Grant Elliott has felt the crushing blow of the selection axe, so he can sympathise with a few team-mates right now.
The Wellington all-rounder snuck in between Colin Munro and Bruce Martin for the final three spots on the 20-strong New Zealand Cricket contract list, confirmed yesterday by selector/coach Mike Hesson. Whilst there were celebrations in the Elliott household, fellow Firebirds James Franklin, Luke Ronchi and Mark Gillespie, and the perennially unlucky Ian Butler, were among the notable absentees and await the six-month major association contracts to kick in on October 1.
"A couple of years ago I went from a relatively high contract to not getting one and that was pretty brutal. I've been through the highs and lows," Elliott said.
Elliott texted Franklin and Ronchi, his New Zealand team-mates in England, to say he was "gutted" for them. It's never a great time of year for a top cricketer as they await the security of a minimum $73,000 annual retainer which begins on August 1, or a domestic contract which means unemployment from April 1 next year.
There's always some good fortune involved with those in the 16-20 bracket but Elliott believes he got there on merit.
"I was involved in a team with two series wins against some world class teams [South Africa and England]. My performances weren't world class but I put in some important performances when the team needed me."
Having been recalled in January, Elliott averaged 33 from his past six ODI innings before a calf strain ended his England tour. Hesson said Elliott's role in some key partnerships and his cool head in the middle order got him the nod, and kept his dream alive of playing his first World Cup at age 36 in two years' time.
Franklin, meanwhile, went from first choice in the ODI and T20 sides in England to outside the top-20. He helped win New Zealand an ODI series in South Africa but his performances against England fell away badly, and the big strides made by the dynamic all-rounder Corey Anderson didn't help his cause.
Franklin said he was disappointed but declined to comment further. He will join Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor in the new Caribbean Premier League T20 later this month.
Hesson singled out Franklin and Butler as the most unlucky, but backed them both to fight their way back. Martin snuck in to No 20 thanks to Daniel Vettori opting out as he recovers from Achilles tendon surgery.
The top-15 picked themselves, then Anderson demanded inclusion. Newcomers Tom Latham and Colin Munro are yet to fire a shot for New Zealand, the former rated highly but still not an international class gloveman.
Hesson had phone hook-ups with national selection manager Kim Littlejohn and director of cricket John Buchanan before confirming his selections. He ranks the top-25 in all three formats, with test cricket given double the weighting of ODIs and T20, and when all three scores are combined the top-20 get the contracts. The process is set in stone in the eight-year master agreement between NZC and the Players' Association.
"It works OK. You have the odd anomaly but that's where you look at the players who are going to provide you the most likely resource over the next 12 months, at this moment in time."
Hesson acknowledged it was subjective, but added: "If you get frustrated by it you've got to come up with a better solution, and I don't think there is one."
Captain Brendon McCullum is likely to have secured the top retainer of $181,425, with Taylor, Tim Southee and Kane Williamson making up the top-four and Rutherford and McClenaghan debuting in the top-10.
NZC contract list (in possible ranking order): Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Tim Southee, Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Trent Boult, Hamish Rutherford, Mitchell McClenaghan, BJ Watling, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Peter Fulton, Dean Brownlie, Doug Bracewell, Neil Wagner, Tom Latham, Corey Anderson, Colin Munro, Grant Elliott, Bruce Martin.
Newcomers: Rutherford, McClenaghan, Latham, Anderson, Munro, Martin.
Gone from last year: Daniel Vettori (injured), Chris Martin (retired), Jacob Oram (retired in December, replaced by Neil Wagner), James Franklin, Andrew Ellis, Daniel Flynn, Rob Nicol, Tarun Nethula, Kruger van Wyk.
Near misses: Franklin, Ian Butler, Luke Ronchi, Mark Gillespie, Ellis.
- The Dominion Post
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