Harwood gets late interest from IPL
With three days to go before the first ball is bowled in Bangalore, Indian Premier League franchises are still topping up their multimillion-dollar squads.
Which is good news for Shane Harwood, the Victorian fast bowler who is regarded as a smart buy and received a call from former state teammate and Rajasthan Royals captain Shane Warne.
Harwood is a prime example of a cricketer for whom the Twenty20 explosion could work wonders. Though his Cricket Victoria contract is expected to be renewed next month, its value may be reduced on account of the 34-year-old's propensity to blow a shoulder or tweak a hamstring at any time.
But even if his days in first-class cricket are numbered, Harwood could prolong his career and boost his pay considerably with a contract in the IPL. He remains a feared weapon when fit, and last summer was ranked by his peers as the country's best Twenty20 bowler.
Though he is yet to sign, Harwood is ready to fly to India at a moment's notice.
His manager Gerard Sholly confirmed that Jaipur in exotic Rajasthan — where Warne is captain, South African antagonist Graeme Smith is on the playing roster and Bushrangers assistant coach Darren Berry on staff — is interested in one of Ballarat's most formidable exports.
Warne has always been a supporter of Harwood, the rugged former fork-lift driver from Sebastopol, and once said he was Australia's finest proponent of reverse swing.
He has spent previous winters with St Anne's in Lancashire, but like many Australians is now plotting a different path. "We didn't enter the second auction, and with replacement players required, a number of franchises have spoken to him. There's a bit of work to be done but there is a possibility he will be heading off to India," Sholly said.
"From Shane's perspective, it is a great opportunity to play against the best players in the world on a big stage, where if he performs well, further opportunities may follow. He is still committed to Cricket Victoria and that's not going to change in the short term."
Ashley Noffke, Dominic Thornely, Luke Ronchi and Shaun Marsh are among the Australians who did not have the star quality to feature in the player auctions but have since signed with IPL franchises at bargain prices.
Ronchi has said he did not want to look like a "tool" by placing himself in the auctions, but now the big-hitting West Australian wicketkeeper will bat alongside Sachin Tendulkar at Mumbai.
Thornely felt the IPL could "give me more credibility if I get the chance to play for Australia, and also shows the Australian selectors what I'm capable of".
For Harwood, India would seem a more likely destination than Melton, the sub-district club reported to have offered him $25,000 to return to his western roots. According to Sholly, sub-district batsmen can breathe easy.
"It's ridiculous … He can command another (Victorian) contract … He is regarded by the players as one of the best fast bowlers in the competition," he said.
Victoria will know more about its 2008-09 squad today, when paceman Gerard Denton meets officials to discuss his future after a season marred by ankle injuries. He has been contemplating retirement, which would enhance Harwood's hopes.
Opening batsman Michael Klinger has confirmed he is leaving for South Australia, where he hopes regular games will boost his credentials for national selection.