Domestic game foundation Black Caps built success on

Adrian Seconi.
Adrian Seconi. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Is there a more unloved domestic competition than the Plunket Shield?

Perhaps its nearest rival would be the one-day competition.

Both these tournaments are played at virtually empty venues.

They are the ugly puppies chained up out the back while the Black Caps get the spot beside the fire and a mutton chop to chew on.

For the casual cricket observer, it must seem like a miracle the Black Caps have appeared in back-to-back World Cup finals and climbed their way to a share of top spot in the ICC test rankings.

But the real miracle is that the invisible levels below are churning out players of real quality.

The sport is supposedly withering away.

It is not popular with the youth. It takes too long. It is boring. And it is too expensive. You need a mortgage to buy a cricket bat these days.

But for all that, for every Kane Williamson there is Will Young desperate for more opportunities in the top team.

Henry Nicholls has Devon Conway firmly fixed in his rear-vision mirror.

Otago’s Hamish Rutherford is utterly destructive on his day.

Wellington opener Rachin Ravindra’s reputation is growing.

Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner might seem like they had a mortgage on the pace bowling slots in the test side.

But then along came towering Aucklander Kyle Jamieson. He quickly overtook fellow Auckland speedster Lockie Ferguson and Canterbury’s Matt Henry in the pecking order.

The queue is deep. Very deep. Anyone remember when Doug Bracewell was the next big thing?

He played the last of his 27 tests four years ago and, at 30, still has some good years ahead of him.

Adam Milne appears to have put his injury concerns behind him. He is back bowling 150kmh in the Big Bash.

Otago’s Jacob Duffy nabbed four wickets on international debut earlier this month.

Scott Kuggeleijn gets the ball through at a sharp pace and his hitting power has helped him secure opportunities in the Black Caps twenty20 and one-day side.

Canterbury’s Will Williams and Fraser Sheat have enjoyed tremendous success in the first-class competition this season.

Central Districts trio Seth Rance, Blair Tickner and Ben Wheeler have played international cricket. Wellington trio Hamish Bennett, Logan van Beek and Ollie Newton have been instrumental in the Firebirds’ white-ball success of late.

New Zealand’s seam bowling stocks have arguably never been stronger.

There is some depth in the spinning ranks as well.

Left-armer Mitchell Santner took some critical wickets to help New Zealand secure victory in the first test against Pakistan yesterday.

But there are some quality spinners in the domestic ranks with superior first-class records. That list includes Ajaz Patel, Will Somerville, Ish Sodhi, Michael Rippon and Cole McConchie.

All that competition for places has helped create an incredibly tough test team and a wonderfully successful one-day side.

But below that top 11 are another 20 or 30 players well worth watching.

They are the silent contributors playing in empty stadiums who have pushed the national team on to great heights.

New Zealand domestic cricket is a lot stronger than people give it credit for. It is the foundation the Black Caps have built their success on, or the bone the mutton clings to.

 

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