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News

Test cricket and retaining players top priority for new New Zealand chief

Former first-class cricketer and chair of the NZCPA Scott Weenink takes over from David White

New Zealand fans were clearly outnumbered by Pakistan fans, New Zealand vs Pakistan, T20 World Cup, 1st semi-final, Sydney, November 9, 2022

Scott Weenink: "New Zealand have to be flexible in contracting to retain their best players"  •  ICC via Getty

Prioritising Test cricket and ensuring that New Zealand's best players want to keep playing for the country are on top of the agenda for NZC's new chief executive Scott Weenink, who took over from David White on August 30.
Weenink, 50, is a businessman and a former first-class cricketer from Wellington, and he was the chair of the New Zealand Cricket Players Association (NCPA), a position from which he will now step down.
"It was a great honour to be offered the position," he said. "I love sport and cricket in particular, and I also love the business of sport - so this seemed like an ideal role. There's a finely balanced, symbiotic relationship between community and high performance cricket in New Zealand and one of my key responsibilities is to ensure that's maintained and sustained into the future."
Weenink will formally begin duties on Friday and said at a press conference in Auckland that he recognised the need to strike a balance between Test cricket and the increasingly-crowded T20 calendar.
"I'm a Test cricket romantic but also I see Test cricket as being key to keeping players playing for New Zealand," Weenink said. "I think if we didn't have Test cricket, it'd be much harder to keep them interested in that. They'd simply, you know, come back and play an ICC [event]. So absolutely, I'll be looking to try and promote Test cricket while balancing the fact that we do need to play the higher revenue parts of the game as well.
"It is that difficult balance of recognising that Test Cricket doesn't make money, but it's very important for the fans and very important for the players. I think the Test Championship has been a great addition. And that's certainly going to keep the interest. It's really just trying to balance out that revenue generation part of it while, you know, generally trying to play as much Test cricket as possible."
Weenink takes over at a time when players all around the world are being made to choose between prioritising playing for their country, or pursing lucrative T20 league contracts. New Zealand have had Trent Boult, Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme go down the freelance route over the last year. Weenink said that the key to keeping players in the New Zealand cricket ecosystem is flexibility.
"I think one of the strengths of New Zealand cricket is the flexibility it has around the contracting," he said. "We need to recognise that players want to generate as much earnings for themselves during what is a short term contract, while also wanting to play cricket for New Zealand. And it's all evolving, so we need to try and keep on top of that, make sure that we're giving players flexibility, but also really encouraging them to stay and play for New Zealand."
New Zealand Cricket Board chair Martin Snedden said that to retain players, sometimes they needed to be allowed to "chase the money."
"We are in a battle for the retention of players and therefore we have to ensure that the players see real value in staying available for New Zealand for as often as possible … If it's important to players that they're regarded as great players, players that have succeeded, they have to play at the international level to get that reputation. So we've just got to be able to continue offering them an environment they want to be part of, whilst demonstrating to them we understand that from time to time they need the flexibility to chase the money."
Snedden said that the new NZC chief executive Weenink has "a great deal to offer in all the key areas, plus some special experiences that specifically suited the skillset needed in this position".
"He understands the relationship between community and high performance sport; he's very familiar with world cricket affairs and current issues, and he's spent a significant time running organisations and projects within Asia, obviously a major region of importance for NZC," Snedden said. "Scott understands cricket. He understands its context in New Zealand; where it's come from, where it is now, and where it should be going."