Otago may make up to five changes to contracted players

Otago Volts batsman Mitch Renwick is bowled by Malcolm Nofal under the eyes of Wellington...
Otago Volts batsman Mitch Renwick is bowled by Malcolm Nofal under the eyes of Wellington wicketkeeper Lauchie Johns at the University of Otago Oval. Photo: Peter McIntosh
The first round of domestic contracts are expected to be announced today. Otago might have up to five new names on its list, cricket writer Adrian Seconi writes.

The fab five?

Let's hope so.

Otago could make up to five changes to their list of contracted players this summer.

Those changes ought to be embraced by the fans. While the Volts were impressive in the one-day competition, they were less so in the other two formats.

Change was inevitable and there has been some natural attrition. But form could dictate another couple of swaps.

Otago has three confirmed spots to fill following the retirement of Brad Wilson, Warren Barnes and Shawn Hicks.

Two of those spots have been taken. Earlier this week the association announced Central Districts all-rounder Dean Foxcroft and Northern Districts top-order player Nick Kelly were moving south for the summer.

Kelly will neatly slot into the role Hicks had. He will probably bat at first drop and is a nice clean replacement.

But Foxcroft, who represented South Africa at under-19 level, is a qualifying player so his arrival will create a dilemma.

Otago had two qualifying players on its books last season - Michael Rippon and Christi Viljoen.

You can only play two qualifying players in the four-day and one-day tournaments, so three qualifying players is one too many.

Viljoen may miss out. If the Namibian international is jettisoned then that will free up another spot.

The other player who might be on the skids is top-order batsman Josh Tasman-Jones. He picked up a contract last season but failed to impress.

In five first-class games for the Volts he scored 150 runs at an average of 15. He was overlooked during the one-day campaign but did play in four twenty20 matches in which he scored just eight runs in four innings.

He chipped in with the odd wicket but the Volts need more production in terms of runs.

Opening batsman Camden Hawkins impressed for Otago when he got opportunities last season. He scored four half-centuries in six first-class games and mounts a compelling case for a contract.

However, he is very much seen as a four-day specialist and will need to develop his game if he is going to feature in white-ball cricket.

The other two players who could find themselves freshly contracted are back-up keeper Max Chu and left-armer spinner Ben Lockrose.

They have both had opportunities for Otago and would be very much an investment in the future.

However, Otago's seaming stocks look a bit thin, so someone like Jack Hunter or Tommy Clout may grab a spot and the selectors may opt to retain Viljoen.

Medium pacer Travis Muller performed well for Otago A and in club cricket last season but he is also a qualifying player.

The Plunket Shield batting line-up is in dire need of shoring up and has been significantly strengthened by Neil Broom's decision to return to red-ball cricket.

He retired from first-class cricket at the beginning of last season but wants back in. He is the province's all-time second-highest scorer and brings a wealth of experience.

Broom and the likes of Jacob Duffy, Hamish Rutherford, Mark Craig and Nathan Smith were probably among the first names jotted down.

A core of Foxcroft, Kelly, Michael Rippon, Michael Rae, Mitch Renwick, Matt Bacon, Anaru Kitchen and Josh Finnie are all very likely to be offered contracts as well.

Finnie will need to deliver a lot more with the bat, though. He averaged just 13 in first-class cricket last season. But with 16 contracts to dish out, his job looks safe.

Pencil Hawkins in for a contract, while those last two spots could go to four or five different players.

Otago contracts

Possible:

Jacob Duffy, Hamish Rutherford, Nathan Smith, Neil Broom, Mark Craig, Michael Rippon, Michael Rae, Mitch Renwick, Matt Bacon, Anaru Kitchen, Josh Finnie, Dean Foxcroft, Nick Kelly, Camden Hawkins, Christi Viljoen, Tommy Clout.

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