New Zealand Cricket has confirmed that six Indian test players will play for domestic teams in the next two rounds of the State Championship.
The inclusion of the players has been agreed by NZC, the New Zealand Cricket Players Association and the six Major Associations, to provide game time for the incoming players prior to the National Bank Series test matches starting on 18 March.
Rahul Dravid will play for the State Canterbury Wizards against the State Central Stags in the match at Mainpower Oval, Rangiora, from 6 to 9 March. Legbreak bowler Amit Mishrah will play for the Stags in the same game.
VVS Laxman will appear for the State Otago Volts against the State Wellington Firebirds at University Oval, Dunedin, in the same round. Right-arm medium fast bowler Lakshmipathy Balaji will play for the Firebirds in that game.
In the following round, from 13 to 16 March, the game between the Stags and Firebirds at McLean Park, Napier will feature opening batsman M. Vijay and right-arm medium pacer Dhawal Kulkarni. It is not yet finalised which sides they will play in.
The Indian players are able to play for the Otago, Central Districts and Wellington sides as overseas players, as those teams will not have other overseas players participating in the upcoming rounds of the State Championship.
Canterbury has two qualifying players (NZ-based payers who have not yet qualified to play for the BLACKCAPS) which is the maximum number of non-eligible players allowed on the field; but as Kruger van Wyk will shortly be eligible to qualify as a New Zealand player, NZC, NZCPA and the Major Associations have agreed to Dravid joining the side.
No Indian players will appear for the State Auckland Aces or State Northern Knights. This avoids any potential issues over the involvement of ICL players in the games. The Aces and Knights sides also already have an overseas player in their teams.
Canterbury’s ICL-contracted players, Chris Harris and Shane Bond, were only contracted by Canterbury to play State Shield and T20 matches and therefore not considered for the State Championship.
NZC Chief Executive Justin Vaughan said he was pleased that the NZCPA and Major Associations had been able to work constructively with NZC to meet the Indian requirement for game time for the players.
“There have been a number of issues to work through, including the involvement of ICL players, NZC’s rules around overseas and qualifying players, player allocation, scheduling and travel arrangements,” said Vaughan.
“This is an excellent solution that means we’re able to offer the incoming Indian players appropriate preparation in first-class conditions – and at the same time give our domestic sides an incredible opportunity to play alongside some of the great names in international test cricket.
“For some of our young players especially, the chance to spend four days on the park and in the dressing room with players of the calibre of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid is priceless.”
India’s coach Gary Kirsten said the team was thankful that NZC had accommodated the players so they could get some match practice. “Because of the tight schedule and no warm up match it would have been difficult for those players straight off the plane – I think it sets a good example,” said Kirsten.
NZCPA Executive Manager Heath Mills said meeting the Indian team requirement for these players to get match play in New Zealand is important. “New Zealand Cricket and the Major Associations have done well to achieve that through the use of six players in the State Championship,” he said.
“Each Major Association is allowed one overseas player under our contracting environment which is something we have always supported and encouraged so this outcome fits nicely with that.”