April 25, 2008

IPL an incentive, not a distraction

IPL an incentive, not a distraction - How
Jamie How insists there is no ill-feeling towards New Zealand players in the Indian Premier League - and has urged the rest of the squad to seize their chance to get noticed for the tournament.

With captain Daniel Vettori in India, How will be skipper against MCC at Arundel on Sunday when New Zealand starts preparations for its three-Test series against England.

Vice-captain Brendon McCullum is also playing in the Twenty20 tournament - he smashed 158 in his first match - along with Ross Taylor, Kyle Mills and Jacob Oram.

Coach John Bracewell insists there is unity in his squad and How believes the money and exposure of the IPL is an incentive to perform.

"I think everyone wishes they will be in India at some point," he said.

"It's like our coach says, our best players are over there and it is something to aim for. We're happy for the guys that are over there."

Ironically, How's opposite number this weekend will be former New Zealand skipper Chris Cairns, with Nathan Astle also in the MCC line-up.

Bracewell admits the situation of missing players could have a destabilising effect, but also argued that problems can arise from a number of scenarios tourists face.

"It's not ideal but it is the reality of the landscape we live in and it's a great opportunity," he said.

"It's the landscape of our salaries in New Zealand. For us we see it as a glass half full rather than half empty - it brings us into line with rugby [salaries]."

Bracewell will have his IPL players returning next week, with Mark Gillespie travelling home and Michael Mason staying in England.

When his five senior players arrive in England, squad discussions will continue over how to deal with the IPL.

Bracewell believes much of New Zealand's previous preparations have been fractured anyway by split tours and different one-day and Test personnel.

"It's something we've discussed openly as a group, at length during our summer, and we are still discussing it," he explained.

"It is part of the growth and maturity of this team that we have to work in this landscape. You are always looking for ideals, this is reality - we have to adapt quickly to comings and goings."

He added: "All things have potential for [friction]. Our particular group understand it. It's incentive-based and an opportunity to bring us into line with [the salaries of] other Test nations."

Despite fringe players being given the platform to impress, the reality is that New Zealand's five 'superstars' will be in the side for the first Test, at Lord's on May 15.

"Superstars? We're a team," said How.

"The guys are realistic about the guys coming in. They are our senior players. There is the opportunity to press for selection and you can only go out and do your best."

With Stephen Fleming's retirement adding to their problems, New Zealand is regarded in England as overwhelming underdogs as it looks to rebuild. This despite having beaten England in the one-day series, and the first Test of their three-Test series in New Zealand last month.

Bracewell himself has been suggested as a possible departure, with the 50-year-old linked with a return to Gloucestershire.

"There are a lot of options out there for coaches as well as players," he said.

"I'm constantly in touch with them because I built up a lot of relationships. It's something that is not out of the question.

"I want to return to county because I really enjoyed the cricket played, the structure and the lifestyle."