Cricket: Long way to go, but Craig relishing challenge

Bowling all-rounder Mark Craig gives the ball a rip during a training session with Otago at the...
Bowling all-rounder Mark Craig gives the ball a rip during a training session with Otago at the University Oval yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Albion all-rounder Mark Craig could scarcely believe what he was hearing when Otago coach Mike Hesson phoned him with the news.

The 21-year-old commerce student had performed well for Otago in the provincial A tournament but was shocked when he got the call up for the Volts' twenty/20 tournament opener against Canterbury at the University Oval earlier this month.

He was so nervous when stand-in captain Nathan McCullum called on him to bowl that he basically forgot to let the ball go and watched his first delivery in elite cricket sail down the leg side for four wides.

Hardly an auspicious start.

"The first ball I ran up and it just didn't want to come out of my hand," Craig said.

"It wasn't the best start. Kiwi [Nathan McCullum] ran over and just said, `Put a smile on your face and enjoy it'. I calmed down after that. It was good to get that first ball and over out of the way."

McCullum is the No 1 ranked spinner in the province, and a player Craig looks up to. The pair play for the same club and McCullum has taken Craig under his wing.

"The biggest thing with Kiwi is how open he is. I can call him any time to talk about cricket, and you learn plenty just playing alongside him."

An Aucklander, Craig moved to Dunedin two years ago to attend university and is one of those ambidextrous cricketers who bowl one way and bat the other - he bowls right-arm off breaks and bats left-handed.

"I guess I just stood on that side of the bat and went from there. I used to play golf left-handed but changed to right-handed."

Craig is still learning the game at domestic level and has just the one wicket.

He gives the ball a good rip and uses two main variations.

He has the "hamburger" ball - the seam stays horizontal and the ball spins through the air like a saucer - and a top spinner, as well as some variations in pace.

He has not been required at the batting crease yet, with Otago's top order in such good form.

But he considers himself a genuine all-rounder.

He got his start as a batsman who bowled a bit. However, he has more opportunities to bowl in Dunedin and now works hard at both disciplines.

The step up has been a big one but Craig has not been overawed.

And you have to hold your nerve if you are going to bowl slowly at the University Oval with its small boundaries.

"It is a little bit daunting knowing they are trying to hit you out of the ground. But it is a good challenge and good fun as well.

"The game is a bit quicker and there is less margin for error with your bowling. In the field you have to be aware and on the go the whole time."


Otago v Central Districts, University Oval, today 5pm.

Otago (from): Craig Cumming (c), Aaron Redmond, Hamish Rutherford, Neil Broom, Nathan McCullum, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Greg Todd, Ian Butler, Derek de Boorder, Neil Wagner, James McMillan, Mark Craig, Mat Harvie.

Central Districts (from): Mathew Sinclair (c), Peter Ingram, Marc Calkin, Jamie How, Jacob Oram, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Brendon Diamanti, Ewen Thompson, Tim Weston, Robbie Schaw, George Worker, Michael Mason, Greg Hay.

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