Jul 27 2009

Contract battles

Country first, cash second” claim the headlines after the NZ IPL contractees deigned to sign their NZ Cricket contracts. The headlines naturally simplify the issue greatly, but mange to be extremely generous to the players.

The story is that the six Black Caps who are contracted to IPL franchises weren’t keen to sign their NZC contracts until they were assured that their international obligations weren’t going to get in the way of them turning out for their franchises. They were given until last Friday to sign, which they all did in the end.

Let’s name these six:

  • Brendon McCullum
  • Daniel Vettori
  • Ross Taylor
  • Jesse Ryder
  • Kyle Mills
  • Jacob Oram

That all six IPL players who were offered national contracts were holding out on signing, it was clearly a joint decision, probably organised by the Players’ Association.

Before Friday I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. In contract disputes, “employees” generally have only one bargaining chip, withdrawing their services. So you shouldn’t take such threats too seriously. The threats have to be made of course, but they are more a bargaining position than a real likelihood. My feeling was that the delay in signing was just a message to NZC that they should give more concern to the players’  positions.

However, the statements coming from the players since signing have got me very concerned. Reports are that the players’ have got pretty much all they could have hoped for. The test series with Australia has been shortened by a whole test so that the tour will finish by 31 March, allowing the IPL players to be available for half the IPL tournament. That is a massive win for the players and a serious blow to the summer’s cricket. And yet the players continue to threaten to pull away from international cricket in favour of the IPL and talk about the decision to play the Aussie series to be a big decision. We’re also being told that Vettori had to convince some of the others to sign. Could they actually have seriously been considering not signing their NZC contracts? Was it more than just bluster?

And on top of that, we are being asked to applaud these players for their magnanimity, despite them having sabotaged the Aussie series and threatening to sabotage future tours. Well maybe some people will. The best I can say is that I am not as disappointed in them as I might have been.

And please everyone, stop talking about families. I have a family and it doesn’t cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Jonathan Millmow has had his say in today’s paper, expressing his disappointment and covering a few other issues.

Amongst all the talk of the sacrifices made by the IPL Black Caps and their loyalty and priorities, consider these aspects:

  • We’re missing out on a test against Australia this summer. That’s not solely the fault of these players, but is certainly due to the IPL. That’s a big sacrifice NZ cricket fans are being forced to make – there is a huge difference between a 3-test series and a 2-test series. NZC may also be making a huge sacrifice here, assuming tests still make money. It also means less match fees, which is a sacrifice for the non-IPL-contracted test players.
  • The IPL is for current players or retired players, not for uncommitted players. As I understand it, every player in the IPL needs a non-objection certificate from the player’s home board. So choosing money over country wouldn’t have been that straightforward anyway.