Cricket: Positive spin put on shortest form

Shane Bond.
Shane Bond.
When Shane Bond ripped through the Pakistan batting line-up in Dunedin in November, he did so out of his love of the game.

He got a match fee, of course - about $7000, which worked out about $875 for each of his eight wickets.

On Tuesday night, the Kolkata Knight Riders paid a million dollars ($US750,000) at auction for the Black Caps fast bowler.

That is about $NZ70,000 a match, or a cool $23,000 an hour.

Those of a more cynical bent might believe Bond's retirement from test cricket had less to do with an abdominal tear than clearing his schedule so he could maximise his earning potential in the lucrative Indian Premier League.

And for a million dollars for 14 round-robin matches, who could blame him? Still, it seems obscene in a country where many people are starving and beg on the streets.

And what about the cost to cricket? How many more top players will retire early to cash in on the twenty/20 circuit? Could twenty/20 be the ruination of test cricket?

Otago coach Mike Hesson does not believe so.

He was in the secretly dismissive camp when the game was introduced to New Zealand in 2005-06.

But he has seen first-hand how twenty/20 has had a positive effect on the game.

It is dragging crowds through the gates, and the money on offer for the world's elite players is keeping talented athletes in the sport, players who may have otherwise been lost to cricket.

"If you are a promising youngster who is a good athlete and good at a number of sports, cricket is now a real option," Hesson said.

"It can set you up for life, and without twenty/20 that was not really an option. We lost a lot of talented athletes to other sports."

Dual cricket and rugby international Jeff Wilson ended his rugby career as one of our most celebrated All Blacks, but what would he do these days? With the sort of money on offer in cricket and the lifestyle that comes with it, the next Wilson may choose the summer game, a decision that was unthinkable just a few years ago.

"In the past, if you were involved in cricket in New Zealand, you could make a living. But you couldn't set yourself up for life after sport, whereas now, if you are an elite player and you do well, you certainly get extremely well remunerated," Hesson said.

While he acknowledges some players will be lost to test cricket, with the money on offer in competitions like the IPL proving too hard to resist, he does not believe IPL will cannibalise international cricket.

"Others may see it differently. But unless you are able to perform on the international stage, and that includes test cricket, then your value in the IPL will be limited."

Hesson is in his fifth season as Otago coach and before that was the assistant coach for a season.

During his involvement he has seen the profile of the sport and the Otago players "increase exponentially".

"I think once we won our first national title in 20 years [in 2007-08], the interest down in Otago certainly increased," he said, adding the introduction of twenty/20 and Brendon McCullum's return had also played a big part in the sport's upswing in the region.

"You see kids wandering around with Volts T-shirts on, and they know who all the players are. Twenty/20 is entertaining and people want to come and see it."

Arguably, some of the Volts players are more recognisable than some of the Highlanders.

Certainly, McCullum is a household name and the likes of Neil Broom, Ian Butler and Nathan McCullum have growing reputations.

A quick quiz of some Otago Daily Times workers revealed a limited rugby knowledge but they did markedly better naming Otago cricketers.

• Otago is unlikely to make any changes for its twenty/20 match against Canterbury at the University Oval tomorrow night.

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