Cricket: NZ selection bittersweet for Otago skipper

Craig Cumming
Craig Cumming
Otago captain Craig Cumming's late call-up for the Black Caps has left a yawning gap in the Volts line-up.

Cumming was looking forward to playing for Otago in the State Shield final against Northern Districts in Hamilton tomorrow but will instead fly to Perth as cover for the injured Jesse Ryder.

"There were some mixed emotions," Cumming told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

"My whole focus this year has been playing for Otago. Obviously, there is a tinge of sadness but that is offset by the delight of being selected again."

Cumming last played a one-day international in March 2005 and in 12 matches has scored 161 at an average of 14.63.

It is not an impressive record but he has been in sublime form this summer and has been timing the ball as well as at any time during his career.

His much talked-about footwork has been impeccable.

He is moving into position early and seems to have an abundance of time. As a result the runs have been flowing.

He has scored 421 runs at an average of 70.16 in the State Shield and is the competition's third-leading run-scorer.

His absence will be felt dearly by Otago. However, the 33-year-old top-order batsman is confident his replacement and the team will cope in his absence.

Promising but inexperienced batsman Hamish Rutherford replaces Cumming in the only change to the side which dismantled Canterbury by eight wickets in the semifinal in Christchurch on Wednesday, and off-spinning all-rounder Nathan McCullum will take over the captaincy.

"Obviously, with Hamish coming in it will change the mix a little bit, which is hard in a final. But I think they'll be fine.

"Hamish Rutherford is a good player. He'll be opening the batting and if he gets away he could play a match-winning innings."

It is not just Cumming's batting which Otago will miss. He is a shrewd skipper, the side's most experienced player and a useful part-time bowler.

In that sense it was like losing three players, Otago coach Mike Hesson said.

"It is bittersweet. We're absolutely delighted for Craig because he is in the form of his life," Hesson said.

"But he is a crucial member in our side. We've also had to deal with the loss of Neil Broom and we'd expected to miss Brendon [McCullum].

"To have three of our top six not here certainly leaves opportunities for other people. We're confident the players coming in are good enough.

"But a big part of our job is to produce Black Caps and we've got three Otago players in the top six. Clearly that is going to leave a void."

Rutherford will join other relative newbies Sean Eathorne and Shaun Haig in a new-look top order.

Of the top six who took the field in last year's final, only two players - Aaron Redmond and Greg Todd - survive.

Cumming, Broom and Brendon McCullum are all in Australia with the Black Caps and English all-rounder Alex Gidman is no longer with the side.

With the batting line-up weakened the bowling will come under extra pressure.

Otago swept Canterbury aside with a magnificent bowling performance, dismissing its opponent for a miserable total of 86.

Strike bowler Neil Wagner's opening spell was superb.

The left-armer took three quick wickets to leave Canterbury reeling at 14 for three.

The home side was unable to get back into the game, with Dimitri Mascarenhas bowling 10 overs straight and taking one for 16, Warren McSkimming three for 13 and Nathan McCullum two for 23.

Hesson described it as the best one-day bowling performance he had seen from Otago in the past four seasons.


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