Coach seeks to get most out of Sparks

Otago Sparks coach Craig Cumming retrieves some balls during a training session at Logan Park...
Otago Sparks coach Craig Cumming retrieves some balls during a training session at Logan Park earlier this week. PHOTO GREGOR RICHARDSON
Former international and long-serving Otago opener Craig 
Cumming will coach the Otago Sparks this summer. He caught up with cricket writer Adrian Seconi before the team’s season-opener against Canterbury in Oamaru today.

You have seen him play. You have heard him talk.

Now, Craig Cumming has to harness all that knowledge and use it to get the best out of his players.

The 45-year-old former Otago and Black Caps opener forged an impressive first-class career.

He played 147 first-class games - 95 for Otago - and scored 9142 runs at an average of 38.25.

The right-hander also amassed 147 list A game and 44 twenty20 matches during a 19-year career.

Cumming got all the way to the top as well. He played 11 tests and 13 one-day internationals.

Not long after he retired in 2012, Cumming began a broadcasting career and built a reputation for his analysis. He plans to lean on those skills in his new role as Sparks coach.

"One of the things I want to bring to the game is an ability to do some real good research and scouting on the opposition," he said.

"Instead of just turning up and playing, we want to be really organised and have definite plans.

"That is one of the things you’ll see with the Sparks this year.

"For those who know me, and listened to me as a commentator, will know I love that side of the game. I like picking apart the opposition and trying to come up with plans, so we will be doing that with the opposition.

"And if the opposition do have success, it is going to be hard because we are going to ask them to play really well."

Cumming has a New Zealand Cricket level 3 coaching qualification and has been coaching since he retired from playing.

But this is his first stint as a head coach at this level and the Sparks will be missing some key players.

Star player Suzie Bates is out for the season. The White Ferns batswoman injured her shoulder while competing in the Big Bash.

Bates would have been available for the twenty20 campaign, so it is a big loss.

Veteran wicketkeeper-batswoman Katey Martin will be available from the second round of the one-day competition.

The White Fern has been in Australia working as a commentator.

And fellow international Hayley Jensen is on stand-by for the Big Bash in Australia and is not expected to be available for the Sparks until later in the season.

Cumming hopes Jensen will be available for the Sparks’ opening twenty20 game against Auckland, at Molyneux Park on December 28.

The Sparks welcome back Polly Inglis. She missed last season but has returned from the United Kingdom and will bolster the team’s experience.

Former Auckland player Gemma Adams has moved down to Dunedin to study and is a talented right-arm pace bowler and hard-hitting top order batswoman.

Nelson all-rounder Saffron Wilson also joins the squad this season. She is a right-arm medium pacer and will slot into the middle of the batting order.

Emma Black will spearhead the attack again, while the hard-hitting opener, Millie Cowan, is back for another campaign, as is the experienced Caitlin Blakely.

"We are a little bit under-done game-wise. We’ve only played a couple of [pre-season] games but we’ve been very lucky that we’ve been training on grass down at the University Oval and working really hard.

"We are excited about getting better every game and we are trying to set up an environment where we can get better and work hard.

"But I’m excited and I think we will do well this weekend."

The Sparks were winless in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield last season but had a stronger squad in the twenty20 campaign and made the elimination final.

Otago Sparks

Season draw
Hallyburton Johnstone Shield
Nov 21-22:  Canterbury, Oamaru
Dec 5-6:  Auckland, Invercargill
Dec 19-20: Central Districts, Dunedin
Feb 20-21:  Northern Districts, Hamilton
March 13-14: Wellington, Wellington
Super Smash
Dec 28:  Auckland, Alexandra
Dec 29:  Canterbury, Alexandra
Jan 2:  Northern Districts, Mt Maunganui
Jan 8:  Central Districts, Dunedin
Jan 14:  Wellington, Dunedin
Jan 18:  Central Districts, New Plymouth
Jan 24:  Wellington, Wellington
Jan 30:  Canterbury, Christchurch
Feb 1:  Auckland, Auckland
Feb 6:  Northern Districts, Dunedin
Otago v Canterbury
Otago: Bella James (c), Caitlin Blakely,  Gemma Adams, Millie Cowan, Polly Inglis,  Olivia Gain, Sophie Gray, Saffron Wilson, Eden  Carson, Emma Black, Marina Lamplough,  Sophie Oldershaw.
Canterbury: Frankie MacKay (c), Sarah Asmussen, Missy Banks, Nat Cox, Kate Ebrahim, Georgia Edge, Emma Kench, Laura Hughes, Allie Mace-Cochrane, Jacinta Savage, Jess Simmons, Kate Sims, Gabby Sullivan.

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