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New Zealand players could miss first Test in England

Sidharth Monga

June 2, 2012

Comments: 84 | Text size: A | A

Brendon McCullum added 99 for the first wicket with Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata Knight Riders v Chennai Super Kings, IPL, Kolkata, May 14, 2012
Brendon McCullum is one of the few New Zealand Test starters who have IPL contracts © AFP
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New Zealand are headed towards fielding a second-string side in their first Test against England next year after their board couldn't convince the ECB to schedule the series at a time not coinciding with the IPL. It's a predicament not one of the parties could have helped. The New Zealand players earn more in one week of IPL than they do from their annual NZC contracts, which is why they are entitled to five weeks of IPL, which pays NZC 10% of the players' salary, effectively to make them available. However, NZC is also bound by the ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP), and ECB by its own commercial understanding with its partners.

Rough calculations, says NZC Players' Association chief Heath Mills, suggest New Zealand's IPL players will make it to England only on the eve of the first Test if they play their five weeks' allocation of IPL. Of the eight New Zealanders in the IPL, four are Test starters, and Nathan McCullum and James Franklin are not too far. Jesse Ryder has avoided a contract this year, and Scott Styris has retired. New Zealand fans are not quite holding their breath over the choice the players will make: the last time the players chose country over club, back in 2009, they made no guarantees of a similar decision in the future. Mills says he will be surprised if "most of the players didn't play the IPL".

That standoff back then led to the introduction of the five-weeks clause in future contracts, but NZC didn't guarantee them a clear window for the IPL every year, especially during years the team was due to tour England. "Our understanding was that the guys can take five weeks leave, and that NZC will endeavour to make sure there was no international cricket during that period," Mills said. "However, they did note that it may not be as easy to ensure our players could play the whole IPL when we toured England.

"They made a commitment to us that they will work with the ECB to try and get the dates of our English tour after the IPL if possible. Clearly those discussions haven't reached an outcome that New Zealand players or the players here were hoping. England don't want to move any cricket around the IPL. That's their right, and their choice. So we need to live with that."

"Living with that" will mean further devaluation of international cricket: New Zealand will be weak, England will not be tested properly, and the biggest losers perhaps will be the English public going to the Tests.

"As I do my maths at the moment, if the IPL starts on the 7th of April, as it typically does, then our guys will obviously have five weeks of the IPL, and they will then arrive on the eve of the first Test, which is scheduled for the 16th of May. Which means we will need to work this through with the NZC and the players concerned," Mills said. "If NZC feel that's not enough preparation, they may look to take other players to play that first Test match and have the IPL guys play the second Test. It's certainly unfortunate and far from ideal."

The biggest concern with the way things stand right now is that they affect smaller teams - the likes of New Zealand and West Indies - the most. The big four - India, Australia, England and South Africa - who actually dominate the decision making feel no tangible pinch from the clash between IPL and international cricket. Not least because they can afford to pay their cricketers enough to keep them away from outside lure.

"Our senior players are earning over a million dollars playing in the IPL," Mills said. "Effectively it comes to 200,000 dollars a week. So each week they are not at the IPL, they lose more than the initial contracts here in New Zealand, which I think other people don't realise. New Zealand players earn a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year whereas players from England, Australia and the bigger countries earn a couple of million dollars a year with the initial contract."

Mills said the cricket administrators needed to do more than just saying that Test cricket is the prime format. "I think from a holistic point of view this is not the answer for international cricket," he said. "Clearly if you haven't got your best players playing for your country, we can no longer say international cricket is the best playing the best. Because it isn't. The day the international cricket is not about best players against best players, we have a problem, and we need to discuss it. We need to find a better outcome."

An official window for IPL could be one solution, Mills said. But when suggested there might be no end to tournaments' asking for a window if a precedent is set, Mills said the IPL had a much bigger impact than even the Champions League Twenty20, which is owned by just India, Australia and South Africa and doesn't equate to the world game.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by 2929paul on (June 4, 2012, 8:21 GMT)

The ECB's decision is based entirely on money. Just as with the IPL, the ECB relies massively on sale of the broadcasting rights and in the UK, Sky bought these for £260m back in January, until 2017. As a result, it is Sky who determine when and how often cricket in this country should be played. Hence the spurious ODIs against Australia this summer and international fixtures running from the beginning of May to the end of September when they used to run from June to August.

Posted by India_ANY_track_bully on (June 4, 2012, 8:15 GMT)

@Crapathian: "truer form of the game.."... looks like a big chip on the shoulder than anything else... all this talk of "truer form" will vanish when england slip below #4 in a years time... :))

Posted by India_ANY_track_bully on (June 4, 2012, 8:04 GMT)

@Slogger_John:"Whilst many countries have the luxury of being able to schedule games at any time of the year, England are limited to April-September"

Who are you kidding?!... it rains all day till May, then some in June (then some more in July/Aug/Sep/Oct...).

Posted by ChrisPerera on (June 4, 2012, 4:03 GMT)

I think ICC must intervene and get Indian Cricket Board to schedule IPL matches to minimize overseas players effecting playing for their country. In the mean time all other Cricket Boards must be flexible in scheduling international tournaments.

Posted by serious-am-i on (June 3, 2012, 17:44 GMT)

@Slogger_John: If IPL is scheduled in Jan/Feb no one would watch it, more over its winter season.. With the dew factor it will be impossible to have day and night games, they will be playing in wet grounds instead of dry fields.. Students do have to study and exams fall in March/April so the interest in watching the games would be very minimal. Parents wouldn't allow kids to watch the game and they will not be in a position to watch it either because it could be distraction to their children. The current schedule is planned in such a way that kids are totally free because of their summer holidays.

Posted by torsha on (June 3, 2012, 17:19 GMT)

ECB has problem with IPL and Indian board. Why they wanna schedule the matches when IPL is going? You have seen what KP has done. You could see the same situation when WI players were in IPL this time around and also England are winning without top players from opposite sides (It could be their tactics) and then complaining about IPL. I know country should always come first but you can not put matches intentionally during the time of IPL and then make a big issue out of it. No other boards do that.

Posted by YS_USA on (June 3, 2012, 15:09 GMT)

Why England plays tests with NZ and WI during May? Let them play with Aus during May and NZ after the IPL. 23 Aussuies play in IPL, so a few less will play in IPL and Pakistanis can replace them.

Posted by Slogger_John on (June 3, 2012, 14:03 GMT)

All the comments about the ECB being pig-headed, jealous etc. are ridiculous and show a complete lack of thought. Consider one simple fact - it is impossible to play cricket all year round in England. Whilst many countries have the luxury of being able to schedule games at any time of the year, England are limited to April-September, and some would suggest that is too long a season. If the IPL is so important why can that not be played in Jan/Feb? Or would that impact too much on the scheduling of pointless 7 matches ODI series that seem to be so in vogue at the moment?

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (June 3, 2012, 13:21 GMT)

@ IndiaNumeroUno - England have no problem with the IPL. They'll do their thing just as India will do their thing. ECB's contract with Sky pays them enough to have a Performance Program as well as a well funded Lions squad, some trickle down money to the counties plus all the players' salaries. If you read the article, it's the smaller countries like West Indies, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka who suffers. They are caught between a rock and a hard place and there is nothing they can do. Like I mentioned earlier, looks like more teams will send second string players when they tour England in April/May and most likely it's the three mentioned above. At least Sri Lanka just toured Eng last year so they don't need to deal with it for the next few years which by that time the Sangakara and Mahela of SL cricket should be retired or playing IPL only like Gilchrist/Warne and Co.

Posted by   on (June 3, 2012, 13:06 GMT)

With the minimum wages Test players make ...i would agree with NZ players to choose IPL over Eng. Tour. IPL has its advantages and Disadvantages.

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