Jimmy Neesham: From Sunnyvale to the IPL?
OPINION: It was November 27, 2011, and there was a national club cricket knockout game played at Sunnyvale between Dunedin's North East Valley and visiting Southland club Metropolitan.
It was a game that was important for the 22 players on display but had little fanfare attached to it, with only a handful of people in attendance.
Included in the North East Valley team was a then-21-year-old by the name of Jimmy Neesham.
Neesham had just shifted from Auckland in an attempt to kickstart his cricket career and the Southlanders let him know that just because he had attracted some interest from the Otago Volts decision-makers, the welcome mat wasn't about to be rolled out.
Neesham looked handy enough in North East Valley's 13-run win without providing any sort of wow factor to suggest he was going to progress to be a superstar recruit for the Volts.
However, less than two years later, Neesham is just that. His name is on the lips of many cricket followers around the world and, most notably, in India. The #unleashTheNeesh hashtag is also trending like wildfire on Twitter as he develops cult hero status.
The transformation looks like it will be as dramatic, because Neesham goes from being a bloke playing in a club knockout game in the sleepy environment of the Sunnyvale cricket ground in Dunedin two years ago to an international player who is now potentially pushing millionaire status in the bright lights of Indian cricket.
Close to home, Neehsam had already climbed the ladder at a quick rate, being identified by the national selectors.
Now the cash-laden Indian Premier League teams look set to come knocking loudly on his door as the former New Zealand under-19 representative waves his name proudly in front of them.
In the Champions League Twenty20 qualifying tournament, it is understood Neesham had already caught the eye of prospective IPL teams with his performances but after his latest offering it now seems a matter of how much he will get rather than if an IPL team will snap him up.
Neesham almost singlehandedly got his team home in a dramatic super-over win against South African team the Highveld Lions and, in turn, has all but booked them a semifinal berth in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament in India.
He struck 52 from 25 balls to see his team tie with the Lions' score of 167 after 20 overs.
Neesham and captain Brendon McCullum then scored 13 runs off their super over before McCullum threw Neesham the ball to bowl their super over.
After being hit for a four and six off the first two balls, Neesham again clawed his team back, with the Lions also managing just 13 off their six balls.
That meant the Volts won on countback, scoring 19 boundaries to the Lions' 18.
What Neesham's heroic display did is show many young cricketers in New Zealand an example of what can be achieved with hard work.
Here is a guy who a couple of years ago looked to be a good cricketer at club level but certainly not someone that would soon call himself a international player and is now attracting IPL interest.
Neesham took a punt by moving himself to Dunedin a couple of years back, as his career was somewhat stagnant in Auckland - although there were no guarantees in the Volts setup.
Through hard work and obviously some good guidance from coach Vaughn Johnson, he has propelled his playing abilities to a new level.
The simple message: It can be done.
- The Southland Times