New Zealand pay row turns ugly amid bullying claims

Published: Saturday, November 9, 2002, 17:23 [IST]
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Auckland: Top New Zealand cricketers are bullying young players into strike action as the bitter pay dispute showed no sign of ending, it was reported on Saturday. Canterbury wicket-keeper Russell Hock - the only first class player so far to break ranks with the players' union over the pay issue - told the 'New Zealand Herald' he was sickened by the cash wrangle. "I had a young guy ring me up the other day in tears. It was bloody wrong ... If they're having a crack at anyone, why don't they have a crack at me?" Hock told the paper "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 names. Talks between 128 members of the Cricket Players Association and New Zealand Cricket broke down earlier this week after the players turned down pay increases ranging between 11to 18 per cent. The players were demanding a 60 per cent pay increase, on the basis of a multi- million Dollar television rights pay-out in five years. The breakdown has left New Zealand cricket in turmoil, with first class sides set to draft in a motley band of retired former players and junior cricketers to fill the void. Yock said he had decided to break ranks with the striking players out of his love for the game. "Why have I done what I've done? Because I love the game and I'd piss blood to play for Canterbury," he said. Public opinion was firmly behind New Zealand Cricket's refusal to meet the player's demands, the 'Herald' reported. The paper said in an editorial comment the forthcoming series against India should be cancelled if no deal was reached, and questioned whether New Zealand's players deserved any more money. "The domestic competition is so devoid of charisma that it attracts few spectators and loses 5 million NZ Dollars ($ 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 New Zealand Cricket may have been relieved to learn this week that India was 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 cricketeers, "it would be best to cancel the Indian tour", the daily suggested. "That would create time for new talent to be cultivated - or for the present crop of top players to come to their senses."

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