Auckland: Captain Stephen Fleming and allrounder Chris Cairns have entered negotiations with New Zealand’s cricket authorities in an effort to end the bitter pay dispute which has left the game in turmoil here, it was reported Sunday.
Fleming and Cairns have taken over the main negotiating role from players’ representative Rob Nichol, whose confrontational style is believed by disgruntled players to have contributed to the impasse, the Sunday Star-Times reported.
Neither side would make any comment this weekend, a sign of how delicate the situation is.
Talks between 128 members of the cricket players’ association and NZC broke down earlier this week after the players turned down pay increases ranging between 11-18 per cent for international and domestic professionals.
The players were demanding a 60 per cent pay increase, on the basis of a multi-million dollar television rights payout in five years.
The breakdown has left New Zealand cricket in crisis, with first-class sides set to draft in a motley band of retired former players and junior cricketers to fill the void.
Public opinion was firmly behind NZC’s refusal to meet the players’ demands, the New Zealand Herald reported Saturday. The paper said in an editorial comment the forthcoming series against India should be cancelled if no deal was reached, questioning whether New Zealand’s players deserved any more money.
“The domestic competition is so devoid of charisma that it attracts few spectators and loses NZ$5 million ($2.4 million) a year. Equally, our international performance has been inconsistent at best. Players could start to equate their pay with their Australian counterparts if they attracted similar crowds and played to the same level,” the paper noted.
While NZC may have been relieved to learn this week that India were still determined to tour from December, the Herald doubted whether the series should go ahead.
“Does it make sense to field a third-string team against an Indian side that, pace bowling aside, looms as the strongest in memory'”
If there was no change on the part of the striking cricketers, “it would be best to cancel the Indian tour,” it suggested.
The strike turned nasty recently with reports that top cricketers were bullying young players into strike action as the bitter pay dispute showed no sign of ending.
Canterbury wicketkeeper Russell Hock — the only first-class player so far to break ranks with the players’ union over the pay issue — said he was sickened by the cash wrangle.
“I had a young guy ring me up the other day in tears,” Hock told the paper. “It was bloody wrong. If they’re having a crack at anyone, why don’t they have a crack at me'
“These guys had been his heroes, but now they were simply bullying and intimidating him, letting him know what would happen if he folded,” Hock added, without naming anyone.