Southland coach seeks closer links to student players

16:00, Mar 10 2014

Southland cricket coach Steve Jackson believes a closer relationship with the Southern Institute of the Technology could help them in their quest to push for a Hawke Cup victory in coming seasons.

Southland went ever so close to getting a hold of the Hawke Cup for the first time since 1992, when they lost to Manawatu by three wickets in a three-day showdown which finished on Sunday.

At this stage just England-bound Mark Beer is the only player expected to be missing when Southland have another crack at winning the Hawke Cup next season.

As far as potential newcomers next season, much could depend on what cricketers are unearthed through the Southern Institute of Technology John Wright Scholarship programme.

Up to 25 full and partial scholarships are offered to students from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal who exemplify excellent sporting and academic ability.

Southland this season used three different Indian players - Akash Christian, Amarpreet Singh and Khanin Saikia - who have come to the province because of the SIT.

Jackson said he was pleased with what those players had brought to the team but would like to work closer with the SIT in future when it comes to selecting which cricketers are awarded the John Wright Scholarships.

"Once people apply, it would be good to have an involvement in selecting those people.

"It would be good for the SIT to start talking with Southland Cricket and Southland Cricket needs to talk with the SIT."

Jackson said that at the moment that was not happening at all.

Generally the Southland coach only got a gauge on what Indian cricketers were in the province attending SIT in the early rounds of club cricket when he saw those players in action.

Jackson said if they had a better relationship with the SIT, they could potentially attract a player which might suit what they needed in the quest to win the Hawke Cup.

As far as other potential new additions next season, they will probably be young players who are starting to make an impression.

James Ng is regarded as a batsman on the rise and on Saturday scored his first senior hundred to highlight that talent, and will come into the thinking if he can continue to back that up with more runs.

Ng's Southland Boys' High School team-mate, Liam McWilliam, is developing into a spinner who looks to be a potential Hawke Cup prospect in the future.

Nick Cantwell, who this season was a bolter in the Otago under-19 team, may also come into the thinking as a bowling option.

The Otago University student is probably the quickest going around Southland at the moment although he does have some work to do around accuracy.

A big off-season, training under the guidance of Otago Cricket Association network coach Mark Bracewell in Dunedin, could have him ready to step up next summer for Southland.

Standout player

It is not hard to choose the player to shine the spotlight on in the wrap-up of the 2013/14 season.

Southland Boys' High School teacher Craig Smith was outstanding with the ball for Southland in their Hawke Cup campaign and the numbers do not lie.

He sent down 122.5 overs and took 29 wickets at an average of 11.68 runs for each of them.

Rookie watch

Sam Ward, Jared McKenzie, Amarpreet Singh and Akash Christian all made their Southland Hawke Cup debuts this season.

It was Ward who made the biggest impression, with the Southland Cricket Association development officer the top Southland run-scorer this season.

He scored 238 runs at an average of 34 opening the batting and it was in the Hawke Cup challenge against Manawatu where he really proved his worth, scoring half-centuries in both innings.

Individual highlight

Mark Beer provided the individual highlight in the 2013/14 season when he picked up a rare Southland hat-trick bowling in the southern zone Hawke Cup game against North Otago in Oamaru in December.

The first of his hat-trick had Ben Cant caught at slip by Hamish O'Brien for nine before he then trapped Stephan Grobler in front lbw next ball.

Beer then made no mistake with the hat-trick ball as he bowled Duncan Drew to make it three from three.

What's needed

There was a shortage of big individual scores during Southland's 2013/14 campaign, with no player making a century in the five Hawke Cup matches Southland played.

In fact Sam Ward's 65 in the second innings against Manawatu was the highest individual score of the season.

If Southland are to take the next step, the batsmen need to learn how to post big hundreds at that level and that learning starts with scoring hundreds regularly in club cricket.

Hundred club

The long-serving Jonathan Hodson joined a rare club this season, taking his 100th Hawke Cup wicket for Southland. Hodson made his debut as a 17-year-old in 1999 and remained a key figure in the attack in the 2013/14 season, taking 15 wickets.


The Southland Times