Seamers Otago’s priority as contracts time draws close

Rob Walter
Rob Walter
Summer is a distant target, but there will be a flurry of action as the country’s six domestic sides put their playing rosters together during the next few weeks.

The first round of the domestic cricket contracts will be offered on June 10.

Otago is not expected to make many changes from the 16 it contracted last season.

It will need to find a replacement for former Black Caps off-spinner Mark Craig, though. The 33-year-old is taking an indefinite break from the game.

It is unlikely his replacement will be a like-for-like swap, however. The Volts went into last season a couple of seamers light and the first priority for coach Rob Walter is to add to his stable of pacemen.

‘‘We’ve been in a holding pattern just with everything that is going on,’’ he said in reference to the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘‘But our players are becoming aware of where they stand in terms of the squad.

‘‘We can’t offer anyone anything until June 10, so it is just about talking to players and letting them know they are in our thinking.

‘‘But we’ll obviously look after our current players first and there is no secret around the fact we want to try to bolster our bowling stocks.’’

That replacement might come from within the wider squad, rather than another association.

Seamers Travis Muller, Blair Soper and Tommy Clout filled in for Otago last season when needed and could be in line.

But you can go ahead and ink in bowlers such as Jacob Duffy, Nathan Smith and Michael Rae.

It would be too awful to imagine that excellent home-grown trio playing anywhere else. And Matt Bacon did not have a great season but he is likely to return as well.

Veteran batsmen Neil Broom and Anaru Kitchen are keen to go around again, while last season’s new recruits, Nick Kelly and Dean Foxcroft, impressed and might have clawed their way up the pecking order.

Experienced opener Hamish Rutherford was in tremendous touch and was pushing for a spot in the national side.

He will be towards the top of the list, while all-rounder Josh Finnie realised some of his potential with a strong showing in the twenty20 tournament and shapes as another likely returnee.

Left-arm wrist spinner Michael Rippon showed he can help win games with both the ball and the bat, so he is another who may climb the list.

Opener Camden Hawkins had a tough season but is worth persisting with, while gloveman Mitch Renwick was solid enough.

Back-up keeper Max Chu is being groomed as the long-term replacement, while all-rounder Dale Phillips’ spot could disappear if there is another quality seamer about.

‘‘We had a really good season to be fair, and we worked pretty hard to get ourselves there, so you wouldn’t want to be making too many changes,’’ Walter said.


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