Bowler still holds hopes of making his mark in cricket. Aaron Goile reports.
Brent Arnel still harbours hopes of being a force in world cricket, but the pace bowler is turning some serious attention to becoming a coach in the near future.
In and out of the Black Caps test side over the last three years, the 33-year-old heads into another season a week today with the New Zealand A squad, involved in the two four-day matches against India A at Lincoln.
Last year's Northern Districts cricketer of the year is coming off a refreshingly varied off-season.
He has spent the winter experiencing fatherhood - with son Zavier now four-and-a-half months - as well as doing some relief teaching at Hamilton Boys' High School, where he had fellow Knights cricketers Graeme Aldridge and Bradley Scott for company.
But also in his break, Arnel has worked up a tremendous appetite to move into the coaching ranks, particularly in the bowling department.
He has been working closely with ND high performance development coach Craig Ross and been looking at how he can make a smooth transition into coaching once he decides to finish playing.
"We've been throwing ideas around and I've been doing a lot of research myself into what makes a good bowler and really analysing the world's best bowlers that've come across this game," Arnel said.
"I've come up with quite a few theories and obviously I want to put them into action with some of the younger athletes and even some of the Knights. So it's been a really good winter in terms of discovery and learning."
Arnel coached age-group teams while recovering from a back injury before he made the step up to first-class level. That injury, he said, meant he was a "bit of a late bloomer" and could see him playing still for some time yet.
"At this point I'm taking it season by season, I haven't got any ambitions to retire yet, I still thoroughly enjoy cricket and preparing for it and the lifestyle that it brings. But the passion for coaching is sort of driving through me as well. And I couldn't say that if a fantastic job offer came along for coaching over the next few seasons that I wouldn't hang the boots up."
With six tests to his name - the most recent being against South Africa in March this year - Arnel has taken nine wickets at an average of 62.88, and with the new young New Zealand pace brigade performing well, his future chances could be limited. But he's now aiming to not "obsess" about making the national side.
"I'm more striving to be the best cricketer I can possibly be," he said.
"I want to start by playing really well for the Knights and help contribute to winning trophies for them.
"I always seem to be in the top wicket-taking brackets for four-day cricket and at the moment I tend to get a little bit labelled with the longer versions but I'm striving to go as hard as I can with all three forms. And New Zealand have always been good in selection with that, if you are performing at the top then you do get a shot."
Arnel said for him to perform better at international level he would have to cope with nerves better and was aiming to swing the ball more, something needed to trouble top batsmen on good pitches.
In the off-season he has worked on technical issues, as he wants to move in more of a straight line rather than heading towards fine leg and third man, which should generate a bit more pace and accuracy.
"That's what it's always about for me in the winter, what can I add to my game to be a better bowler and a better cricketer, rather than just practising my skills to get ready," he said.
Arnel is also driven by statistics and is looking to tick off 200 first-class wickets, 50 first-class and one-day matches for the Knights, take a first five-wicket bag in the one-day format, as well as become more of a death bowling option in the shorter forms.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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