Astle in hunt for elusive ODI debut
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.
Todd Astle played two Twenty20 internationals against Pakistan in January 2016.