A familiar place at the crossroads

JONATHAN MILLMOW
Last updated 05:00 06/11/2010
James Franklin
KEVIN STENT
ROLE PLAY: James Franklin has been used in a variety of roles in a variety of teams without establishing himself as a regular international player.

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You can imagine the scene. James Franklin has scored another hundred for Wellington, a national selector knocks on the dressing-room door and tells him he is required up the road immediately.

His Firebirds team-mates pat him on the back, watch him rush out the door and then all think to themselves "for God's sake Franky, get a big one".

Franklin bats and bowls as he wishes at domestic level but the same confidence has never been witnessed on the international scene.

Some are getting impatient. The selectors have given contracts to lesser players, the public is losing faith in the towering leftie.

Franklin, who turns 30 tomorrow, is not a man for excuses or a song and dance. He is home from a successful county stint at Gloucestershire and a spell leading New Zealand A in Zimbabwe. Under his belt now are 6129 first-class runs and 421 wickets.

He has two county offers on the table for next winter, turned down two provinces to play again for Wellington this season and, by the way, hasn't played a test match in 18 months. It doesn't add up.

"It can be hard at times when you are in and out of the side, when you are constantly playing for your position because you have the apprehensiveness of wanting to nail your position," Franklin said of his stop-start New Zealand career.

Franklin has been tried in various roles in various teams. He falls best in the category of a batsman who bowls in the test side but an all-rounder at first-class level.

Gloucester coach John Bracewell used him as a Twenty20 opener on occasions.

"I honestly reckon I am a genuine all-rounder," Franklin said. "The weight of runs I've scored over the last couple of years make people think I might be a batsman but I still feel a can do a job with the ball.

"I still feel I'm challenging with the ball. We had a couple of TV games in England and my pace was competitive [132-133kmh]."

Franklin appears to have got over the disappointment of losing a New Zealand contract conservatively worth $100,000.

Mid-year he did the right thing by biting his tongue and staying loyal to New Zealand when using a grandparent's Irish heritage to play as a local on the English county scene was an option.

"I went through that whole quandary in England when I missed out on a contract.

"I had a couple of amazing offers from counties because I could play as a local, but I didn't feel I was ready to give up my ambition of playing for New Zealand.

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"Right now I am unsatisfied at leaving international cricket and leaving Wellington. I had offers from around the country here as well, but at the end of the day I am a Wellington boy.

"Last year was so disappointing at Wellington, so there is unfinished business.

"I'd love to have another opportunity in the New Zealand setup. I'd love to play another test, I've not played a test for 18 months and obviously there is a World Cup this summer and I want to break into that," he says.

Franklin has the county cricket bug. He shone in the limited overs arena and performed well in the first-class championship with 862 runs at 33.5 and 46 wickets at 23.54.

"We had big ambitions and did not fulfil them, but personally I was happy with my performance.

"Run-wise I was bit light, I wanted to break the 1000-run barrier.

"This isn't an excuse, but quite a few batsmen struggled with the new heavy roller rule. You weren't allow to use heavy rollers so the pitches didn't flatten out, so only eight or nine batsmen got over 1000 runs."

Franklin has told Bracewell he will be playing elsewhere next summer as the Bristol-based county funnels its money into a new stadium rather than the players. "I've had the discussion with Braces, it is highly unlikely. There have been some top offers from other counties so I'm working through that.

"I'd like to play another full county season but if that doesn't work out then a short-term Twenty20 deal would be nice."

The first-class cricket season starts on Tuesday. Franklin needs to dictate terms and communicate fight.

AT A GLANCE

Name: James Franklin
Age: 29
Club: Wellington Collegians
Province: Wellington

Playing record:
Tests: 26 matches, 644 runs at 21.46,80 wickets at 32.65
ODIs: 75 games, 636 runs at 18.70, 69 wickets at 38.79
First-class: 135 matches, 6129 runs at 34.82, 421 wickets at 26.22

- The Dominion Post

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