What the hell is going on with Shane Bond? We've already seen him completely and utterly boned out of representing New Zealand, overlooked by the selectors for playing in the "unsanctioned" ICL competition - the very same selectors who had two of their number appear in the equally "unsanctioned" beach cricket competition which is still being interminably replayed on Sky TV. But there is more bone surgery happening on the Bond front than a page (or episode) of Gray's Anatomy.
Why should he be barred from rolling the arm over for Hampshire? I'm no Chris Comeskey, Chris Harder or Rumpole of the Bailey but there must be a privity of contract issue emerging here. Bondy's had his paperwork torn up and terminated by NZC so no contractual relationship exists between him and the national body. That means he no longer has any official connection to New Zealand cricket: the man with the bionic back is simply a free agent with a Kiwi passport. So when it comes to playing county cricket, surely that is a matter between Bond and his county - and that is sorted as he's got a signed contract with Hampshire tucked into the back pocket of his sensible pants.
However he is currently still prevented from fronting up at The Rose Bowl because NZC - despite no longer having jurisdiction over him as a player - has not issued him a no objection certificate (NOC). These special certificates have been dreamt up by the BCCI/IPL to create an additional barrier for any player who dares try and make a buck outside their league.
The NOCs are presumably issued at the discretion of the player's "relevant" national board. I say presumably because nobody has actually seen one and there is no template available for download on either the ICC or the BCCI websites. So in order to expedite the process for Shane Bond I have made him an NOC myself using clip art and a Microsoft Word template - it wasn't that hard and I'm sure you agree, it looks a million rupees.
Rubbing the proverbial sodium chloride into the Bond wound is the fact that other ICL players have been issued NOCs from their "relevant" home board. Pakistani Mushtaq Ahmed will be flicking his wrist for Sussex, and compatriot Rana Naved-ul-Hasan's bald lid will be thundering in for Yorkshire at Headingley as well. The Pakistan board has shown some pragmatism and common sense and issued NOCs for both their former players in some format or other - in Mushy's case they flip-flop-flipped as they issued one, revoked it, then issued another.
Cricket Australia has also pseudo-issued an NOC to Glamorgan in relation to Jason Gillespie but said: "We can't sign 'no objection' certificates because we don't have them in Australia". Glamorgan said they received a letter from Cricket Australia but "don't believe it is worded strongly enough to be a no objection certificate". Helpful, in a Mr Magoo sort of way. Well, you are free to use my Bond template cobbers and boyos. Hopefully someone somewhere can pull together a Cricket Australia version of an NOC for the Adelaide bogan and assault victim.
Of course the BCCI is ramping up to go ballistic and will now throw its toys at the English board for allowing ICL-affiliated players to take part in its county competition, despite the NOCs being issued. In other words, even where an NOC has been drawn up, the BCCI will still not be appeased in its anti-ICL mission. As Niranjan Shah, the BCCI's secretary, told Cricinfo this week: "We have an understanding with the other countries' boards that they can't allow players who are associated with the ICL to be allowed to play at any level, regardless of the reason the player has a contract with his board or not."
Um, slight issue with that last bit there, Mr Shah - it's normally quite hard to stop someone plying their trade if you don't have a contract with them. The ECB has no way of preventing the Mushtaq, Rana and Gillespie's participation because their no objection certificates (or their paperwork equivalents) have been issued.
How can the tentacles of the BCCI's crusade to obliterate a domestic competition be allowed to (i) undermine/influence England's county competition; and (ii) exclude free agents from taking part? It is a nonsense. The obsession with destroying the ICL is seeing things being taken a long way past the boundaries of fairness and reasonableness, and down the road of global paralysis. Do we want to be in the position where the BCCI/IPL is required to sign off on every element of cricket-related activity the world over?
Lawyers around the cricketing milieu will be grooming their wigs as they swot up on the ins and outs of restraint of trade, before pre-ordering their new convertibles and booking their holidays to Provence and Monte Carlo.
On the bright side, Pakistan and Australia have given NZC a precedent - we wouldn't have dared to be the first to issue an NOC, but even the most deluded boards must realise there is a problem with trying to control free agents.
A question to ponder is who Bond could sue should common sense does not prevail. Hampshire for not honouring his contract? NZC for not downloading my NOC and signing it? Or the ECB for inducing Hampshire to breach their contract with Bond? Mercifully at this stage, he does not appear to be the litigious type, but others will not be so genteel.
Whatever comes next in this sequence of shambolic events, let's not lose sight of the fact that Shane Bond could still be a pretty handy team member in limited-overs cricket. It's not in the interests of NZ cricket for childish games to be played and the relationship with one of our best cricketers of the last decade ending up irrevocably damaged for the sake of a stupid piece of paper.
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