Debut reward for Phillips' initiative

Rookie Otago batsman Dale Phillips waits for his turn in the nets during a training session in...
Rookie Otago batsman Dale Phillips waits for his turn in the nets during a training session in Dunedin earlier this week.PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Dale Phillips is certainly proactive when it comes to his cricket career.

The 21-year-old wanted to play top-level cricket and did not see as many opportunities in Auckland for him as he could get elsewhere.

So he contacted Otago coach Rob Walter "a few years ago" and was rewarded for his initiative with a playing contract this season.

Those opportunities he craved were waiting for him down south and tomorrow he will make his one-day debut for Otago when the Volts play Northern Districts at Seddon Park.

All-rounder Dean Foxcroft and top-order batsman Nick Kelly will also be making their first appearance in the blue and gold strip.

Phillips' main role is with the bat. But he is also working on developing his right-arm medium-pacers and believes he can offer some value as a containing type of bowler.

"We've got quite a strong batting line-up, so for me I'm quite happy to slot in wherever I'm needed and play whatever role is needed," he said.

With Neil Broom and Hamish Rutherford unavailable for tomorrow's match, the role Phillips is required to do is at the top of the order.

He will bat in the top four and may even open.

Dale bats a little like older brother Glenn Phillips, who is an aggressive wicketkeeper-batsman and fringe Black Cap.

"Some say that we look very similar and we do share quite a similar style of play. But I'm not as aggressive as he would be.

"I kind of like to work my innings a little bit more. But if you were a spectator looking on, you'd probably say we looked pretty similar."

The brothers are close and Dale continues to lean on Glenn for advice.

"Every time I have a bad day he will message me telling me it is all good and on to the next one. He really helps in that sense."

Phillips was born in South Africa but moved to New Zealand with his family when he was 3. He has been back to the republic only once, so he is
as Kiwi as.

Somehow he has held on to a sliver of an accent, though. But then he is surrounded by influences from his homeland.

His wife, Bianca, is Afrikaans. His sister, Jessica, married South African-born Auckland cricketer Donovan Grobbelaar.

"Some people say I sound Kiwi and some people say I sound South African," he said in his hybrid accent.

He knows some Afrikaans but apparently most of the good swearing words are similar to the English version.

Phillips' goal this season is to develop his game and grasp the opportunities which arise.

He is enjoying his rookie year as a professional cricketer.

"Just from being in the environment for the last four months I've already seen such great changes in my game. And speaking to people who saw me before, they have said that the change has been really beneficial for me.

"If was definitely the right move."

Phillips and his wife are living in Mornington and have settled nicely. Strangely, they do not miss exorbitant rent or traffic jams.

Otago had a tremendous run in the one-day tournament last season. It qualified top and secured a home final.

Wellington won the final but Otago assistant coach Anton Roux feels his side can carry some positive momentum into this season.

"Last season is last season. But what we can take out of that is just the experience of winning those close games," Roux said.

"If those close games come again then at least we have something to fall back on from an experience point of view.

"That is something you cannot coach players. They have to experience that themselves."

Otago v Northern Districts

Hamilton, tomorrow, 2pm

Otago: Nick Kelly, Dale Phillips, Mitch Renwick, Dean Foxcroft, Anaru Kitchen, Nathan Smith, Josh Finnie, Michael Rippon, Jacob Duffy, Michael Rae, Matt Bacon, Max Chu.

Northern Districts: unavailable

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