Murdoch embracing demotion to provincial level

MAKING THE MOST: Stephen Murdoch sees his time with the provincial side as a chance to get some extra cricket under his belt.
MAKING THE MOST: Stephen Murdoch sees his time with the provincial side as a chance to get some extra cricket under his belt.

Stephen Murdoch jokes that he's been to so many provincial A tournaments that there's a room named after him in the Lincoln University Halls of Residence.

So he'll know where to find it, when he leads Wellington at this summer's edition, from January 2-9.

Having been named as the Firebirds' Plunket Shield skipper for this summer, the 29-year-old probably imagined his days at Lincoln were done. But Murdoch hasn't been required for Wellington's Twenty20 campaign, having been unable to produce any compelling four-day form.

His 142 runs, at 14.20, isn't the worst the worst return among the Firebirds' specialist batsmen. The man who leads the Twenty20 team - Grant Elliott - has that distinction, with a record of 96 runs at 12.00.

Murdoch's preference would be to play alongside Elliott in that Twenty20 team, but he feels no embarrassment at being banished to Lincoln for the fifth time time since he first attended the A tournament in 2003.

"Not at all," Murdoch said yesterday.

"I know what you're saying, but I'd rather be there, having knocks in the middle, than having net sessions or facing bowling machines. But I know what you mean, though."

It should be pointed out that Auckland opener Tim McIntosh will probably be there again, as he was even during his time as a Black Caps incumbent. Some guys, no matter how good they are, just don't figure in their association's limited overs' plans and get sent to Lincoln instead.

The point of this exercise isn't to poke fun at Murdoch, who is a thoughtful and friendly bloke. But he hasn't had the runs he would've liked in his first five games in charge of the Firebirds' four-day side.

He doesn't think they're far away and rejects the suggestion that his lack of productivity has lessened his authority within the team. He's "loving" the opportunity to captain the team and believes Wellington are "right in the mixer" to claim the Plunket Shield title, when the competition resumes on January 24.

Fourth, with two wins, two losses and a draw under their belt, the Firebirds trail leaders Central Districts by 27 points. But they do have the distinction of having beaten CD twice.

Having only recently established himself as a first-choice member of the side, there was a feeling Murdoch might have been an unusual choice as captain. Elliott had been at the helm, but didn't fancy it again, and only assumed the Twenty20 reins when James Franklin became a regular Black Cap after Mike Hesson took charge.

So is it captain by committee at the Firebirds? Is coach Jamie Siddons calling all the shots from the sideline? Or is Murdoch his own man?

"I get input," said Murdoch.

"I've got a wealth of experience [at my disposal], so you've got Grant, Luke Ronchi and Michael Papps, guys like that, who I keep asking and they keep coming to me with little ideas when they crop up.

"Bouncing ideas is the best way forward, I believe. They've got a wealth of experience and it would be silly not to utilise that."

But he "absolutely" sees himself as the guy in charge.

"My role is about gathering all the stuff I can from all the different sources; right from the coach, through to the players. It's my job to filter that and put it into a plan and implement it on the field."

Siddons is an assiduous planner, but doesn't dictate terms once the team takes the park.

"We don't have earpieces, and things like that, so he can't send through messages," Murdoch said.

"But we talk through each session afterwards and at drinks breaks there's a good chance for the 12th man to run out and give me some thoughts from the sideline.

"Once again, he's really experienced and has watched and played a lot of cricket, so any ideas from him are very valuable. It's also good to get opinions from guys who aren't in the heat of the battle, as well."

Meanwhile, Wellington meet Otago in Twenty20 match at Dunedin tomorrow, bolstered by the arrival of Bangladeshi opener Tamim Iqbal, who was unavailable for an interview yesterday.

They then host CD on Boxing Day. The Stags have signed Zimbabwean new-ball bowler Kyle Jarvis for the rest of the Twenty20 competition and two Plunket Shield matches, after he took 31 wickets at 21.06 for them in six four-day games last summer.

The Dominion Post