Employment law contracts could determine whether evergreen all-rounder Chris Harris plays cricket for Canterbury as a free agent this season.
By declining a contract with Canterbury, Harris seems certain to sign for the recently formed big-money rebel group in India which is looking to launch a Twenty20 league in October and November.
New Zealand Cricket made its position clear last week, saying that any players who signed would be in breach of contract if they had signed with NZC.
Harris could technically be considered to appear for Canterbury on a match-by-match basis but whether NZC would sanction this is an issue. Non-contracted players do appear for major associations and at international level and NZC might have to consider whether it would ban any rebels.
If Harris, whose history with Canterbury goes back 18 seasons, made himself available it could be the subject of an employment rights wrangle.
NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan has said he would not get into a hypothetical situation of "what if" as Harris had neither yet signed for the ICL nor had he made himself available for Canterbury.
However, given NZC's stance, it is unlikely that it would embrace Harris back into its domestic championship no matter how much coach Dave Nosworthy and local followers would.
Nosworthy was yesterday coming to terms with the likelihood of being without the backbone of his team for the coming season after Harris had been poised to captain the side for a third successive season.
"It's a huge loss for us," said Nosworthy, who was informed by Harris of his decision two nights ago.
Harris had been given an extension of time to decide on his contract.
He was undoubtedly the top-ranked Canterbury player.
But about $30,000 for a season, plus match fees, does not equate to salaries in the rebel league, which is believed to be tossing about sums between $275,000 and $575,000, depending on the status of the player.
"Harry did not say what he was going to do but I could understand his looking elsewhere in the circumstances. He just said he was unable to take up our offer," said Nosworthy.
Harris follows fellow former international Nathan Astle, who had initially indicated interest in playing a season with Canterbury, in declining a contract offer.
Nosworthy said Canterbury would now consider its options for contracting another player.
"We will probably look within New Zealand as it is getting late to look overseas but we still have a little time to sort things out."
Nosworthy said Harris would be sorely missed for his vast experience on and off the field.
Harris first appeared for Canterbury in 1989-90 and debuted for the Black Caps one-day team soon after. He has been a cornerstone of Canterbury teams since being the fastest player to 5000 runs achieving the milestone in 109 innings with 12 centuries.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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