Late de­vel­oper: Pa­tience pays off for As­tle

The Press - - Sport - Bren­don Egan bren­don.egan@stuff.co.nz

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.

GETTY IM­AGES

Todd As­tle’s decade of toil in do­mes­tic cricket has earned its re­wards with a full­time New Zealand Cricket con­tract.

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