Ideals and reality seldom coexist happily. New Zealand, who arrived in England on Wednesday to begin their preparations for a three Test, five one-day game and one Twenty20 international tour, are already aware of the fact. The Black Caps landed at Heathrow without five of their leading players; captain Daniel Vettori, vice-captain Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram, Kyle Mills and Ross Taylor, each of whom is currently in India earning substantial sums of money in the Indian Premier League.
England's coach, Peter Moores, does not yet have to worry about such distractions, but he will. It is only a matter of time before England's finest begin playing in the IPL and when they do Moores will have to cope with the same anxieties that John Bracewell, the New Zealand coach, is currently dealing with. When coaches and chief executives allow their contracted players to play in the IPL they sign them off to a world over which they have no control. All they can do is sit and hope that the individuals return fit, motivated and fresh.
It would be interesting to see how Sir Alex Ferguson would react if one of his players knocked on his door to ask whether he could miss a bit of pre-season training so that he could go to another country to earn a few extra quid. The response would undoubtedly be unprintable and it is unlikely he would ever be seen in the red and white of Manchester United again. There are many who feel that cricket selectors should adopt a similar approach, but cricket is not like football and Moores or Bracewell cannot go out and spend £10m on a replacement. Like Fabio Capello they have to work with what comes through the system.
"It is never ideal to start a tour without your captain or vice-captain, but that is the reality of the landscape we live in," admitted Bracewell at Lord's yesterday. "You are always looking for ideal but this is the reality of the situation. The reality is we have to adapt quite quickly to the comings and goings, but we have had to do that anyway with Test and one-day parts of tours.
"For us it is ideal to have these tournaments placed in the ICC's Future Tours Programme. Then we do not run the risk of having some players there and others not there. It prevents the players having that moral decision of money or country. It is a pretty tough question."
The absence of the infamous five can only damage New Zealand's chances of winning in England but Bracewell believes the IPL will ultimately have a positive affect on his team's cricket. In comparison to most teams New Zealand play very little international cricket and in the future it will be easy for the administrators to organise the team's matches around the IPL, a tournament that in effect gives their players a huge pay rise without it costing them anything.
The presence of haves and have-nots in a dressing room can have a disastrous affect on team spirit. There is jealousy in every team – especially when wives and girlfriends become too involved – and $600,000 (£300,000) imbalances like this can only cause resentment. Bracewell, who implied that he will be returning to coach Gloucestershire in the not too distant future, is aware of the issues it may cause and is doing all he can to manage what is a difficult situation.
"For us we see the glass as half full rather than half empty," said Bracewell. "The money these players earn in India brings them into line with rugby in New Zealand, in terms of salary, and hopefully that will encourage more youngsters to pursue a career in cricket.
"It is something we have discussed quite openly as a group. We discussed it at length throughout the home series against England as the information came to hand and we are continuing to discuss it. It is part of the growth and maturity of this particular group to work in this landscape. Our group understands the situation. The bottom line is that it is our best players that have been invited to play in it, so for them it is an incentive-based scheme."
The International Cricket Council has ended a 99-year association with Lord's by moving its annual conference to Dubai, where it is now based. The decision was taken following claims by Peter Chingoka, the Zimbabwe representative, that his attempts to obtain a visa to the UK had been blocked.Reuse content