Departures leave hole in Canterbury Wizards

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2014
Dean Brownlie
JOSEPH JOHNSON/Fairfax NZ
HEADING NORTH: Batsman Dean Brownlie has switched allegiance to Northern Districts for the 2014-15 domestic cricket season.

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Neil Broom's return may be a coup for Canterbury Cricket, but they will need more than the former international to offset an exodus of batting talent.

Former Black Caps Dean Brownlie and Rob Nicol are both leaving, as is wicket-keeper/batsman Brad Cachopa, while Shanan Stewart retired at the end of last season.

Canterbury's once seasoned batting line-up could have a distinct green look about it this summer, especially if the in-form Tom Latham spends more of the season with the international side as expected.

Brownlie is heading to Northern Districts where he will open the batting and attempt to push for a recall into the national team.

Nicol is returning to Auckland and it is understood he has been offered the captaincy as replacement for the retired Gareth Hopkins.

Cachopa, too, is returning to Auckland.

It is understood discussions were held with Brownlie for him to stay in Canterbury and bat at the top of the order, but it wasn't just a chance to open which lured him north.

"This hasn't just happened, opening has been something I've been thinking of for about 18 months," Brownlie told The Press.

"I want to play for New Zealand and it looks like the Black Caps have positions three, four and five pretty well sewn up and I still think I have a lot to offer.

"It's not just the opening thing, though. I've spoken to a few people I trust and we worked out one of the things that I was missing was a home base. I've got a place in Mount Maunganui and that should be more stable for me."

Brownlie said he'd "absolutely loved my time with Canterbury" and was extremely proud of what he'd achieved.

He played 92 games for the association including 35 first class matches where he averaged 46.22 runs. Nicol played 112 matches and Cachopa 38.

Canterbury coach Gary Stead said losing Brownlie, Nicol and Cachopa was "absolutely a major blow".

"Rob leaving, his decision came somewhat out of the blue for us. But he's been offered the captaincy and that's great for him."

Stead said the departure would also create opportunity.

"That's opportunities for local players, young and more experienced, to push through or someone from out of the area, but it's an opportunity for someone who wants to play for Canterbury to have a shot."

Stead had already been approached by first class players from outside the region.

And that's what happened with Broom, he said. The 30-year-old, who has played 99 first class games, spent nine years in Dunedin and played 32 limited overs games for New Zealand.

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He said the time was right for he and his family to return to Christchurch and he fitted all the things Canterbury needed; he had experience, could bat in the middle and top order, had a proven record in all three formats and was a born-and-bred Cantabrian.

While the loss of Brownlie and Nicol are the bigger ones from a batting perspective, Cachopa's departure leaves a big gap.

There is now no experienced wicketkeeper in the region. Latham will only be available sporadically which leaves A-team glovemen Andrew Robertson and Freddie Anderson as the leading local candidates, although an outside specialist will be considered.

- The Press

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