New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chief executive David White's hints that the domestic first-class tournament, the Plunket Shield, may be trimmed has been criticised by Players' Association CEO Heath Mills. Mills said that such statements on how "competitions are going to be cut" raised questions as the board and the players' association prepare to meet to negotiate pay over the coming months.
"We're still hopeful that's it [the negotiations] is a positive, constructive process. But when players hear the competitions are going to be cut, it raises the antenna as to how the negotiations are going to go," Mills told stuff.co.nz. "The players believe very strongly in the domestic competitions and their value to New Zealand Cricket."
White had said last week that the domestic structure for 2018-19 was up for review - no changes will be made in 2017-18. He said the Plunket Shield specifically would need to be reviewed - perhaps cut from ten rounds to five - given the ICC's push to make Test cricket more meaningful and profitable.
"If we've got in a four-year period of two World T20s and a 50-over World Cup and two Test-match competitions, what is the right mix of cricket domestically to ensure we're competitive at international level? That is something we're absolutely looking at right now," White said, adding more A-team cricket might be the way to go.
"Maybe [reducing the length of the Plunket Shield]. Also more A cricket... Is there some more cricket that can bridge the gap from first-class to international cricket a little bit more? They're all the kinds of things we're discussing."
With the pay talks looming, Mills said cutting domestic long-format cricket could not be the answer to financial questions, if any, especially as the board's "revenue has increased significantly" over the past few years, and the first-class system is the backbone of international cricket.
"My view is we ought not to be cutting cricket programmes for the sake of it, and we need to ask ourselves why they're being cut, when we know that New Zealand Cricket's revenue has increased significantly over the last four-five years," Mills said. "We don't mind having a conversation about the structure of domestic cricket but it is absolutely the heartbeat of our high-performance programme, the bedrock of cricket in New Zealand. We think it is very important and we would like to ask questions about where the spending priority is? Domestic competitions are costing no more than they did five years ago."