Australia's cricket tour to New Zealand next year has been cut from three tests to two to avoid a potentially damaging rift between the traditional game and the Indian Premier League, local media reported.
Wellington's Dominion-Post newspaper on Saturday quoted an unnamed New Zealand Cricket official as saying the schedule for the Australian tour had been shortened to reduce the overlap between the test series and the IPL Twenty20 season.
The Australian tour is now likely to end on March 31 while the IPL _ brought forward to avoid a clash with the ICC World Twenty20 Championship which starts on April 28 _ would begin around March 12. The overlap between the tests and the IPL will still be costly to some players: New Zealand wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum is likely to give up around $350,000 of his $700,000 IPL contract because he will miss the first half of the Indian season.
But the scheduling move by New Zealand Cricket appears to have avoided greater conflict which might have forced players to opt for the Indian league over the international matches. Several New Zealand players who play in the IPL had delayed signing new contracts with New Zealand Cricket while the dates for the Australian tour and the IPL remained unclear. New Zealand's IPL contingent of McCullum, captain Daniel Vettori, all-rounder Jacob Oram, batsmen Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor and fast bowler Kyle Mills are paid between $700,000 and $150,000 by their IPL teams.
Payments in the IPL are made on a pro-rata basis, depending on the number of games in which each player appears. New Zealand Cricket chief executive Justin Vaughan praised his players for putting country ahead of the lure of the IPL, but warned the conflict between the two modern branches of the game would be ongoing.
"It is something that will recur, and not only for New Zealand," he said. "However all our players with IPL contracts who were offered New Zealand Cricket contracts have now signed. "This is an admirable decision by each of these individuals and they should be applauded for it. By signing their contracts they are sacrificing significant sums of money."
New Zealand players association boss Heath Mills also commended the players' decision but said it was crucial for cricket's international authorities to tidy up the international calendar. "It's important to celebrate that these guys have made this decision. But in the future who's to say what decisions players will make and what they will prioritize," Mills said. The Australian tour is now likely to comprise tests at Wellington from March 19 to 23 and Hamilton from March 27 to 31.