Otago Volts power up in Champions League
OPINION: Think leading professional sporting franchises in New Zealand at the moment and the Breakers basketball organisation and Chiefs rugby teams spring to mind.
How about adding the Otago Volts cricket team to that list as well?
In the early hours of yesterday morning the Volts qualified for the main draw of the $7.4m Champions League Twenty20 tournament.
That alone might not be enough to put them on a pedestal in New Zealand sport given the Auckland Aces did that last year as well.
However, when you dissect the Volts' road to the Indian Twenty20 big-time you get the real appreciation of the Volts' special showing.
You have to search back to November 2 last year to find a Twenty20 game the Volts lost.
They won 10 games in a row in New Zealand's domestic Twenty20 competition and have extended that winning streak to 12 wins with victories over Pakistan side the Faisalabad Wolves and Sri Lankan team the Kandurata Maroons in Mohali, India, this week.
The 12-game winning streak - which does not include five warm-up game victories in Sri Lanka as well - has been recognised on a world scale with the Volts holding third place as far as unbeaten Twenty20 streaks go.
Ahead of them is Pakistan side the Sialkot Stallions who won a remarkable 25 games in a row from 2006 to 2010.
A win over Indian Premier League side the Hyderabad Sundrisers in the final Champions League qualifying game tomorrow morning will draw the Volts equal in second place with English county Surrey.
In 2003 and 2004 Surrey won 13 games on the trot.
What must be pointed out is this 12-game winning streak hasn't been built on some sort of all-star team from New Zealand cricket's leading players.
It has come on the back of some previously unheard of youngsters such as Jimmy Neesham, Jacob Duffy, Nick Beard and Hamish Rutherford.
Veteran players that some may have regarded on the way out, such as Ian Butler, Aaron Redmond and Neil Broom, have also stepped up to the mark.
Then there is smart recruiting, and the Volts are very good in this department, with Dutch international Ryan ten Doeschate the latest trump card.
Added to the mix is one of the world's best twenty20 batting exponents in Brendon McCullum.
Coach Vaughn Johnson must be commended with the way he has brought this team together and the fact Jesse Ryder, still one of New Zealand's most damaging players, is now pledging his allegiance to the Volts for the 2013/14 season.
That suggests Johnson has helped create an enjoyable environment which is also a winning environment.
This praise is deserved, and whatever happens from now this group of Volts players will be able to look back fondly on what they have achieved.
The brutal reality is if the Volts are going to truly capture the wider New Zealand sporting public's attention they need to make an ever bigger statement in the main draw of the Champions League.
This is the stage where we will get a true gauge as to just how good this Volts team is.
They will play IPL side the Hyderabad Sunrisers tomorrow morning in the final game of the qualifying stage of the tournament, but that fixture will have no effect on which pool they will join in the main draw.
The Volts will now have one eye on their first Champions League pool game against the John Wright-coached Mumbai Indians, which includes one of cricket's greatest-ever players, Sachin Tendulkar.
Expect the crowds to turn from a scattering of people from the qualifying games to a packed house in India when the Volts roll up against Mumbai on Tuesday morning (NZ time).
The Volts have already banked $200,000 in prize-money for making it to the main draw of the Champions League.
- The Southland Times