Cricket: It's over for ultimate team man

Retired Otago cricketer Warren McSkimming with wife, Jodie, and daughter, Ava (2), at the...
Retired Otago cricketer Warren McSkimming with wife, Jodie, and daughter, Ava (2), at the University Oval. Photo by Craig Baxter.
McSkimming on his way to taking five wickets against Auckland during a Plunket Shield match at...
McSkimming on his way to taking five wickets against Auckland during a Plunket Shield match at the University Oval in March last year. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

Warren McSkimming is walking away from cricket while he still can.

The long-serving medium pacer has spent the past few months weighing up the pros and cons but has decided to retire.

The 33-year-old had planned to return to club cricket late last month with the hope of adding to his 67 first-class appearance for the Volts. But his body has told him it is time to let go. Also, he has new job as an area sales manager for Tru-Test and a young family to consider. His wife, Jodie, gave birth to the couple's second child - Mila - six weeks ago and Ava is 2 in January.

''Cricket has to come to an end at some stage,'' he told the Otago Daily Times.

''I'm 33 and body-wise, my back is not up to it. When I'm 50 I still want to be able to do my shoelaces up.

''With three bulging discs in my back I was lucky enough to play as long as I did. And it is nice to be able to wake up in the morning and not need a 10-minute shower just to loosen the back up.''

While it made sense to leave the game, reaching the decision was heart-wrenching all the same. He made his provincial debut in a one-day game against Canterbury in December 1999 and later that season made his first-class debut.

In 13 seasons he forged some very strong connections and it is the people he will miss the most.

''The biggest thing for me, I guess I was a team player. I got just as much joy out of other guys in my team doing well. At the start of the day's play I was just as happy to see someone else score a hundred or take wickets.

''That is what I miss now. There has been a few good performances this year and you miss enjoying a beer with the guys in the changing rooms after. And it is nice when you do well.''

McSkimming said when he started playing for Otago the sport was still largely amateur.

''We were playing for $250 a game sort of thing and by the time I ended the money was pretty good. But it was never about the money for me. It was a dream to represent Otago and it was great fun.''

Time started catching up with McSkimming last year. A knee injury kept him on the sideline for all but two first-class games but he managed to take seven wickets at an average of 18.57 and proved he was still a threat.

McSkimming kept things pretty simple at the bowling crease. He was not express in pace and did not get a lot of swing or bounce. But he had a good release, hit the seam, put the ball in good areas and his effort never wavered.

It was remarkably effective over the years. He took 238 wickets for Otago at an average of 24.40, including 11 five-wicket bags, and twice took 10 wickets in a match.

Only six bowlers have taken more wickets for Otago and his record is comparable with the likes of Frank Cameron and Neil Mallender.

He has also been a handy contributor with the bat, scoring 1682 runs for Otago at 20.02.

He scored his maiden and only century against Auckland at Eden Park Outer Oval in February 2005 and shared in an Otago-record ninth-wicket partnership of 208 with his good friend, Bradley Scott.

That innings was both a great highlight and source of immense disappointment to McSkimming, who to this day still regrets getting out and not being able to help Scott get through to his maiden 100.

That sort of sums up the bloke, really. Otago Cricket Association chief executive Ross Dykes perhaps put it best.

''Warren's such a whole-hearted competitor and will be a huge loss,'' Dykes said.

''The thing about Warren is he ran in and bowled for Otago for season after season and never slackened his pace, he never slackened his effort and he never lost his desire.

''He is one of those guys that every cricket team needs at least five of.''

McSkimming said going to India with the Otago team to compete at the Champions League in 2009 and winning the one-day final in 2008 were the two greatest playing highlights, while injuries and missing games were the biggest disappointment during his career.

One injury in particular sticks out. He had his jaw broken when he was hit in the face by the ball during a twenty/20 match against Northern Districts in Invercargill in November, 2006.

He needed surgery and spent a couple of weeks living off a diet of soup and mashed macaroni cheese. He found the timing of his injury was harder to swallow, though. The Otago spearhead was on the cusp of the Black Caps side and was looking forward to furthering his national ambitions in Otago's first-class match against Sri Lanka later that month.

''That sort of stuff was pretty disappointing but, other than that, there is not a lot of disappointment in playing professional sport,'' McSkimming said.

''Jeepers, you get out of bed each day and you are absolutely excited to get down there and play.''

Former Otago captain Craig Cumming believes McSkimming was unlucky not to play for the Black Caps.

''When he was at the peak of his powers there was probably no better seamer going around at that time,'' Cumming said.

''He can be exceptionally proud of what he has done for Otago cricket in all forms of the game and can probably feel a little aggrieved that he did not get to represent New Zealand because his performances deserved that.''

McSkimming plans to take a back seat for a few years but would like to stay involved in cricket.

''I still think I could offer a lot as a bowling coach in few years' time when my job is sorted and the family has grown up. I owe a lot to Otago cricket. I was 19 and they have looked after me and you can't just forget those things.

''And obviously Jodie and my parents have been huge supporters of mine, too.''

Dykes said the association was still working through plans to acknowledge McSkimming's ''fantastic contribution''. A function is tentatively planned for early next year and will coincide with one of Otago's home first-class games.

What they said

Otago Cricket Association chief executive Ross Dykes.
-He is one of those whole-hearted cricketers who ended the day with blood on their boots having bowled 28 overs. I think he was unlucky not to have played for New Zealand

Former Otago captain Craig Cumming.
-In my time with Otago, I'd say Warren was the most valuable member over a long, long period of time. He was our most consistent performer with the ball and did a huge amount to unite the team. He represented everything which was good in cricket

Former team-mate and Northern Districts seamer Bradley Scott.
-He was a fabulous team guy and was the heartand soul of that Otago side for a long time. He's a really good mate and it is just a pleasure to have so many good memories from playing with him

Former Otago coach and Black Caps coach Mike Hesson.
-Wazza is the type of guy any coach would want in histeam. He was a team man first. He was always passionate about playing for Otago and whether he got five wickets or a 50, if the team didn't win Warren wasn't happy

Warren McSkimming

Career record

First-class: 69 games (67 for Otago), 240 wickets at 24.37 including 11 five-wicket bags and took 10 wickets in a match twice, 1705 runs at 20.05 including one century, 28 catches.

One-day: 96 games (89 for Otago), 117 wickets at 31.95 including one five-wicket bag, 669 runs at 13.65 including two 50s, 25 catches.

Twenty/20: 25 matches, 19 wickets at 34.52, 106 runs at 53, 11 catches.

New Zealand under-19: three one-day games, four wickets at 24.25, 22 runs.

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