Apr 142014
Spinner Craig gets shock Black Caps call-up

Otago offspinner Mark Craig has received a shock callup to the New Zealand test squad to tour West Indies after Jeetan Patel was a late withdrawal last night.

Craig and Wellington gloveman Luke Ronchi are the two uncapped test players named in the 15-man squad for three tests in the Caribbean in June.

Patel, currently playing for English county Warwickshire, was originally picked for his first international in 16 months but made himself unavailable for personal reasons.

He told selector Bruce Edgar he wanted to commit to a full season at Warwickshire, for whom he was player of the year in 2013, and also be close to his wife and baby daughter who are with him in the UK. Daniel Vettori (back) remains unavailable as his recent bowling loads are not up to the intensity of test cricket.

Auckland-born Craig, 27, took 22 wickets at an average of 39.72 in the Plunket Shield. He was the best-performed offspinner and the selectors wanted someone who turns the ball away from the West Indies’ left-handers.

With Ish Sodhi already there, this would have counted against Canterbury legspinner Todd Astle who was the best spinner in the Plunket Shield with 37 wickets at 30.48.

Coach Mike Hesson said Craig provided a nice balance with legspinner Sodhi, with pitches at Kingston, Port-of-Spain and Georgetown expected to turn and favour the home spinners.

”Mark has had a strong Plunket Shield taking 22 wickets and his right-arm off-spinners will be valuable against their left-handed heavy top order batting line-up. He’s been in our sights for some time and was also chosen for our winter training squad.”

Openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford retained their positions and appear to be in a three-way scrap with Tom Latham for two spots at the top of the order.

Ronchi was named as backup gloveman with Latham included purely as a specialist batsman.

”Luke also provides us with middle order batting cover as he’s a good player of spin bowling,” Hesson said.

Jesse Ryder and Doug Bracewell were not considered as they are yet to satisfy the selectors that they have their off-field issues under control.

Meanwhile, test gloveman BJ Watling will captain a New Zealand A side for first-class and one-day matches in England in August. Hesson said the matches would be a good opportunity to look more closely at a number of other players in the build-up to Cricket World Cup 2015.


Brendon McCullum (c) – Otago Volts
Corey Anderson – Northern Knights
Trent Boult – Northern Knights
Mark Craig – Otago Volts
Peter Fulton – Canterbury Wizards
Tom Latham – Canterbury Wizards
James Neesham – Otago Volts
Luke Ronchi – Wellington Firebirds
Hamish Rutherford – Otago Volts
Ish Sodhi – Northern Knights
Tim Southee – Northern Knights
Ross Taylor – Central Stags
Neil Wagner – Otago Volts
BJ Watling – Northern Knights
Kane Williamson – Northern Knights 


BJ Watling (c) – Northern Knights
Hamish Bennett – Canterbury Wizards
Dean Brownlie – Canterbury Wizards
Colin de Grandhomme – Auckland Aces
Anton Devcich – Northern Knights (returns after one-day matches)
Grant Elliott – Wellington Firebirds
Matt Henry – Canterbury Wizards
Scott Kuggeleijn – Northern Knights
Tom Latham – Canterbury Wizards
Adam Milne – Central Stags
Daryl Mitchell – Northern Knights
Colin Munro – Auckland Aces (returns after one-day matches)
Hamish Rutherford – Otago Volts
Ish Sodhi – Northern Knights (returns after one-day matches)

Added to the NZA squad for the two three-day matches:

Todd Astle – Canterbury Wizards
Michael Bracewell – Otago Volts
Mark Craig – Otago Volts

– © Fairfax NZ News

Apr 142014
Patel rules himself out of Windies tour

Wellington offspinner Jeetan Patel sensationally withdrew from the New Zealand test squad to tour West Indies last night as he was poised to end a 16-month absence from international cricket.

Patel was contacted by national selector Bruce Edgar in England, where he is beginning another county stint with Warwickshire, to tell him the good news he’d been picked in the 15-man squad for three tests in June. But Patel made himself unavailable, saying he wanted to focus on a full season with Warwickshire, for whom he was player of the year in 2013, and be with his wife and baby daughter who are based with him in the UK.

He stressed he hadn’t retired from international cricket.

It left Edgar and coach Mike Hesson a tough decision to pick a second spinner to partner Ish Sodhi in what is expected to be spin-friendly conditions in the Caribbean in June. Canterbury legspinner Todd Astle appeared next cab off the rank but nothing had been finalised last night.

Other likely features of the squad to be named in Christchurch today include a reprieve for openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford who are expected to be pitted in a three-way scrap with Tom Latham, and a possible callup for Wellington gloveman Luke Ronchi as backup wicketkeeper/batsman.

Spin was a strong focus for the selectors, with a mandatory two specialist spinners and batsmen best equipped to counter the dual threat of mystery offspinners Sunil Narine and Shane Shillingford.

Patel’s 19-test career (52 wickets at an average of 48) looked to be floundering after his last series in South Africa in January 2013. But the 33-year-old’s county form for Warwickshire on turning pitches was compelling (51 wickets at 23 in 2012, 52 wickets at 30 last year), and he was excellent in recent weeks for Wellington’s title-winning one-day side before returning to England.

A potential West Indies batting lineup featuring four left-handers – Chris Gayle, Darren Bravo, Kieran Powell and Shivnarine Chanderpaul – appeared to help Patel’s cause and count against Astle. He was second on the Plunket Shield charts with 37 wickets at 30, and offers more with the bat, but two legspinners is a risk. Left-armer Bruce Martin is contracted to NZC but hasn’t bounced back from being dropped in Bangladesh last October, and no other spinners demanded selection.

Plunket Shield run machine Latham appears a certainty for one opening slot in the first test at Kingston on June 8, with Rutherford and Fulton contesting the other berth in two warmup games in Kingston. Both can count themselves fortunate after lean home summers, with Rutherford probably having his nose in front.

Ronchi, who is uncapped at test level, provides genuine wicketkeeping backup to BJ Watling and middle order batting cover.

Hesson said last week promising paceman Matt Henry (side strain) wouldn’t be considered, and it seems there aren’t enough spots to fit in a final paceman, with Mark Gillespie and Hamish Bennett both on the cusp.

Allrounders Corey Anderson and Jimmy Neesham give Hesson options and if they play two spinners, it seems likely that Tim Southee and Trent Boult will be the two quicks with Neil Wagner missing the 11.

Spin has dominated in the West Indies’ first-class competition in recent weeks.

Hesson will also name a New Zealand A squad today for first-class and one-day matches in England.

Likely test squad: Brendon McCullum (c), Tom Latham, Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling, Luke Ronchi, Jimmy Neesham, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Todd Astle, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult.

– © Fairfax NZ News


Apr 142014
Harris’ shirt evokes memories
Chris Harris’s shirt collection


FOUR WORLD CUPS: Chris Harris’s shirt collection dates from 1992, which he is wearing, to from left: 1996, 1999 and 2003.

When Chris Harris sees his old, now-iconic 1992 Cricket World Cup shirt, he relives the tournament with a minute-long video is his mind.

It starts great with the side’s 37-run upset win in the tournament opener against Australia.

It carries on building its excitement levels with further wins, each one raising the drama.

Victories against Sri Lanka, South Africa and Zimbabwe flick by.Wins over the West Indies, India then England bring back the feeling of sitting on top of the nine-team table before a quick dart over a round-robin loss to Pakistan.

That’s quickly glossed over in ”Harry’s” mind-movie because it’s the next game against Pakistan which takes his focus, like a James Bond film villain.

”That game” as he calls the semifinal loss to a star-studded Pakistan side which would go on and win the tournament. 

”Then you get to that game, and it’s a bit of a sad ending to the movie.”

All that from a shirt.

It was Harris’ first of four World Cups and is easily the one he’s asked most often about.

”I think there’s a resurgence of those shirts too,” he said.

”I’ve started seeing them all over the place and not just here, I was in Germany recently and saw one.”

Harris played 250 one-day games for New Zealand and jokes he wore every type of shirt made ”except the beige”, from terrible teal through a range of bizarre blues to the black they wear today.

The grey 1992 number with the multi-coloured shoulder stripes to represent the nine competing countries, instantly takes Harris, now 44, back 22 years to the first World Cup played in coloured clothing.

”I remember the whole atmosphere, of the opening match and the entire tournament, up until our last day,” he said.

”What few people remember is we’d just been beaten 3-0 by England in the buildup. We hadn’t had much success before the tournament and no-one had any reason to think that was going to change.

”Then we beat Australia in the first match and went on that run. And the whole country got in behind us, it was pretty special.”

Harris remembers the opening match with alarming accuracy.

The scores players made, who caught who, and the run-outs, though one of them was easy as it was his and cemented New Zealand’s opening match victory.

He ran David Boon out for 100 with a direct hit from the outfield.

”I remember throwing the ball and while it was still miles away, Gavin Larsen pulled his hands out of the way. I was like, ‘what are you doing, we can run him out here and win the game’. And then it hit. The crowd just went silent for what felt like a couple of seconds then just erupted.

”I don’t think they were celebrating the runout, more the fact we were going to win the game, that’s what people were reacting to.”

Harris is wrong; they were reacting to his side on, direct hit run out. It was spectacular. New Zealand went on to win the seven matches in a row before being bundled out by Pakistan in ”that game”, an Eden Park semifinal.

”In the form we were in, we probably should have gone on to win that tournament,” he said.

Harris made the quarterfinals in 1996 when, despite him scoring a career high 130, New Zealand were unable to tip over Australia.

He was part of the 1999 campaign in England knocked out in the semifinals, again by Pakistan and went to the 2003 tournament in South Africa where New Zealand would have made the semifinals, but for refusing to play in Kenya.

”They’re all a bit special to me to be honest. A World Cup is a really special thing to be a part of. But it’s hard to go past the 1992 experience, that’s for sure.”

– © Fairfax NZ News


Apr 142014
Royal couple picks up bat and ball in an event in their NZ and OZ Tour

Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have this morning attended an ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 event as part of their visit to tournament host city Christchurch.

The Royal couple was informed on the role of Christchurch in the event, it is the venue for the opening ceremony and Hagley Oval will host three pool matches, including the opening game and cricketing legends joined them along with 28 local school children for a game of cricket.
They were hosted at the event by ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Head of New Zealand Therese Walsh and Lee Germon, CEO of Canterbury Cricket.
The school children represented seven primary and intermediate schools from across Christchurch namely Bromley Primary School, Cashmere Primary School, Christchurch South Intermediate, Fernside Primary School, Kirkwood Intermediate, Our Lady of Fatima Primary School and St Albans Primary School.
The New Zealand and Canterbury cricketing legends were led by the only two New Zealanders to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame: Sir Richard Hadlee and Debbie Hockley.
Commenting on today’s event, Ms Walsh said, “This has been an amazing celebration of cricket and Christchurch’s role in the ICC Cricket World Cup. We’re delighted to have this opportunity to explain the city’s role to their Royal Highnesses.

Image Credits: Getty Images/ICC

Apr 122014
Black Caps have best Cup chance since 1992

Fairfax Media talks to the coach who oversaw New Zealand’s 1992 World Cup campaign and asks if the current Black Caps can achieve what all others have failed to do.

Our current Black Caps team has the best chance of winning a world cup since 1992 – if players can mentally steel themselves and deal with the pressure – so says the coach of the only side to come close.

A New Zealand cricket team has never made a final of a Cricket World Cup and always struggles at the sharp end of a tournament.

The World T20 tournament just gone saw the Black Caps fail to make it out of pool play after losing to South Africa and Sri Lanka.

At the last one-day world cup, hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, New Zealand made it to the semifinals, where they were beaten by Sri Lanka. In 2007, they made it the semifinals, to be beaten by, you guessed it, Sri Lanka. In 2003 they failed to progress past the “super sixes ” (as it was then). You get the picture.

So back to 1992, when we actually had a chance, but instead Pakistan and England went through to the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with Pakistan winning.

Warren Lees, who coached the highly fancied 1992 side, said players, and management, succumbed to mental pressure.

“We let the occasion, the opportunity, the once-in-a-lifetime thoughts get to us.” Lees said the team let the loss of batsman Martin Crowe, who did not play because of a torn hamstring, stun them and they could not recover.

“When it came to the semifinal we looked to [Crowe] because he had been a very special player and then of course he got injured. But because we had put him on such a pedestal we were a bit stunned, we were possums in the headlights.” Lees said he thought the current Black Caps team had got past relying on one player and should enjoy a “huge advantage” playing at home.

If the Black Caps play well they should get to play their later stage games at home. The world cup quarterfinal venues will be determined after pool play.

If the Black Caps qualify they will play their quarterfinal at Wellington. Australia will play theirs at Adelaide. Other quarterfinals will be assigned to venues based on the travel times and rest days of the teams involved.

Semifinals work the same. Australia and New Zealand will play at home if they qualify. However, should they face each other (which can’t happen in the quarters because they’re in the same group) the home advantage goes to the side who finishes higher in pool play.

Lees, who was interim coach of the White Ferns this summer, said the public would be the biggest asset to the Black Caps. His players rode a wave of public optimism.

“Wherever we went, if we went into a dairy, walking down the street, we could feel the whole country was behind us,” he said.

“New Zealanders are very quick to get behind winning teams, they are also very quick to turn on losing teams, so the current guys will have a huge advantage if they start well.

“This team, they are as close as they can get to being the right team to win the tournament.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

Apr 112014
Gareth Hopkins not allowed back door bow-out

He took nine years to complete his university degree and 16 years to become New Zealand’s most prolific wicketkeeper. On both counts, former Black Cap Gareth Hopkins hung up his gloves a happy man this week.

The 37-year-old Auckland captain hoped to slip quietly away from first-class cricket to a new life in Tauranga with wife Bernadette and sons George, 4, and Henry, 3, but the cat galloped out of the bag.

Having turned up at the national one-day final in Mt Maunganui and chatted to former team-mates in the commentary box, he was suddenly being interviewed on television announcing the end of his career.

“That’s more my style [departing quietly] but I hadn’t caught up with Chris Martin for a while and went to see him and they cornered me,” Hopkins said. “Definitely no regrets. You can look back and pick certain innings apart but I’ll look back on some great memories and lifetime friends.”

His record-breaking achievement passed with little fanfare, during the December test against West Indies in Dunedin. Hopkins went past Ian Smith’s 22-year-old mark of 426 dismissals, and he finished with 435 catches and 26 stumpings for a grand total of 461. He was no slug with the bat either, scoring 7550 runs at 36.65, including 17 centuries, from his 158 matches.

Born in Lower Hutt and raised in Taupo, Hopkins never played for Wellington but donned the caps of Northern Districts, Canterbury, Otago, then Auckland for the final seven years.

He rose to the Auckland captaincy and rates his best cricketing memory as leading them into the main draw of the Twenty20 Champions League in South Africa after they’d been bundled out in qualifying a year earlier.

Current skipper Brendon McCullum left an indelible mark on his career. Not only did Hopkins shift provinces to avoid the country’s top gloveman, he had to await a McCullum absence to get his chance in black.

The birth of McCullum’s son Riley in 2004 handed Hopkins an ODI debut against England at Durham, then four years later his test debut came at Trent Bridge when McCullum tweaked his back at warmups. Peter Fulton had been named to open but with McCullum out, Hopkins was handed his first test cap just before the toss.

“We were both standing there; I was in and Pete was out and I looked at him and said “all right mate”. That was a special moment.

“I’d been touring with the guys for so long as 12th man, backup to Baz [McCullum] and you’ve got to be ready to go. Then when you’re told the night before or match morning that you’re not playing . . . I don’t know how many games I was 12th man in, about five years’ worth I think.”

There were three more tests for Hopkins, all in India in 2010 when McCullum moved up to open, scoring a double-century in Hyderabad.

Hopkins’ eyes were opened to the megastar status of Sachin Tendulkar who travelled separately to the India team on private jets at night to avoid airport crushes.

“You’re bigger than Bollywood and you’re on par with the movie stars. It’s madness. For a cricketer brought up the way we have [been], it’s crazy.

“I was walking up the hotel stairs because the lift was full [in Ahmedabad] and I got stuck halfway up, there were four or five guys lifting a first class airline seat. I said ‘what’s going on’ and they said ‘Sachin doesn’t like his chair so he wants one of these to watch TV’. They were taking it straight to his room.”

Hopkins played four tests, 25 ODIs and 10 Twenty20s. He was awestruck keeping wicket to “the big three” of Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Tendulkar. Shane Bond was bowling quick and Hopkins struggled to get gloves on some unplayable edges, and he marvelled at Daniel Vettori’s control and variation in the Indian heat.

Now life starts all over again. Last Tuesday Hopkins attended a Massey University graduation ceremony, having completed his business degree in finance and economics in just under a decade.

“My wife made me go and do the parade and sit through the ceremony,” he said with a laugh.

“When you’re on tour a few of the guys are playing poker, watching DVDs or going on excursions and I’d lock myself in my room and knock out an assignment.”

Having moved to Tauranga last year for wife Bernadette’s new job, Hopkins has a degree and a new CV and is out door-knocking.

Coaching or the commentary box doesn’t appeal yet, and he hopes to earn a job on merit. “I’ve got a lot to look forward to with a young family – they sacrificed a hell of a lot. The first year my eldest son was born I was away more than I was home. Now it’s focus on them, which is quite exciting.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

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