A Gem of a quote is never far away with Lou Vincent, nor is a brutally honest assessment of his life in and out of cricket.
Asked to rate his form ahead of his first match at Westpac Stadium in nearly six years tonight, the former New Zealand opener was blunt.
"Very rough. Every time I play a shot there's cobwebs blocking my vision," he cackled.
Laughter hasn't arrived so easily for Vincent, though, since he last played for New Zealand in Sydney in December, 2007, then signed with the breakaway Indian Cricket League.
The father of two girls made public his battle with depression, went through a marriage breakup in England and ended up in Hong Kong as batting coach for their national side.
This time last year he'd just finished a stint with Zimbabwe T20 team the Mid-West Rhinos, alongside Shaun Tait, and was preparing Hong Kong for a T20 tournament in Nepal. At 33, he felt his first-class cricketing days were over.
Not so fast, Lou, said Auckland Cricket, which summoned him for a T20 game against Otago last season. He scored a rapid 31, was picked in the Aces' Champions League squad and offered a contract in July.
Now back on the farm in Kaukapakapa, his health and personal life are solid again and he feels blessed by Auckland's cricketing lifeline.
"I thought cricket was long gone but guys like Gareth Hopkins and the management at Auckland cricket were very supportive of me," he said.
"I still absolutely love it. You always want to do well but I've just got to keep being patient."
He hasn't fired with the bat yet, topscoring with 30 in South Africa and notching 57 runs in four Plunket Shield innings. But you never forget how to ride a bike, he says. Lack of time in the middle is his enemy.
Also giving him a boost ahead of tonight's opening match of Auckland's T20 title defence are memories of his previous stadium appearance.
That was in February, 2007, in an ODI against Australia when he cracked 73 not out and with Stephen Fleming ushered in a 10-wicket victory.
"When was that, about 2002? It feels about that long ago. I saw some of that footage yesterday; my flatmate was playing it for me as a bit of motivation."
Vincent is available for New Zealand selection. But the man who scored a test century on debut, against Australia in 2001, and averaged a respectable 34 chuckles again when an international recall is raised.
"I think there's about 60 batsmen ahead of me at this stage. Maybe if I get a couple of big hundreds we'll see what happens."
Tait and the Firebirds bowling attack stand in the way tonight. Vincent faced the Australian whirlwind in the nets in Zimbabwe and was also in the Black Caps who faced a fired-up Tait in Perth in 2007. "I didn't face him because I was out first ball to Brett Lee."
Cue that laugh again. Few would begrudge Vincent a happy return to Wellington.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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