As­tle in hunt for elu­sive ODI de­but

Nelson Mail - - SPORT - BRENDON EGAN

En­cour­aged by kind words from In­dian bat­ting great Rahul Dravid, luck­less legspin­ner Todd As­tle has his eyes set on an over­due one-day in­ter­na­tional de­but.

Af­ter star­ring for New Zealand A last month, As­tle was poised to wear the black shirt in an ODI for the first time dur­ing the Black Caps tour of In­dia.

A small groin tear, three de­liv­er­ies into his spell, dur­ing a warmup match against the In­dian Pres­i­dents XI scup­pered his chances, putting him on an early flight home.

It was a cruel blow for the 31-year-old, who has been among the best per­form­ers in do­mes­tic cricket over the past four years, but bat­tled for in­ter­na­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Fit-again As­tle re­turns for Can­ter­bury in the Plun­ket Shield against Welling­ton at the Basin Re­serve, start­ing on Wed­nes­day - his 100th first-class match for the prov­ince.

He is des­per­ate to im­press and push his se­lec­tion claims for the Black Caps’ ODI squad for their three-match series against the West Indies, be­gin­ning at Whangarei’s Cob­ham Oval on De­cem­ber 20.

There is an ex­tra in­cen­tive with games two and three at his Ha­gley Oval home ground on De­cem­ber 23 and 26, where he has en­joyed con­sid­er­able suc­cess for Can­ter­bury over the years.

De­spite the dis­ap­point­ment in In­dia, As­tle’s en­thu­si­asm hasn’t waned.

He was the form bowler for New Zealand A, which in­cluded stand­out fig­ures of 4-22 in a one­day match against In­dia A. His deeds weren’t lost on for­mer In­dian run-scor­ing ma­chine Dravid, who la­belled it among the best legspin spells he’d seen in In­dian con­di­tions.

As­tle played with the man fa­mously dubbed ‘The Wall’ for his staunch tech­nique and abil­ity to bat all day, dur­ing a 2009 first-class match for Can­ter­bury.

‘‘It was amaz­ing to hear that. That was nice to have played along­side him and he re­mem­bered that, so he ob­vi­ously knew who I was.

‘‘To bowl that spell and get that type of feed­back was great for my con­fi­dence go­ing for­ward at that level. It’s some­thing I need to keep try­ing to repli­cate when­ever I play.’’

The mes­sage from Black Caps coach Mike Hes­son had been to stay pos­i­tive and go back to do­mes­tic cricket and dom­i­nate. ‘‘Can­ter­bury, that’s where you have to keep putting your name in lights and hope­fully you can keep knock­ing the door down,’’ As­tle said.

With a steady diet of 13 ODIs and 10 T20Is this home sum­mer, As­tle’s chances will surely come. Veteran Jee­tan Pa­tel has re­tired from the in­ter­na­tional ranks, mean­ing he’ll com­pete with firstchoice op­tion Mitchell Sant­ner and fel­low legspin­ner Ish Sodhi for spin spots in the white ball side.

Last week, Hes­son spoke highly of As­tle and said he of­fered value in all three facets of the game.

‘‘He’s multi-skilled and can bat seven or eight, and av­er­ages over 40 the last few years in first-class cricket. And he’s very ath­letic in the field, so when you’re look­ing to pick a sec­ond spin­ner, he [As­tle] of­fers a lot in that re­gard.’’

Other crick­eters in As­tle’s po­si­tion may have got the pip long ago, or spo­ken out about their treat­ment from the na­tional side, but it’s not in his na­ture.

Last Novem­ber, he played just his sec­ond test against Pak­istan at Ha­gley, nearly four years af­ter his test de­but against Sri Lanka in Colombo.

Pak­istan fell cheaply in both in­nings with As­tle bowl­ing just four overs in the match. Many felt he de­served an­other shot in the sec­ond test in Hamil­ton, but wasn’t re­quired when Sant­ner re­turned from a frac­tured wrist.

One month later, As­tle was se­lected in a 14-man squad for the Aus­tralian leg of the Chap­pel­lHadlee ODI series, but never got a run.

If he har­bours any re­sent­ment about not be­ing given a de­cent go, it’s well dis­guised.

‘‘When you’re young, you de­fine a lot of what you do on the park as who you are as a per­son.

‘‘Now, I’m mar­ried and with a kid, that per­spec­tive is huge. For me, it’s re­al­is­ing there are other things there. You’re al­ways want­ing to do well and give it your all. I know I’m al­ways do­ing that, so the rest looks af­ter it­self.’’

Hope­fully for As­tle, that’s a de­served ODI de­but.

JOSEPH JOHN­SON/STUFF

Todd As­tle played two Twenty20 in­ter­na­tion­als against Pak­istan in Jan­uary 2016.

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