Notes from slip: December 22

Otago great Ken Rutherford’s broadside at his former association this week hit the mark. The former international wrote an email to the Otago Daily Times lamenting a lack of ambition or a plan to get the Volts back on top. He highlighted recruitment as an area of weakness.

"You just have to look at the player turnover in the past five years. [That is] enough to sound alarm bells," he wrote.

All-rounder Nathan Smith, top-order batter Nick Kelly, wrist spinner Michael Rippon, and seamers Michael Rae and Angus McKenzie have all defected in recent seasons. They left for different reasons, but they were all players Otago would have wanted, or should have wanted, to keep. The fact they could not keep them does not reflect well on the association.

Smith’s departure for Wellington came as a real blindside. No-one in the Otago camp saw that coming and his comments in the Otago Daily Times would have felt like an elbow in the ribs.

"The main reason I had for the move is I’ll get to work with the specialist bowling coach that they have," Smith said.

"They have just signed Iain O’Brien and they’ve got Hamish Bennett there, who I’m looking forward to working with immensely.

All-rounder Nathan Smith, one of the key players to have left Otago in recent seasons. PHOTO:...
All-rounder Nathan Smith, one of the key players to have left Otago in recent seasons. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
"They’ve got about five other Black Caps there ... and they’ve just signed a specialist batting coach, so they have a lot of resources."

Wind the clock back a little further and you can see a pattern emerging. The Volts lost the services of Jimmy Neesham, Neil Wagner and Michael Bracewell.

"Why are players leaving? Has anyone ever asked?" Rutherford wrote.

"Clearly, certain players see a better pathway for their individual development away from Otago."

The other half of the problem is Otago have not been able to recruit players of remotely similar calibre. They talent gap is widest in their seaming stocks. They have been in the market for bowlers since the Bronze Age — meanwhile, Canterbury have a stockpile of eight, and half of them appear happy to sit the game out each week rather than move south to Otago where they would be welcomed with a spot in the starting XI.

You ought to be able to pick off a few Canterbury bowlers in circumstances like that; instead, they are going the other way. That is where Rae, McKenzie and Rippon have all popped up.

"Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins will earn more money bowling two balls in India next year playing franchise cricket than for five days of hard work in a baggy green," wrote Tom Decent in the Sydney Morning Herald. And that, folks, is why test cricket is [insert appropriate term]. Merry Christmas.