Pace spearhead Shane Bond is all set to become the seventh and the most high-profile New Zealand player to join the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), on a three-year contract worth $800,000.
Although Bond, currently recovering from an abdominal strain, has chosen to remain mum on the issue, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chief executive Justin Vaughan has admitted that Bond was all but lost to the ICL.
"I can't say for certain he has signed but I understand that is what his agent is saying," Vaughan was quoted as saying by the Dominican Post in Wellington.
However, Vaughan said NZC would do all it can to bring Bond back into the fold even if it meant fighting an expensive legal battle to wriggle him out of the ICL contract.
"Even if he has signed with the ICL, we'd love to see if there was a way to get him out of that contract. We'll fund all the support to get him out of it, similar to what Pakistan has done with Mohammad Yousuf," he said.
Despite his constant injury breakdowns, Bond is widely regarded as New Zealand's best pacer since Richard Hadlee and his decision to join ICL -- to earn almost three times more than what he gets as an NZC contracted player -- would be a severe blow for the country's board.
And one of the possible solutions being looked upon by NZC to prevent Bond's defection was getting him a hefty contract with the BCCI and ICC backed Indian Premier League (IPL).
"We are still looking at a solution. Getting Shane an IPL contract is still the preferred one and we've put together a package that is extremely good," Vaughan said.
The 32-year-old Bond has taken 79 wickets in 17 Tests and 125 in 67 ODIs and Vaughan said NZC was in no mood to let their premier bowler go but admitted that it would not be easy to hold back the pacer.
"We'd love to see him playing for New Zealand and that is why we have turned over so many stones, but at the moment we are on the back foot," he confessed.
"I know we haven't seen very much of him lately, but you always hope your last injury is your last one. I don't think it is a question of loyalty here. He is a champion and we'd be very sorry to lose him."
Vaughan, however, maintained that despite the loss, NZC will not select players who are aligned with ICL. "Our preference is for the selectors not to choose those players. It is not a ban, but it would be fair to say if he has signed we would prefer he didn't play in the England series," he said.
Before Bond, six former New Zealand players -- Chris Cairns, Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan, Daryl Tuffey, Chris Harris and Hamish Marshall -- had joined the rebel league.