Top job now within reach for Blun­dell

The Southland Times - - SPORT - MARK GEENTY

It’s great prepa­ra­tion, if you’re talk­ing high pres­sure crick­et­ing job in­ter­views. Tom Blun­dell spent the win­ter eye­balling his clos­est ri­val and got a sneak peek of In­dia, as the Black Caps wick­et­keep­ing race heats up.

On Tues­day it gets real when New Zealand A and their three glove­men board the plane to In­dia, with a place beck­on­ing in Twenty20 and one-day in­ter­na­tion­als against Vi­rat Kohli’s side next month.

Es­sen­tially it’s New Zealand’s ver­sion of Wick­et­keeper Idol, af­ter Luke Ronchi’s re­tire­ment. BJ Watling has the test gloves par­celled up, Tom Latham re­mains an ODI op­tion, but with nine home T20 in­ter­na­tion­als this sum­mer the lucky win­ner out of Blun­dell, Tim Seifert and Glenn Phillips is set for an ex­tended run.

At 27, Blun­dell is ready and re­laxed about this race to the top. The Welling­ton wick­et­keeper-bats­man was the fron­trun­ner last sea­son: named in New Zealand A for the Pak­istan washout, a T20 in­ter­na­tional de­but against Bangladesh then a callup to the ODI squad to face Aus­tralia. Latham was pre­ferred, was tidy with the gloves but couldn’t buy a run with the bat.

‘‘De­but­ing was fan­tas­tic to get a taste of it and be around that squad against the Aussies, you def­i­nitely want more,’’ Blun­dell said.

Ronchi’s been a mas­sive in­flu­ence on Blun­dell, and his re­tire­ment also sig­nalled time for NZ Cricket to get se­ri­ous about school­ing their glove­men. Blun­dell, Seifert and Phillips, when he wasn’t over at the Caribbean Premier League, all worked with for­mer fringe in­ter­na­tional Mar­tyn Croy who will ac­com­pany them to In­dia, too.

It’s an in­ter­est­ing sit­u­a­tion; vy­ing for one spot and spend­ing all your off-sea­son with your near­est ri­val, work­ing out their strengths and weak­nesses and po­ten­tially help­ing them im­prove.

‘‘I’ll let my per­for­mance do the talk­ing and if I’m good enough, I’m good enough. I get on pretty well with them both. They’re both re­ally good blokes so if one of them gets the nod [for New Zealand] I’ll be happy for them.’’

Blun­dell got a jump­start on his ri­vals in July with his first trip to In­dia, when he ac­com­pa­nied the Hutt Hawks club run by Ravi Kr­ish­na­murthy on their an­nual tour. Some of the club pitches turned square, the ball ei­ther keep­ing low or bounc­ing at head height.

‘‘It was a great learn­ing curve on how to adapt,’’ Blun­dell said.

He’s been adapt­ing for a while, Blun­dell, af­ter he made New Zealand un­der-19 as a bats­man and part-time glove­man and off­spin­ner (he snared his only first-class wicket, Daryl Mitchell, last sea­son).

Call­ing him an ac­ci­den­tal wick­et­keeper might be harsh, but Blun­dell didn’t grow up want­ing to be the next Adam Parore or Bren­don McCul­lum. For­mer Welling­ton glove­man Joe Austin-Smel­lie’s early re­tire­ment was a cat­a­lyst.

‘‘I saw an op­por­tu­nity to make the Welling­ton team and thought if I worked hard on my keep­ing who knows where it could take me?’’

His for­mer coach at Karori, Glenn Pock­nall, is now the Fire­birds’ as­sis­tant and is adamant Blun­dell is ready.

‘‘We look at the other keep­ers and com­pare notes as to where we think Tom is. We may be bi­ased but we think he’s bet­ter than the other two. Oth­ers might have dif­fer­ent ideas but the beauty of this tour is it’s an op­por­tu­nity for him to achieve what we think he can achieve,’’ Pock­nall said.

‘‘It’s been pretty cool to see the guy de­velop; tech­ni­cally, men­tally and as a per­son [in the past decade]. The thing that sets Tom apart from a lot of his age­group peers is he’s got that in­ner de­ter­mi­na­tion and drive. You don’t see it, and he doesn’t talk about it, but he’s got it.’’

Slick glove­work might be one thing, but if the con­tenders aren’t scor­ing runs then they’re no chance.

It’s clear if you’re tak­ing the gloves for New Zealand, you need to bat as high as pos­si­ble. And give the ball a thump.

Phillips is the most part-time glove­man of the three but his T20 feats for Auck­land in the Su­per Smash - lead­ing run­scorer with 369 at a strike rate of 143 - rock­eted him into a T20 de­but against South Africa. Blun­dell was good in the Fire­birds’ ti­tle charge, scor­ing 243 at a strike rate of 134, while Seifert scored just 113 for the Knights, strike rate 108.

‘‘It’s just con­sis­tency and know­ing my own game. I’ve worked so hard on it through­out the years and I un­der­stand it a bit more, es­pe­cially in T20 I’ve got all the shots so it’s just about watch­ing the ball and back­ing my­self,’’ said Blun­dell, who av­er­ages 39 in first-class cricket.

‘‘I’m not go­ing to hit the ball over the fence most of the time. I’ve got to fig­ure out how to look for the bound­ary and that in­no­va­tion comes into play with the lap shots.’’

New Zealand A, un­der head coach Shane Bond, play two four-day matches and five 50-over matches from Septem­ber 23 till Oc­to­ber 15.

Welling­ton glove­man Tom Blun­dell hopes to fol­low in the foot­steps of Luke Ronchi and be the Black Caps’ new wick­et­keeper-bats­man in limited overs cricket.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.