Sunday Star-Times

Black Caps: We’re the world’s fittest

- MARK GEENTY

Fitter, faster, stronger. The Black Caps haven’t yet conquered the cricketing world but coach Mike Hesson believes his side is the best conditione­d team around – and that includes other New Zealand sporting codes.

Under former Olympic sprinter Chris Donaldson, the team’s strength and conditioni­ng coach for the past seven years, they’re a lean, mean machine with Trent Boult still leading the way but the other fast bowlers and batsman Henry Nicholls snapping at his heels.

‘‘Chris talks to the other trainers and our side is right up there in terms of standards set throughout the world,’’ Hesson said.

‘‘He also talks to other sports in New Zealand, and I don’t think some other sports want it publicly known that ours are some of the better ones going around.

‘‘We’re not going to bench press like some of the league boys but in terms of aerobic fitness and speed our guys are pretty good.’’

If you’re one of the 21 Black Caps contracted players there’s nowhere to hide. Donaldson, who held the national 200m record of 20.42sec for 20 years until Joseph Millar beat it last year, remains competitiv­e and expects his players to be, too.

All 21 are ranked across five categories: speed (30m time trial); strength (squat, deadlift, bench press, bench pull); fitness (yo-yo test and 1500m); body compositio­n (skin folds, weight) and power (double-foot bounce, single leg hop). Ranking lists are sent out to everyone, and each player can compare his previous marks as a target for improvemen­t.

Donaldson said the fast bowlers were generally among the fittest: Boult, Adam Milne and Tim Southee. The top three fastest over 30m are Doug Bracewell, Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill while on the strength side Neil Wagner and Neesham are up there on the bench press.

‘‘Overall, Trent is right up there as well as Milney. The quicker bowlers tend to sit in the top group. Henry Nicholls is exceptiona­l, as a

[The trainer] also talks to other sports in New Zealand, and I don’t think some other sports want it publicly known that ours are some of the better ones going around. Mike Hesson

batter, he’s one of the top Donaldson said.

‘‘Tom Latham is exceedingl­y fit. I could go through the entire contract list. Some are gifted at certain things a bit more than others; Martin Guptill is extremely fast.

‘‘The biggest idea of the programme is stop them getting injured then let’s improve their physical attributes so on-field they dominate.’’

So are they ahead of the other sides in world cricket? Donaldson said the New Zealand players stacked up extremely well when comparing numbers with other team trainers.

‘‘Our average yo-yo is 20.2 across fitnesswis­e,’’ the team and that’s extremely high as a group. We’ve got some extremely fit guys, good athletes.

‘‘The fast bowlers have to be top of the ranks because they generate the most force. They should be fittest and fastest, they have to deal with the highest impact so they have to be able to cope.

‘‘We have to be the best at what we do because we don’t have the population base of cricketers that other countries have. We’ve got to be better than everyone else in what we can control which is fitness and conditioni­ng.’’

Hesson likened it to a horse trainer and a thoroughbr­ed: you can’t keep rolling the players out and expect them to be at their peak throughout the year.

Hence the rest and rotation, and the value of off-season breaks which New Zealand gets more than the major nations. Boult, especially, came back at the peak of his powers in India in October after a quiet few months with minimal bowling and base fitness work.

‘‘They’re not robots. What they do is tough and they need to build up that base again to have another push at it. Trent and Tim are both really integral parts of our side and we have to look after them.’’

IAN ANDERSON

Never change a winning team. How about a winning formula?

That seemed to go OK for the Northern Knights as they claimed the Super Smash Twenty20 title by nine wickets over the Central Stags.

The Knights earned the home final by finishing top of the roundrobin with the best record of the six domestic associatio­ns. That was regularly achieved by using veteran allrounder Anton Devcich opening the bowling.

Yesterday in Hamilton, captain Dean Brownlie used seam and pace and kept his spin weapons up his sleeve. It worked a treat as the Stags were never in the hunt.

The hosts at Seddon Park dictated terms after the visitors won the toss and opted to bat first, with the Stags managing only to limp to 99-8 off their 20 overs.

Victory came with 11.1 overs to spare, handing Northern Districts $80,000 prizemoney while Central Districts, runners-up last season also, took $20,000 for second place.

‘‘We thought it might swing at the top, which it did,’’ Brownlie said. ‘‘I think it proved quite difficult for the CD players.’’

Brent Arnel, Scott Kuggeleijn and Chris Jordan bowled excellent line and length to put the Stags’ toporder under immediate pressure.

Former Black Cap Jesse Ryder lasted only three balls, falling to a smart leg-side boundary trap set by the Knights’ brains trust off Arnel.

Kuggeleijn’s pace brought him two wickets and it took CD 17 balls before they found the boundary.

That set the scene for Northern’s spin duo of Ish Sodhi – the topranked Twenty20 bowler in the world – and Devcich. The ex-Black Cap had starred throughout the competitio­n with 12 wickets at 18.91 at 6.67 runs per over and yesterday he claimed 3-16 off his four overs.

Sodhi also produced a masterclas­s, capturing 2-15 off his four overs as the Stags sank further into the mire.

The Knights backed up their bowlers with a stellar fielding display, highlighte­d by a stunning leap and grab by Brownlie one-handed off Devcich’s bowling to remove top-scorer George Worker.

The occasional Black Caps lefthander got to 37 off 33 balls and remarkably struck four of the five boundaries in Central’s 20 overs with the bat.

The Knights had tallied six boundaries before the third over had finished as openers Tim Seifert (23 off 12 balls) and Devcich (51 not out off 24) got them off to a quick start. First drop Brownlie (28no) soon featured, taking five fours in a scintillat­ing strokemaki­ng display off one over from Blair Tickner.

Not to be undone, Devcich then went one better as he struck a four off every ball of the next over bowled by left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel.

It was the second domestic Twenty20 crown in Northern’s history, and an instant triumph for new Knights T20 coach Gareth Hopkins. The former wicketkeep­erbatsman was given the job in a specialist role this season – with incumbent James Pamment retained for the one-day and firstclass competitio­ns, before recently accepting a fielding coach job with the Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

(G Worker 37 off 33 balls; off 4 overs, I Sodhi 2-15 off 2-24 off 3) lost to (Devcich 51 not out off 24 Brownlie 28 off 17 balls) by nine A Devcich 3-16 4, S Kuggeleijn

balls, D wickets.

 ?? PHOTOSPORT ?? Knights wicketkeep­er Tim Siefert celebrates the fall of another Stags wicket in the Twenty20 final at Seddon Park in Hamilton yesterday.
PHOTOSPORT Knights wicketkeep­er Tim Siefert celebrates the fall of another Stags wicket in the Twenty20 final at Seddon Park in Hamilton yesterday.
 ??  ?? Fittest: Trent Boult
Fittest: Trent Boult
 ??  ?? Fastest: Doug Bracewell
Fastest: Doug Bracewell

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