'Don't forget us,' Petrie urges on behalf of older players

Lynn McConnell

November 9, 2000

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Richard Petrie is one of a diminishing breed of New Zealand cricketers who is in his 30s and still wanting to play the game.

They are not a dying breed. Just less active. And they want to remind administrators, selectors and fans that they still have a place in the game.

The only reason there were not more people in their 30s playing the game in New Zealand was because it was not attractive for them.

"Thirty-three [his age] is not old. It is a sad indictment that it is seen that way in this country. The Waughs are both older than me in Australia and plenty of other players," he said.

But, as Petrie argues, there is a role for players like the Mark Richardsons of this world.

Those players who have been through the mill, who love their cricket and who enjoy a challenge. Petrie feels that not enough attention is paid to players with a solid first-class background when replacements are required on tours.

The emphasis on selecting players who have been through the Academy and on Academy tours is an area New Zealand Cricket had to look at, he said.

"Mark Richardson has made it at his age, but there are a lot of others who have flagged it by that time because they see no chance of being selected for New Zealand," he said.

His former Wellington team-mate Phil Chandler had been a classic example of that.

"He could have done a similar job to Mark," he said.

Associated with the dropping out of older players was the payment issue. At the moment, a first-class player could expect to earn around $10,000 and with another round of Trophy play this year, probably another $5000.

Comparing notes with first-class players from other countries when playing in England last year had proved enlightening to Petrie.

"We have to have a pool of players who are professional players.

"First-class players in Australia can expect to earn $60,000-$70,000 for six months. The South Africans are comparable.

"I was in an Australia-New Zealand team over there who played the Lancashire 2nd XI and the Lancashire players were getting 23,000 pounds a season.

"That's another reason why guys are not staying in the game here, and that is the reason we have a lack of depth," he said.

While New Zealand Cricket chief executive Christopher Doig had said some seasons ago that players would be better off, there had been no change in match fees in that time, Petrie said.

It had, in fact, got less because there was no longer any prize money associated with Super Max.

"Last year I was presented with an envelope at the end of the Max final for being player of the series, and there was nothing in it.

"Matthew Walker was awarded the player of the final, and there was nothing in his envelope either. It was all done for show," Petrie said.

"Sky has the cricket coverage to itself now so there is no need to pay the extra money," he said.

The situation was tailor made for the introduction of a players' union. But he wondered if it would ever happen.

"The problem is the New Zealand players aren't going to run it, the older guys are all gone and the young players just do as they're told.

"I wouldn't bother organising it. I've got a job where I am earning a lot more than I am from cricket. I play because I enjoy it but I can't commit myself to cricket.

"We are amateurs trying to compete with professional countries. It is the inverse of the amateur rugby nations trying to compete with the All Blacks. In cricket all the professionals are playing for New Zealand and that is it," he said.

Because of the time commitment, Petrie is only available for limited overs cricket this year and for the moment he is not doing any bowling because of an Achilles tendon injury which he is nursing in order to gain selection in the Wellington team.

"I never take too much into pre-season stuff. You can get too excited too early. You want to be right for the epicentre of the season rather than be a star pre-season," he said.

Wellington had been happy with its form through the Super Max series with Central Districts and while it was hard to use Max as the basis of comparison Wellington came through it well.

Petrie also enjoyed the five-game concept, which he felt had been a bit like the American baseball and ice hockey play-offs situation.

"There was a lot of travelling but it was good to play on some of the grounds we did," he said.

His absence from Shell Trophy consideration would allow Wellington to look at introducing younger players for the longer game.

"There's more depth in Wellington cricket at the moment than I have ever seen. There will be some good players who will miss out on selection this year," he said.

Good weather had provided good pitches and the runs were being scored this year. His Karori side overcame the loss of an overseas player, Irish international Peter Shields, after only one game and was still looking good.

"My focus is on batting first and bowling second," he said.

"I would like to be bowling well enough so that I took No 3, 4, 5 or 6 space to share the bowling," he said.

If selected, Petrie will go into the Shell Cup season on 98 games sitting on 17th place for most runs scored with 1714 and atop the bowling list with most wickets at 118, three more than Alex Tait.

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