Shane Bond has signed with the rebel league in India and, barring a late U-turn, has played his last game for New Zealand.
In a bombshell for the sport, the champion fast bowler has accepted what is understood to be a $600,000 deal from the Indian Cricket League to play in its Twenty20 competition.
His move effectively sees him banned from the Black Caps, though New Zealand Cricket prefers to use the term "overlooked for selection".
Bond declined to comment last night but NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan conceded he was all but lost to the game in this country because he was linking with a league that runs in direct competition with the International Cricket Council's Twenty20 tournament.
Vaughan described the prospect of losing Bond as "terribly disappointing".
"I know we haven't seen very much of him lately, but you always hope your last injury is your last one," Vaughan said.
"We'd love to see him playing for New Zealand and that is why we have turned over so many stones, but at the moment we are on the back foot."
Vaughan refused to be critical of Bond last night.
"I don't think it is a question of loyalty here. He is a champion and we'd be very sorry to lose him."
Vaughan said he had met Bond countless times to try to persuade him to join the sanctioned Indian Premier League but had not managed to change his mind.
However, he offered an olive branch, saying NZC would pay any legal bill to extricate Bond from his rebel contract.
"I can't say for certain he has signed but I understand that is what his agent [Leanne McGoldrick] is saying," Vaughan said.
"Even if he has signed with the ICL, we'd love to see if there was a way to get him out of that contract and we'll fund all the support to get him out of it, similar to what Pakistan has done with Mohammad Yousuf."
Vaughan said Bond's preference for the rebel league over the IPL had to be the size of the offer.
"I know there have been attractive IPL offers and we've all seen what the likes of Stephen Fleming and co [$450,000] are getting, so one assumes the offer from the ICL is quite superior."
McGoldrick would not comment last night, other than to say that her star pupil intended to honour his NZC contract through to its termination in May.
But NZC will not entertain selecting Bond through to May, according to Vaughan, because it would jeopardise its relationship with the ICC, on which it relies heavily for funding.
Bond is sidelined by an abdominal tear but is making good progress and would have been available for the series against England, starting next month.
"Our preference is for the selectors not to chose those [rebel] players," Vaughan said. "It is not a ban, but it would be fair to say if he has signed we would prefer he didn't play in the England series."
Bond, regarded as New Zealand's finest fast bowler since Richard Hadlee, is the second biggest name for the rebel league behind Brian Lara.
His $600,000 contract is close to three times what he earns with NZC and is security for a 32-year- old who has a young family and a injury-prone body.
He has taken 79 wickets in 17 tests at an average of 22.39 and 125 one-day wickets at 19.32.
- The Dominion Post
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