SYDNEY, Australia (CMC):West Indies captain Jason Holder believes parity in earnings will motivate players to focus more on international cricket instead of solely on the lucrative Twenty20 format.Holder was responding to claims by England star Kevin Pietersen that the game’s biggest stars, especially those from West Indies, were being lost to international cricket because of the lure of T20s.Pietersen, a former Test star who now peddles his talents on the T20 circuit, said that the International Cricket Council needed to intervene to ensure that there were competitive financial incentives available to players in international cricket.”I think it’s possibly a way to keep [Test cricket] alive. Obviously, we’re in a situation where the money isn’t great for us at the moment, and we’ve been in numerous battles for that, but that’s beyond our control at this present time,” Holder told reporters yesterday.”At the end of the day, hopefully, somewhere along the line we can have an increase in pay and be paid a little bit better than at the moment.”Pietersen was echoing sentiments similar to those of West Indies’ chief selector Clive Lloyd, who said on Friday that the money on offer on the global T20 circuit had resulted in several Caribbean players opting out of Test cricket.West Indies players like Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Samuel Badree, and AndrÈ Russell are all campaigning in the Big Bash League, while an inexperienced Caribbean side has been locked in a three-Test series with Australia.Holder said priority needed to be placed on international cricket and believed players would take this option once there was some balance, financially, with T20s.”I think we need to strike a balance, and I’m not knocking T20 cricket because I love T20 cricket myself, but we just need to find a way where the country comes first and then we are flexible in terms of allowing people to make money outside of international cricket,” the 24-year-old said.”I don’t think we should be playing hardball and deny people from going and playing, but there has to be a situation where we make international cricket our first priority. I think once we get to that stage, the players will buy in.”
“We look forward to sitting down with track officials in the future and working with them toward a possible return in the future.” But that won’t happen unless either IRL or speedway officials soften their stance. Zucker pressed the IRL for the June 4 date, a week after the Indianapolis 500, but lost it to another ISC-owned track, Watkins Glen, N.Y. There were other lesser options discussed. “They offered April 9, the same date as the Long Beach Grand Prix,” Zucker said. “That was not an option, not as stewards of motorsports or good neighbors. They also offered several summer days, but because of the weather, that was not an option. “They also listed Labor Day, but we didn’t have that option.” The speedway hosts a NASCAR Nextel Cup race on Labor Day Sunday. Zucker said Wednesday’s announcement will not impact this year’s effort. And she asked for understanding from open-wheel fans. “We tried, but it just didn’t work out,” she said. “Who knows what the future will bring, but we definitely plan to stay in touch with the IRL.” Ungar said both sides worked hard at trying to find a date. “With the schedule that currently exists at Fontana, there were more than several dates proposed back and forth,” Ungar said. “Both ISC and the league worked very hard at trying to make something work. But if it can’t work, we can’t put a date, just any date, on the schedule that will hurt the track and the series, because that certainly doesn’t serve the market well.” “I just threw my hands up,” Zucker said. “I just didn’t understand. I mean, we asked a lot of questions. I don’t see how losing the country’s second-biggest market helps their TV partners.” Ungar said losing the market was painful but part of doing business. “Los Angeles is a great market for us. If you look just, for example, at the Indy 500 rating in Los Angeles, it was outstanding for the IndyCar Series on television,” Ungar said. “It’s not really a question of choosing to not be in a market so much as not being able to make a certain venue work with its particular schedule. “We have to take it as its presented to us. It’s not so much a decision on the market. That issue would have occurred no matter where that track was located. It just so happens it was located in the second-largest media market which we need to return to soon.” Zucker’s bid for a June 4 race was thwarted by distance and potential weather issues. “They were concerned about rain at Indianapolis and maybe having to run the race later,” Zucker said. “We told them them we were prepared to postpone it to a later date if needed.” Ungar: “A California date post-Indy would have put an unacceptable burden on our teams to make the California date and time logistically. This problem would have only been compounded if we had rain at Indy as we’ve seen in past years. “Additionally, the June 4 date was viewed as optimal for Watkins Glen as determined by ISC as it has to balance all its competing interests internally and come up with a schedule that’s best for the fans, for the tracks and their shareholders.” Ungar strongly denied the IRL was giving up on the West, considering the three lost races. “Both live events and television, we do very well in the West. The West will be a continued object to expand our schedule,” Ungar said. “It happens that when you look at compression and the Nextel Cup schedule at Fontana, really the same issue at Phoenix, it just wasn’t feasible for us to do an event at those venues. Both Phoenix and L.A. continue to be good events for us from a television market perspective. We certainly would look at going back.” The IRL, according to Ungar, is firm in the belief that cutting back will strengthen the future of the sanctioning body. “The best way I could say it is sometimes you got to take a step back to go forward. We need to make sure we’re racing in places that make good business sense,” Ungar said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Gillian Zucker and her California Speedway staff heard the Indy Racing League announcement about the 2006 schedule on Wednesday, and they still can’t quite believe their ears. Even after months of discussions with the sanctioning body, the news no IRL race at California Speedway was stunning. “We disagree with the decision,” said Zucker, speedway president. “We aggressively went after a date. We are disappointed we are not on the schedule. “The primary reasons for the compacted schedule are momentum and consistency,” said Brian Barnhart, IRL president and chief operating officer. “Scheduling our races on a consistent basis in a compacted time frame will give us momentum from the drop of the green flag in Miami into the month of May, right through the heart of our season and into the championship point battle.” There were other reasons for the change. “The tight lineup of races will make for increased fan interest, more sustained storylines from week to week and a more defined season,” said Ken Ungar, the IRL senior vice president for business affairs. “Finishing before the NFL and college football seasons get into full swing will definitely increase overall exposure for our sport. Our broadcast partners, ABC and ESPN, were the catalyst in moving in this direction and the prime mover in helping us get there.” In essence, the Fontana date was a victim of that decision. This year’s series season finale at California Speedway is set for Oct. 15-16, much later than next’s year Sept. 10 finale at Chicago. “As part of our compression process, we worked very hard to find a suitable date for Fontana and suggested a number of different dates,” Ungar said. “However, with the two Nextel Cup dates, the need to maintain separation between other dates at the California Speedway, and competing events not only in Los Angeles but throughout the southwest in the spring of the year, we couldn’t find a date that worked for everyone. “We think this market is phenomenal for open-wheel racing, and it was primed for the IRL to take off.” Instead, the IRL shrunk its season by eight weeks and three races, also dropping events at Phoenix and Pikes Peak in Colorado. The compacted scheduled will feature 14 races in 25 weeks, including seven in a 11-week summertime stretch.