Jacob Oram and Brendon McCullum, who are among the six New Zealand players who will miss the beginning of the IPL next year to play the Test series against Australia, have admitted signing the national contracts last month had been a difficult decision.
The players said while they were now fully committed to their national side, it had been hard to choose New Zealand contracts over the money they had to forgo for missing a large part of the IPL.
"You can criticise us for our hesitation but we have all signed," Oram told the Sunday Star-Times. "We're not getting paid any compensation; we're not leaving after day three of the second Test against Australia. We've thought about it long and hard and we want to keep playing for New Zealand. You cannot begrudge us the time to think about it and discuss with our wives, families, mentors."
McCullum hoped the delay in signing would not affect his chances of captaining New Zealand in the future. "I'm not going to lie to you, it was tough," McCullum told New Zealand's Sunday News. "The cold, hard facts are there for anyone to see. It wasn't that I didn't want to play cricket for New Zealand but I guess the immediate financial security that sort of money can provide for your family was a factor. It was difficult knowing how much money I was turning down and I also had to think about the captaincy at Kolkata. I would have liked to have had the opportunity to turn around what happened earlier this year after our disappointing tournament.
"In the end, I feel very comfortable with the decision I made and I feel that it was the right one to make."
McCullum and Oram said New Zealand's performance at the World Twenty20, where they only won matches against Scotland and Ireland, had been disappointing and it was important for senior players to step up and lead the way.
"If those of us in the New Zealand team at the moment want to leave any sort of legacy behind when we retire, we have to start fronting up in the big tournaments and start trying to get some silverware in the cabinet," McCullum said.
He also said New Zealand's aim for the upcoming tour to Sri Lanka was to win at least one Test. "… drawing games would not be considered a success in my mind," McCullum said. "I'd much rather see us risk losing to try and achieve something special like winning a Test over there."
Oram, who has returned to the Test squad after a spate of injuries, said he was keen to get 100 wickets and a couple more Test centuries as an allrounder. He said his Test batting average of 37.04 and bowling average of 31.18 did not bother him for he just wanted to do as well as he could. "I learned from an early age that statistical goals and averages were a peripheral pressure I didn't need; I have other ways to get up for a match," Oram said.
"I'm very keen to start turning us into a winning unit and the 2011 World Cup for me is an absolute must-win, or at least we cannot stumble at the second-last hurdle like we have at recent ICC tournaments, or at the quarterfinal as was the case at the world Twenty20."
In contrast to the IPL players, Shane Bond, the fast bowler who quit the ICL to return to the national team, said he couldn't wait to sign the contract and get his chance to play for New Zealand again. "That was the one thing I wanted - to just come back into the fold and have another chance to play for New Zealand, so the decision was pretty easy for me," Bond told the Sunday Star-Times.
Bond said he had worked hard on his fitness and on avoiding injuries in preparing for the comeback. "But the first thing is actually getting back in the team and playing that first game, that will be incredibly exciting for me and I'll take it from there. If I can make it into the team for the Champions Trophy that's another big event and I'll take it as it comes. I know what's coming up after that but I'm experienced enough not to get too far ahead of myself."
Bond, who will be touring India with the A team before heading to Sri Lanka, said some IPL franchises had expressed interest in signing him. "… but officially there's nothing forthcoming until the boss [Lalit Modi] sets the rules around the ICL players."
New Zealand play three Tests against Sri Lanka and a ODI tri-series, which includes India, between August 18 and September 14.