Craig a Volt out of the blue

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 16/04/2014
Mark Craig
SHOCKER: Otago offspinner Mark Craig has received a shock call-up to the New Zealand test team to tour West Indies.

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A few years back New Zealand test cricket bolter Mark Craig spent much of his day feeling as if he was going to pass out at any moment.

Craig suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an illness that had him doing very little for 11 months.

His days were mainly spent sitting on the couch or lying in bed at his family home in Auckland after he was forced to return home from Dunedin, where he was studying and playing cricket.

At that point, playing cricket at any level was far from his mind, let alone the prospect of lining up in the pinnacle of the sport, a test match.

In 2009, Craig debuted for the Otago Volts Twenty20 side.  

He played six games, but by the end of that campaign there were worrying signs around his health.

''I sort of felt like passing out a lot, though I never did, and I was so tired I couldn't sleep. It wasn't much fun.''

After a tough haul back to full health, Craig returned to Dunedin and the Otago Volts set up.

In February, 2011 he had progressed to the point he was able to make the first of his 22 first-class appearances.

Craig was rung on Monday night by New Zealand Cricket selector Bruce Edgar to advise him he had been selected in the New Zealand test squad to play the West Indies in June.

''It wasn't an easy 10 or 11 months I spent just trying to get back on my feet. Just being able to do general day-to-day stuff was, at one point, a real struggle for me. So to be able to, a year later, get back on the park was awesome and I haven't really looked back after that, which is good. I think other people have had it a lot longer so I was lucky to get out of it when I did,'' he said.

The 27-year-old has held international aspirations but confessed he never expected it would be as soon as the West Indies tour in June.

''I was obviously taken aback a little bit when I got the call. It's something every cricketer dreams of to get that call and it probably came a little bit sooner than expected. It was a little bit of a shock but, at the same time, a lot of joy and happiness.''

His comeback from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome hasn't been the only battle for the offspinner, who has found it hard to get the ball ahead of Volts team mates Nathan McCullum and Nick Beard.

Craig was planning to spend the New Zealand winter mainly in Dunedin working with Otago Cricket strength and conditioning coach Simon Keen but instead is now eyeing a test match debut against the likes of Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

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The right-arm off-spinner has been included in the squad after Wellington's Jeetan Patel made himself unavailable.

Patel said he wanted to focus on a full season with Warwickshire, for whom he was player of the year in 2013, and be with his wife and baby daughter who are based with him in the UK.

Craig is one of two frontline spinners named in the test, with the other leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.

Kane Williamson will also play a role with his part-time spinners.

Given the Caribbean pitches are likely to suit spin there is the strong prospect both Craig and Sodhi could be included in the playing 11.

After Craig's time with the New Zealand test squad he will head to England to join the New Zealand A team where he is scheduled to play in two three-day games against County sides Kent and Surrey.

- Fairfax Media

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