Australia's Brett Lee. Photo by Reuters.
Otago's decision to fly former Australian fast bowler
Brett Lee in for one match is a careful and calculated risk.
These days there is more than provincial pride up for grabs -
there is big money riding on the outcome of the HRV Cup. The
winner is guaranteed entry for the qualifying stage of
Champions League and with it will receive a participation fee
of $US500,000 ($NZ595,000).
That money is spread thinly with expenses taking a heavy toll
and just about everyone lining up for a drink. But last time
Otago attended the Champions League in 2009, the association
ended up banking $NZ76,000, which was a significant windfall
for an organisation the size of Otago cricket. The players
got around $NZ6000 each.
There are no certainties in twenty/20 cricket but the Volts
have played some exceptional cricket and will be favourites
no matter who they meet in the final at the University Oval
Otago has a dead-rubber against Canterbury in Dunedin today.
But that game will have no bearing on the playoffs.
Wellington has secured a home venue for the preliminary final
and will play either Northern Districts or Auckland for the
right to play Otago in the final.
But the real prize is, of course, the Champions League in
India later this year. The New Zealand champion will enter
the qualifying stage alongside the two best English teams,
and the Pakistan, Sri Lankan and Caribbean champion.
Last year, Auckland made it through qualifying and into the
main draw where it joined the four best Indian Premier League
teams, the top two Australian and South African sides and the
other top qualifier.
The 10 qualified teams split into two pools of five. Auckland
managed one win in the group stage and was eliminated but
picked up a cheque for a further $US200,000.
Losing semifinalists bank half a million, the runner-up gets
$US1.3 million and the winner gets the royal sum of $US2.5
And this is where Lee comes in. Otago is quite happy to fly
the speedster over for the game against Canterbury, even
though the match has no significance in terms of the outcome
of the tournament. Lee's appearance will mean he is eligible
to play for Otago in the Champions League.
Whether a player is eligible or not, and where their
loyalties belong, all gets a bit messy. Lee and fellow Otago
import Ryan ten Doeschate trot around the globe playing in
different twenty/20 tournaments and have a long list of teams
they have represented.
But the topic was thoroughly canvassed before they signed and
although they may be called on for their IPL teams, or in ten
Doeschate's case, his county team as well, Otago Cricket
Association chief executive Ross Dykes is reasonably
confident both would be available for Otago if required.
''Both those two blokes don't believe they will be picked in
the top 15 for their IPL team because they weren't last
James Fuller is contracted with Gloucestershire and his
loyalty belongs with his county. But if it does not make the
final of the Friends Life t20 then he would also be available
And Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum, who has not played
for Otago this season, would also be available for the Volts
because it is the association he is registered with in the
country he is eligible to play international cricket for.
So while it all gets a bit complicated, basically Otago could
have all three imports available to choose from and would be
bolstered by the return of McCullum.
If Otago learnt anything from its last appearance at the
lucrative tournament, it was that it needs firepower to
compete with the world's best twenty/20 teams.
''Twenty/20 is a fickle game and I think you can make the
mistake of spending too much on overseas players,'' Dykes
''But I think this year we've got it pretty right.''
Otago v Canterbury
at the University Oval 5pm today
Otago: Neil Broom, Hamish Rutherford, Aaron Redmond,
Ryan ten Doeschate, Michael Bracewell, Sam Wells, Derek de
Boorder (captain), Ian Butler, Nick Beard, Brett Lee, Jacob
Duffy, Mark Craig, James Fuller, Iain Robertson