Auckland: Sir, writes one hopeful, I wish to make myself available to represent the New Zealand cricket team against India this summer.
With New Zealand's first class cricketers on strike, Owen Ferrier-Kerr and dozens of others are resurrecting boyhood dreams of representing their country, while keeping their tongues firmly in their cheeks. "I am 43 years old, slightly overweight and a genuine number 11," he wrote in the letters column of the 'Dominion-Post'. "However, I can promise to make an effort as a medium slow (and getting slower) bowler. I will field wherever the captain puts me without complaint." His letter, and an undercurrent of bitterness about the perceived greed of top players, is being mirrored across the country where touch rugby is now a bigger summer sport than cricket. "I will never leave a tour with a feigned injury because the coach is being mean to me and play country cricket the next week," promises Ferrier-Kerr, in a swipe at temperamental New Zealand bowler Chris Cairns. The dispute is essentially an old-fashioned union brawl pitting management in the form of New Zealand Cricket's (NZC) Martin Snedden against workers, the Cricket Players Association (CPA) headed by Rob Nichols and supported by 128 first class players. Nichols has made a series of demands, mostly about pay, which Snedden has said NZC cannot afford. CPA has in turn demanded to see the NZC accounting books, angering Snedden with the implication NZC cannot be trusted. The dispute came to a head on Tuesday with the two sides far apart and the NZC insisting they were not planning any more talks to resolve the matter. Sports commentator Jo Romanos told Radio New Zealand that with the country's team hovering just above minnows Bangladesh and Kenya, the question of who will face India barely matters. Meanwhile the elder statesman of New Zealand cricket, 87-year-old Walter Hadlee issued strong criticism of the players. "These players are already getting a very fair cut of the total income. I can only put it down to greed," he said. In the rugby-mad country where first class cricket is mostly played in empty stadiums and where most of the 94,000 registered players are children, the dispute is causing deep consternation in the media. "New Zealand is facing a farcical cricketing summer with a virtual club-strength side being pitted against the might of India," the 'Dominion-Post' said on Wednesday. 'The New Zealand Herald', in a front-page story, said the scramble was on to find any team that could face India in the first Test match starting December. Although New Zealand law recognises the right of collective bargaining, Snedden, a lawyer and former first class cricketer, has made it clear he will scrape together a team to face India by going around the CPA. "It won't be a club side but if we have to use players from outside the top group then we will," he told the 'Dominion-Post'. "This tour is going ahead, cricket will be played in New Zealand this summer and it just remains to be seen by which players." 'The New Zealand Herald' says the dispute is about more than money. The players are also demanding more say in how the game is run and for NZC to pay the association's running costs, estimated at 300,000 New Zealand Dollars per year. The NZC have rejected the demands out of hand and have even prevented top players such as Cairns and Daniel Vettori receiving NZC medical treatment.