Late developer: Patience pays off for Astle
Battling away in domestic cricket, Todd Astle always tried to exhibit the professionalism and work ethic of a seasoned Black Cap.
The 31-year-old legspinner credits those traits for his development after securing his first full-time New Zealand Cricket (NZC) contract, 12 years on from his first-class debut.
After more than a decade of being on a domestic retainer with Canterbury, Astle has finally taken the next step forward in his career, being included in NZC’s 20-man contract list.
He was rewarded for strong oneday performances against the West Indies and Pakistan this past summer. Astle also stepped up in the day-night test against England in Auckland, taking 3-39 in the second innings to lead New Zealand to victory.
A first-time NZC contract provides financial security for Astle and wife, Rachel, with their second child due in August. Retainers are kept confidential, but Astle’s NZC contract could be around $100,000, almost double his domestic deal.
Astle started a mental skills business last year, Innerspin, working with age-group, school, and club sports teams in the Christchurch area. He will continue to remain involved when free of cricket commitments.
While some young cricketers burst on the scene and quickly find their way into the Black Caps, Astle’s journey has been a long trek.
He started as an opening batsman for Canterbury in 2005-06 and took a further four seasons to capture his first five-wicket bag in a first-class match.
‘‘That’s been the satisfying part is that it’s been hard earned. I’ve had to really work at my game.
‘‘It’s enjoyable looking back. You go through those struggles and you’re always trying to get better. Especially that last season to have contributed and done well [for New Zealand], it proves to myself I can do it at that level.’’
Even when he was toiling away for Canterbury, Astle tried to approach matches with the standards of a veteran Black Cap.
He is renowned for his long hours bowling in the nets and meticulous preparation, which have served him well in recent times.
‘‘I always had the mindset I was a professional cricketer 12 months of the year, but you don’t get that unless you get a New Zealand contract, which is for 12 months.
‘‘When you’re a domestic cricketer you still have to have that thought process because you’re still training and trying to do all you can, even though you’re not getting paid [all year round] for that.’’
Astle has dominated the Plunket Shield four-day competition over the past five seasons, taking 148 wickets at 26.2. His white-ball form for Canterbury has been just as impressive, while also chipping in with vital middle order runs.
Having only had limited previous opportunities with the Black Caps, he made the most of his chances over the summer.
He was cruelly denied a test at his Hagley Oval home ground against England after suffering a
‘‘That’s been the satisfying part is that it’s been hard earned. I’ve had to really work at my game.’’ Todd Astle
side strain injury, while helping bowl New Zealand to victory in the day-night test at Eden Park. Doing well for New Zealand had only made him hungrier for future success.
The Black Caps’ next tour is against Pakistan in OctoberNovember with matches set to be held in the United Arab Emirates.
Pitches there should provide plenty of turn, which will enhance Astle’s selection case. ‘‘That’s the next challenge.
‘‘I know they say it’s spinnerfriendly, but often it’s very hard toil in 40 degree heat and those are all the different challenges you face at the highest level.’’
They’re challenges Astle is used to overcoming.
Todd Astle’s decade of toil in domestic cricket has earned its rewards with a fulltime New Zealand Cricket contract.