Cricket: Fleming gives himself a big cut in pay

By David Leggat

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming handed himself a pay cut with his decision to stand down as one-day skipper after last month's World Cup.

As the players association this weekend ponders the list of those to whom New Zealand Cricket are offering their 20 contracts, there is a financial spinoff from the likelihood of two captains when their international programme resumes with the Twenty20 world championship in South Africa in September.

When contracts are being sorted out, the captaincy is taken out of the equation. Fleming - assuming he remains test captain, as he's signalled he wants to do - and whoever leads the one-day side, are assessed purely as players.

However, there is a separate payment for the captain(s), of about $50,000. With Fleming handing in his ODI notice, that fee will be split between two leaders, unless the national selectors decide the time is right for a new test captain as well, and that person happens to also be their ODI choice.

The No 1 ranked player will receive $128,000, scaling down in $5000 lots to the bottom four who each get $48,000, with match fees topping up the basic retainer.

For example, 10 tests, 15 ODIs and 6 Twenty20s over the year would be worth an extra $106,500.

The selectors, coach John Bracewell, Glenn Turner, Sir Richard Hadlee and Dion Nash, with New Zealand team manager Lindsay Crocker, have done their list and it's in the hands of the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association.

"We assess each players' likely value over the next 12 months, and one of the pointers to that is their performance over the last 12 months," Crocker said yesterday.

"Obviously the top performing players are usually the ones that are top of the contract list, but if you're on the list this year it doesn't guarantee you anything.

"I guess it's a nervous time for players. They're chewing their nails wondering if they're on a retainer for the following year."

Crocker said those on contract this year had no advantage over those who weren't - "it's not a closed shop by any means".

Heath Mills, manager of the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association, said their role was to ensure the process was followed correctly and raise questions on players who have missed out or conversely have made a big jump up the list. Players are only told their ranking, no one else's.

"As long as they demonstrate they've been through a good process then we're comfortable with the list," Mills said of a procedure which is in its sixth year.

Nineteen of last year's 20 players are eligible again, the exception being the now-retired Nathan Astle. Of the 19, only Canterbury opener Michael Papps did not appear for New Zealand in any of the three forms of international cricket in the last year.

However, Papps was the supreme performer in the State Championship, winning the Redpath Cup as top domestic batsman. His 1005 runs at 91.36 broke provincial records, he had the top aggregate and was second in the averages to Daniel Vettori's misleadingly inflated 123.0 from three innings.

Some players were rarely sighted - Jamie How, Mathew Sinclair and Chris Martin (all two tests), Andre Adams (3 ODIs, 2 Twenty20s) - but most will retain their contracts. Massive turnover would send a negative signal and in any case there are not many who missed out last year who could mount a highly persuasive argument this time round.

The top earners are likely to include - in no special order - Fleming, Daniel Vettori, Shane Bond, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram and Brendon McCullum.

HOW THE CONTRACTS WORK

* New Zealand selectors choose their top 25 players in tests and ODIs on separate lists. The top player gets 25 points, the bottom gets one. The lists are combined and the top 20 receive one-year contracts, the bottom five dropping off into the major association contract list which runs from October 1 to April 15.

* The top player receives $128,000, the second $123,000 and they drop from there in $5000 lots. Players No 17-20 each receive $48,000.

* Players receive match fees on top of that, $6000 per test, $2500 per ODI and $1500 per Twenty20 match.

* Players called into the national team who are not on contract receive $1000 a week. The captain, or captains, have a special payment totalling about $50,000 on top of their contract and match fees.

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