The dawning of Black Cap Hamish Rutherford

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 16/03/2013

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Many sportspeople struggle to get out from under the shadow of their famous parents or siblings.

History is littered with talented young athletes who became burned out under the intense spotlight shone their way because of who their father/mother/brother/uncle was.

Some are so intimidated by the prospect that they never bother picking up a rugby ball or a cricket bat.

Imagine the media scrutiny that will fall on Tiger Woods' son or daughter if they were to show any sort of talent with a golf club.

The current England cricket team has Stuart Broad, the son of former opener Chris Broad. Nascar had Dale Earnhardt Sr and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Boxing crossed the gender divide with arguably the greatest father-and-daughter combo in Muhammad and Laila Ali.

Liam Botham, son of Sir Ian Botham, a popular visitor to these shores recently, played professional cricket and rugby.

Tom Taylor, son of one of our favourite 1987 World Cup-winning All Blacks Warwick Taylor and nephew of All Black Murray Taylor, was called up as injury cover during last season's end-of-year tour.

And last week, in the leafy surrounds of University Oval, 23-year-old Hamish Rutherford batted his way into the history books with 171 on debut against the much-vaunted English bowling lineup.

Rutherford is the son of former New Zealand captain Ken Rutherford, who made his debut at 19 against the fearsome West Indies team of the sunbaked 1980s, and managed three test centuries in 56 matches.

Rutherford Sr was a stubborn player who should have had a better conversion rate, but his place in the game's folklore is secure.

Hamish had that extra pressure on his shoulders as he took his guard against the Poms in Dunedin, even if he wasn't thinking about it himself.

Many will link the boy with the man, even if Rutherford Jr is a great story in his own right. The way he batted - unruffled, calm - belied his cricketing maturity.

The nature of New Zealand cricket means that it's often been a family affair.

The Hadlees, Bracewells and the Cairns - we are seeing the offspring of our 80s heyday heroes starting to graduate into a silver fern.

A reporter at this newspaper recalls seeing a very young Hamish bowling and batting left-handed during breaks at Molyneux Park many summers ago, and being struck by his prodigious talent even at that age.

We read last week in the lead-up to the first test about how not that long ago Rutherford was making fancy coffees in a Dunedin cafe as he struggled to command a place in the Otago team.

What we weren't told at the time was that former Otago coach Mike Hesson, who has since gone on to have an interesting start as New Zealand's head coach, had told his successor Vaughn Johnson that Rutherford's game was suited only to the shorter forms of the game.

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Hesson wasn't alone in that assessment - even Rutherford's Wikipedia page describes him as a T20 specialist.

Johnson took the advice and Rutherford found it almost impossible to break into the Otago first-class side until Aaron Redmond suffered a crisis of form.

Rutherford was given a chance and, with the sage words of Craig Cumming in his ear, he made the most of it.

The rest, as they say, is history - except there are hopefully a lot of blank pages still be filled in for Rutherford Jr.

Some athletes succeed because of their family, some succeed despite it. Others still are so determined to make their own way that it barely matters.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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