Muso hoping to strike right note

Otago rookie opener Cam Hawkins keeps his eye on the ball during a net session at the Edgar Centre earlier this week. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Otago rookie opener Cam Hawkins keeps his eye on the ball during a net session at the Edgar Centre earlier this week. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Cam Hawkins is bound to be a popular member of the Otago squad.

The 23-year-old plays guitar and is working his way towards a physiotherapy degree - a couple of handy skills right there.

And if he manages to score some runs as well, he will be warmly welcomed into the fold.

The Carisbrook-Dunedin top-order batsman is poised to make his first-class debut today when Otago hosts Central Districts at Molyneux Park.

He is replacing Hamish Rutherford, who is on duty with the New Zealand A side.

Hawkins is one of three changes to the side that lost to Wellington by an innings and 101 runs in October.

Pace bowler Warren Barnes is recovering from a virus and seamer Matt Bacon has a knee injury.

They have been replaced by right-armer Jack Hunter and spinner Ben Lockrose.

Lockrose will be on first-class debut as well. His playing prospects will depend on the conditions the Volts find in Alexandra.

But Hawkins' selection is less complicated. He will open alongside veteran opener Brad Wilson.

''It has been a long time coming,'' Hawkins said.

''It has been a dream of mine since I was a young kid. I moved over here from Australia to try to pursue it, so it has been a pretty big week for me. Hopefully I'll go well.''

Hawkins was born in Christchurch and spent part of his childhood in Hamilton. He moved to Sydney with his family when he was 10 but moved back to New Zealand to chase his cricket ambitions and to study physiotherapy when he was 20.

''Physio is a big passion of mine as well. I'm managing both at the same time but cricket is definitely the top priority at the moment.''

Hawkins had drawn the attention of the selectors with a fabulous season for his club
side last summer.

The compact right-hander was the leading scorer in the competition with 776 runs at an average of 55.40.

Anyone who can average more than 50 on Dunedin wickets must have a solid defence and impeccable discipline - two characteristics that will aid him in his debut performance.

Hawkins is confident he is carrying that form into this season.

''It has probably been one of my bigger pre-seasons being involved with the Otago setup.

'' I've found that good but there hasn't been as much cricket, with the weather, and a lot of reduced games.''

Hawkins described himself as technically correct but ''not one of the bigger hitters''.

''I'm just focused on good leaves outside the off stump and waiting for anything in my zone which is a bit too full or short.

''I quite like the short ball. Growing up in Australia, that is how I learned to play, by sitting on the back foot and waiting for anything short.''

If any venue is going to mirror the conditions he is used to in Sydney, it would be in Alexandra.

''For me, it is probably the perfect wicket to start on,'' he enthused.

''When I first heard [of my selection] I was excited but now I'm a little bit of nervous.

''I feel like as soon as I walk out to the middle I'll get one feeling or the other, but probably a bit of both.''

If the Volts get an opportunity to sing their victory song at the end of the match, Hawkins would have to be the leading candidate to grab the guitar. It has been a hobby of his for 10 years and he is not too proud to reach for the ukulele either.

''The boys brought a ukulele on the [Otago] A trip and I had a go on that, which was quite fun.''

Otago has made a disappointing start to the competition with a heavy loss to a star-studded Northern Districts side in the opening round and a big loss to Wellington.

Central Districts, however, leads the competition standings with two wins from two games.

The Stags have not been defeated in a Plunket Shield match since October 2016.

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