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.

NEW ZEALAND TEST SQUAD FOR WEST INDIES:

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 

NEW ZEALAND A SQUAD FOR TOUR TO ENGLAND:

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
 
Harris’ shirt evokes memories
Chris Harris’s shirt collection

STACEY SQUIRES

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

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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

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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
 
Cricket privatisation seen as good in principle

The Canterbury Cricket Association welcomes a move to third-party investment, suggesting it will benefit all aspects of the domestic game, including the grass-roots level.

They do not, however, have a deep-pocketed money man waiting in the wings to buy into the association.

They did when the idea was first mooted more than three seasons ago, but the anonymous Christchurch businessman with links overseas has now lost interest.

The introduction of third-party investment into domestic cricket is one of 17 of recommendations by a working party made to New Zealand Cricket.

The working party was designed to come up with ways to breath life into the slowly dying domestic game.

It makes no money, barely rates a flicker on the public-interest levels and is not producing international-ready cricketers.

And while third-party investment is only one of 17 recommendations, it has already been agreed upon by the six major associations (MAs), the New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association (NZCPA) and New Zealand Cricket.

The rules need to be established and that is being done at the moment, though the goal is for MAs wanting to sell off part of their business being able to do so by the start of next summer.

A common fear is that wealthy investors will come in, take over the associations’ Twenty20 sides – the most likely part to make money – and forget the rest.

Canterbury Cricket chief executive Lee Germon, who was part of the working party, said that “definitely” would not be the case. A number of potential conflicts had been identified and Germon said rules would be established to ensure the safety of cricket at all levels.

He also suggested partial privatisation could help grassroots cricket.

Germon said if the right people were involved, people with strong business contacts and the ability to bring in more money and turn the association into more of a money-making venture, that money would help all levels of cricket.

The MAs will only be allowed to sell up to 49 per cent of their business and the investors and the amount paid need to be approved by New Zealand Cricket.

“So currently we get to spend 100 per cent of our profits,” Germon said. “But 51 per cent of a good profit could well be a lot better than 100 per cent of not very much.”

The interested party Canterbury Cricket had previously lined up is understood to have had 11 investors ready to front up with $25,000 each.

And that sort of multiple-investor setup could be more attractive than one person or business stumping up a big chunk of money.

But money was not the main goal behind the privatisation, he said.

Both Germon and NZCPA boss Heath Mills said the improvement of the domestic game across all three formats was the crucial factor.

“We’ve been pretty keen on the structure of the domestic game being reviewed for quite a while now,” Mills said.

“Principally, that stems from the fact domestic cricket is currently viewed as a development programme for the Black Caps, so all the decisions regarding it play second fiddle to the international game.”

Mills said by tweaking the structure, and possibly putting it under a different entity, it would be able to grow much better as a product.

That, too, if it were done correctly, could help player development .

“The better our domestic competition is, the better the players coming out of it will be,” he said.

“We’re really excited by the fact that New Zealand Cricket is reviewing the structure because we’ve been operating under the same governance structure for 100 years.”

Mills said privatisation made sense and the current model was abnormal.

“Around the world, 90 per cent of professional sport is privately owned and run, and is pretty successful.

“New Zealand Cricket wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t offer this as an option.”

With the current model not working, there is also a “what have we got to lose?” attitude from parties keen on the move.

Germon said Canterbury was keen to test the waters with third-party investment, and had been for some time.

Until the rules were all in place, however, they would not be hunting potential investors.

Former Canterbury and New Zealand player Chris Harris was pleased to hear the CCA was open to change, and he supported anything that helped the domestic game.

Harris who, with 251 matches for Canterbury across all three formats, is the association’s most capped player, said the move “made perfect sense”.

“Domestic cricket hasn’t had the support for a while now, and anything that can be done to change that is a good thing. I’m glad they’re being pro-active, but I also think it’s good only 49 per cent can be sold.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

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