Cricket: Butler delighted with form

Ian Butler: 'I don't think I've ever bowled as well as I have this year.'
Ian Butler: 'I don't think I've ever bowled as well as I have this year.'
Anyone considering giving up on a long-cherished sporting ambition should have a chat with Ian Butler.

He clearly remembers the conversation several years ago with a medical specialist who told him he would not bowl again.

''You don't believe everything the medical profession tell you,'' he said yesterday.

The Otago seamer is back after a two-year absence from the New Zealand team for the twenty/20 rubber against England, which has its second instalment at Seddon Park in Hamilton tonight.

He is 31, has gone through significant injury setbacks in a career which began 11 years ago, and yet he reckons he is bowling as well as ever for Otago.

His 36 Plunket Shield wickets are second only to another seasoned performer, Northern Districts' Brent Arnel, and he was a key figure in Otago's HRV Cup triumph this summer with 11 wickets and an economy rate of 7.4 per over.

''My form's been really good all year in all forms. I don't think I've ever bowled as well as I have this year, and you never really lose sight of what you want to achieve,'' Butler said.

''My body is 10 times better than when I was 23. I look after it a hell of a lot better now. I try and tell people age is just a number. I still feel I've got four or five years left.

''I'm doing the right things off the park and certainly don't feel I'm anywhere near finishing.''

Butler was counted out of the opening game in the ANZ international series, a 40-run win for England at Eden Park last Saturday, by a minor ankle niggle.

If he plays tonight it will complete a comeback which is thoroughly justified by the simple expedient that he is among the best seamers going around the country, and hits a long ball as a late-order bonus.

Butler reckons the big change for him this year was from being an into-the-wind ''dot'' ball bowler to chasing wickets.

He has dialled his speed back from his youth, but still rates himself about 140kmh.

It's all a far cry from the disillusioning times over the past 10 years, including the day his pen was poised to sign on the dotted line for an unnamed English county.

He thought hard about using his British passport and jacking in New Zealand cricket.

Otago, as it ponders the Champions League later this year, is grateful he had a late change of heart.

Butler is confident New Zealand will be on its game tonight after a poor bowling and fielding performance at Eden Park.

''T20 is a game where one or two players can take the game away from you and we've got as many match-winners as they do.''

 - The New Zealand Herald