of the game. "They all want to play for New Zealand," he said. "But there comes a time when a player has to weigh up supporting his family, his kids and his financial security up against representing his country. The onus lies on the administrators to make sure such clashes don't occur in future otherwise they are going to find players making decisions that they may not like."

This is not the first time an ugly clash has occurred between the IPL and international cricket. Last year Vettori and McCullum, among others did not turn up for the warm-up games before the Tests in England because that provided them extra IPL matches. This year, Sri Lanka's Test tour of England was postponed because of a clash with the IPL. Sri Lanka's replacements, West Indies, made clear their displeasure over having to play Tests in England as opposed to the Twenty20 matches in South Africa. Having been told he could delay his departure to England from South Africa to stay on in the IPL Chris Gayle, the West Indies captain, showed up just two days before before the first Test of the series against England.

Mills also called for the "powerful boards" of India, Australia and England to help create a window for IPL in the new FTP. "In time I believe this will be an issue for all players around the world, particularly if the IPL grows, but right now it is a problem for New Zealand, West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka whose players do not earn as much from the sport as those from other countries," Mills said. "It is important that the big boards of India, Australia and England recognise this issue for what it is, and when they look at finalising the next FTP they think about what they can do to help cricket around the globe and specifically create a window for the IPL. That will ensure teams from the smaller nations can still field their best players in international cricket."

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo