Aces show NZ cricket the way
Following New Zealand's fairly poor showing the T20 World Cup, it's been good to see the Auckland Aces' strong performances at the Champions League T20 tournament.
The boys in blue are showing there's plenty of talent waiting in the wings for New Zealand cricket, but they are also reaping the benefit of recruiting some pretty handy old statesmen.
Unsurprisingly, legendary Pakistani cricketer Azhar Mahmood is topping the batting and bowling averages for the Aces. But below him is up and coming west Auckland slugger Anura Kitchen, who's averaging 43 over four matches.
Black Cap Kyle Mills has the best economy rate for the side, but he's been ably backed up Ronnie Hira, Michael Bates, and Andre Adams.
Four games don't make a summer, but it seems the Auckland has produced some fairly handy cricketers, who have obviously honed their craft enough so they're able to handle an international level of cricket.
Hira, Bates and Kitchen have all had a small taste of world class cricket, but it's good to see talented guys like Colin Munro, Colin De Grandhomme starting to get more of a taste of it.
The five I've just mentioned will more than likely form the core of the Black Caps in years to come. But if they are able to learn from this cricketing OE and really dominate the first-class scene this summer, it could be much sooner than expected.
The Aces' brief success also shows the benefit of having some older heads around. Mahmood and Adams are all well into their thirties, but they've obviously still got the goods. And they all disprove the popular thought in New Zealand sport that you're sporting life is over after 30.
Adams in particular, at 37, is proof that all-rounders can still play at a high level if they look after their body well. And he showed off his renowned athleticism in dismissing Jacques Rudolph with an incredible catch.
It seems bizarre that a player of Adams' talent has been unwanted by the New Zealand selectors, especially given he's still a top performer on the English county cricket scene.
But the door isn't closed on Lou Vincent either. He hasn't quite excelled at this tournament, but a strong first-class season could see him back in black.
Having a player of his age and life experience in the test squad could be really valuable to help young guys like Kane Williamson and Daniel Flynn along in their careers. And he may also understand the game a bit better so our team can turn strong first innings performances into second innings dominance, rather than the capitulation we often see.
In fact the whole approach of the Auckland Aces has shown a lot for the New Zealand team to learn from. The Aces have the perfect mix of old and young, with a settled batting order, rather than the constant chopping and changing we see at the top level.
Too often our Black Cap selectors are showing the door to wiser heads in favour of young upstarts. It means the team is constantly rebuilding, while talented, more experienced players flourish in overseas competitions or wallow in despair on the domestic scene.