The Indian cricket board set the ball rolling, offering players from the Indian Cricket League an amnesty scheme recently, but already other boards are reaping the benefits. When a chunk of players were banned from international cricket for signing up with the rival league the country most affected was New Zealand. With a small player base to choose from, the Kiwis could not afford a major exodus, and felt the pinch even as Shane Bond and his partner in crime, Daryl Tuffey, were lost to them.
So it came as no surprise that the board and the team management wasted no time in fast-tracking the pair back into international cricket once the option was open to them. In the opening match of this series the difference was apparent. Bond (3 for 43) and Tuffey (1 for 35) accounted for the Sri Lankan top order, and it’s another matter that the bowlers who followed could not finish the job from 69 for 5.
Coach Andy Moles was quick to draw attention to the impact Bond had. “He has already played T20 cricket and he’s now back to ODIs. He got off to a good start and has been pretty upfront with the white ball,” said Moles of Bond. “He has showed a bit of pace and aggression and we certainly look a better side with him in the team. We are delighted to have him back and he is really keen to make his mark.”
Critically, though, the New Zealand set up has not viewed their ICL players as having committed some major infraction. There is no stigma attached to them, and the selectors are not holding it against them that they left the fold in pursuit of a better livelihood.
“The players made that choice [to join the ICL] and it’s their decision, that’s all I can say. We have a small number of players compared to other Test playing nations and we don’t want to lose them,” said Moles. “With two of them back it helps our side, the competition among bowlers helps. It’s good for our cricket.”
Bond’s case was particularly poignant as there was little clarity about what would happen to players when Bond signed on the dotted line. He joined the ICL in good faith, not expecting to be banned, and even when that happened he took the decision in the best possible spirit. Fortunately, though, he’s back in action now, and even if a couple of years of good cricket have been taken from him, there’s every indication that pace has not deserted him.