Cricket: Munro selection deserves pat on back

Colin Munro hits out during the T20 tour match between South Africa A and New Zealand in Pietermaritzburg. (Photo by Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Colin Munro hits out during the T20 tour match between South Africa A and New Zealand in Pietermaritzburg. (Photo by Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Give the New Zealand selectors a pat on the back. They haven't had many of late, but the choice of Colin Munro for the Twenty20 series in South Africa deserves to be acknowledged.

Why? Because they've picked a player who is in form, rather than echo that old line about "let's see if he backs it up again next season".

And not only Munro. Auckland's left-arm quick Mitchell McClenaghan, Northern Districts' Corey Anderson, fit after a dispiriting run of injury issues, and Otago's Jimmy Neesham are young men being given an opportunity. In Munro's case, numbers paint a picture.

He heads the aggregates and averages in the Plunket Shield this season, his overall first-class figures are good and you can imagine that for the man who came to New Zealand at 15, from Durban, seeking cricket success, to be back in the land of his birth for his adopted country, well, life doesn't get much better right now.

It hasn't been entirely plain sailing for the pugnacious left-hander.

He had a taste of top domestic cricket in 2006-07 but didn't last long. So he headed to Adelaide, spent time at the West Torrens club and when he returned was a different proposition.

"I wanted to learn a little more about my game, play in different conditions, get away and put a bit of pressure on myself," he said at the time. "Before I went away I was just a guy who'd come in and try and smash it from ball one. That [Adelaide] taught me to try and build an innings."

It was not long before he locked down a place, and a reputation as a white ball guy. Fine in the shorter stuff, but a big question mark hovered over his first-class credentials.

That got sorted out, once and for all you'd think, in the last few weeks.

There was 103 against Central Districts before the biggie, 269 not out off only 252 balls against Wellington, when he shared a 377-run sixth wicket stand with fellow South African-born batsman Craig Cachopa.

It was the second highest score by an Auckland batsman in first-class cricket, Auckland's sixth-wicket record against anyone and the fourth highest in all first-class cricket for that wicket.

Munro made a telling statement that night: the next game against Otago was to his mind crucially important. He had to back up the big double, reinforce that he could bat time. He didn't want people muttering about one-hit wonders. So he made 57 and 118. Then came the call to the national team for the first leg in South Africa early tomorrow.

"He's been picked at the right time and, looking at it from his side, I'm really pleased," Auckland captain Gareth Hopkins said yesterday (Thursday). "There's no better time to be playing and testing yourself than coming off the form he's in,"

There is a bristling quality to Munro's batting, and although acknowledging there will be times it won't come off, Hopkins hopes he retains his attacking intent.

"That's his natural way of playing and I don't think he'll lose it."

Auckland plan to throw more responsibility Munro's way.

Hopkins tips him as a long-term No5 batsman for Auckland.

"He's a matchwinner, we've always known that, but he's done quite a bit of work this year in understanding his game. In the past, he's come pretty hard when batting in his competitiveness against opponents.

"He's toned that down a little bit, concentrated on the ball and going for longer periods. Now he's proved he can do that."

The 26-year-old Munro, who got married earlier this year, likes a bit of banter and he can expect a bit of that from the South Africans.

But if he can back the faith shown in him, this short visit to his homeland could come to be seen as a landmark trip in Munro's development as an international cricketer.

- David Leggat of the New Zealand Herald