Six Indian players will appear in New Zealand's State Championship to get some practice ahead of the three-Test series, Niranjan Shah, the team manager has confirmed. Their participation will be staggered over two rounds - Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Amit Mishra and L Balaji will play the matches between March 6 and 9 while Dhawal Kulkarni and M Vijay will join the competition for the next round, beginning March 13.
There was doubt over their participation because two of the state sides - Canterbury and Auckland - include ICL players and the BCCI's stand on the banned league prevents its players from joining any side that has cricketers from the league. However the scheduling is such that the Indians will avoid playing alongside or even against ICL players. This is a lucky escape for the BCCI which could have been put in a spot for the second time this week after having withdrawn Sachin Tendulkar and Dinesh Karthik from a charity game that included ICL's Hamish Marshall.
Auckland and Northern Districts have ICL players - Daryl Tuffey and Hamish Marshall - in their four-day squads but they already have the one permitted overseas player. Canterbury contracted its ICL players Shane Bond and Chris Harris only for the one-dayers and Twenty20s. The first round of games featuring the Indians has Auckland playing Northern Districts. In the next round, Kulkarni and Vijay will play the match between Central Districts and Wellington. They are yet to be assigned a team.
Heath Mills, the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association (NZCPA) chief who had earlier said the players' body would block any move to pull out ICL players from the state sides to facilitate the games, said he was happy with the outcome. "Each major association is allowed one overseas player under our contracting environment which is something we have always supported and encouraged."
Justin Vaughan, New Zealand Cricket's chief executive, said he was pleased that the associations and NZCPA had been able to work constructively with the board to meet India's request of game time for the players.
"There have been a number of issues to work through, including the involvement of ICL players, NZC's rules around overseas and qualifying players, player allocation, scheduling and travel arrangements," Vaughan said.
"This is an excellent solution that means we're able to offer the incoming Indian players appropriate preparation in first-class conditions - and at the same time give our domestic sides an incredible opportunity to play alongside some of the great names in international Test cricket. For some of our young players especially, the chance to spend four days on the park and in the dressing room with players of the calibre of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid is priceless."
India's coach Gary Kirsten felt NZC's gesture to accommodate the players set a good example for other boards.
March 6 - March 9
Rahul Dravid - Canterbury v Central Districts
Amit Mishra - Canterbury v Central Districts
VVS Laxman - Otago v Wellington
L Balaji - Otago v Wellington
March 13 - March 16
Dhawal Kulkarni and M Vijay - Central Districts v Wellington