Cricket: Battle for top player may hot up

Otago has 5 million reasons to pull a lot harder in the tug of war for Brendon McCullum's services.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) expects to know in the next month whether the winner of the domestic twenty/20 tour will be invited to compete in the lucrative Champions League in India in October. NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan told the Herald on Sunday the Champions League board has given him an assurance he will be notified before the twenty/20 final on March 1.

The winning team will pocket a cheque for $US3 million ($NZ 5.65 million). Not bad for less than three hours' work.

With that sort of money on the line, the battle for McCullum's services could get ugly.

The world-class wicketkeeper-batsman was cleared to play for New South Wales in the final of the Australian twenty/20 tournament on Saturday night. By playing for New South Wales, he is now eligible to play for the Australian side in the Champions League.

If his Indian Premier League side, the Kolkata Knight Riders, qualifies, and Otago wins the New Zealand tournament, McCullum will be torn between three teams all vying for his services. Kolkata has contracted him for a whopping $950,000 and will get first dibs. But if Kolkata does not qualify, New South Wales and Otago will be desperate to name him in their respective squads.

McCullum set the the Indian Premier League alight with 158 off just 73 balls in the opening match.

Last season, he helped Otago win its first major trophy in 20 years when he whacked 170 off 108 balls in the State Shield final. He is one of the few players in world cricket capable of playing such an innings and that makes him hot property.

Vaughan said NZC would be paid a transfer fee of US$200,000 if McCullum turned out for Kolkata or New South Wales.



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