Caveman look 'working so far'

UNEXPECTED: Otago bowler Blair Soper in action against Wellington at Invercargill's Queens Park yesterday.
UNEXPECTED: Otago bowler Blair Soper in action against Wellington at Invercargill's Queens Park yesterday.

The sight of Blair Soper running in to bowl might have cricket traditionalists spluttering over their cup of tea.

As a bit of a scenesetter, his look is more reminiscent of French rugby player Sebastien Chabal than the clean-shaven and well-groomed look of Sir Richard Hadlee in his heyday.

The Otago Volts paceman sports a mullet and long beard as he goes about his business on New Zealand's first-class cricket scene.

While the look has prompted countless jibes from his team-mates, and while those old-school cricket traditionalists might not be impressed, no-one can argue with Soper's form on the field.

After being a fringe Volts player in the 2012-13 season, Soper is now a regular in the four-day team, playing in all four of the Volts' Plunket Shield games this season.

He's been working away at his caveman look since March and doesn't see any reason to be give up the mullet and beard combo now he's a regular face in the Otago team and bowling as good as he has ever been.

"I don't see any point getting rid of it, it seems to be working so far," he joked.

After getting three games at the end of last season, Soper was loving being a more permanent fixture.

This week he is playing in his first first-class game in Invercargill as the Volts take on Wellington.

Although he's a Dunedin boy through and through, he admits to having a soft spot for Southland.

His father, Ewan, is a Southlander but headed to Dunedin for work, while Blair spent three years living in the deep south before his family made the move to Dunedin.

Soper's uncle, Grant, is also well known in Southland cricket circles following his days playing Hawke Cup cricket for the province.

The Otago Boys' High School product has progressed through the Otago age-group ranks and played for Otago A while he was still at school.

He feels he's finding his way in the top-level domestic competition and is starting to get a real handle on the game of cricket.

He bowls with good pace but acknowledges that, while pace got him through the age-group ranks, he has quickly found he needs more to his game than that at first-class level.

"Swinging the ball is probably one of the main things for me, because I've found out at this level batsmen can play whatever pace you can send down at them."

The Southland Times