James Franklin flies to South Africa on Saturday but the practice nets may be as close as he gets to playing in the Champions League Twenty20.
The New Zealand all-rounder was originally dropped from the 15-man Mumbai Indians squad for the 10-team tournament but, a day after returning from the World T20 last Thursday, was summoned as a stand-by player. It means a fortnight of training in the South African heat, with injury to a frontliner his only chance of taking the field.
"I was a little bit surprised [to be omitted]. But they're the ones making the decisions and they've got their reasons," Franklin said.
"If someone does fall over then I might get an opportunity, so all I can do is go over there and train and see what happens."
It's a rewarding but sometimes fickle existence, that of a T20 gun for hire. Franklin, a US$100,000 (NZ$122,200) signing, was a consistent performer for Mumbai, the defending champions who finished third in this year's Indian Premier League. But Sachin Tendulkar's side preferred Richard Levi, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith, Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson and Thisara Perera as their imports for the Champions League.
It begins a long summer on the road for Franklin, who could play just one game in his new role as Wellington T20 captain.
From South Africa, he will head directly to Sri Lanka for the Black Caps month-long tour in November, then return home for a fortnight before departing for six weeks in South Africa if he continues to play for New Zealand in all three formats.
If so, Franklin's only domestic T20 match will be against Central Districts in Napier on December 7. Former captain Grant Elliott, who stepped aside, will reclaim the Firebirds' T20 reins in his absence.
"I've had one crack at captaincy with NZ A in Zimbabwe and thoroughly enjoyed it. I've tried to think like a captain, so it'd be nice if I get the opportunity to put some of my own thoughts into practice," Franklin said.
"If I'm not around then it means that I'm doing a pretty good job for New Zealand and that's the highest goal I have, is to contribute to a successful New Zealand side."
On that yardstick, he fell short in Sri Lanka, averaging 30 with the bat at a strike rate of 128, and taking three wickets at 18 with an economy rate of 8.83. Respectable numbers, but not enough to spur New Zealand to the semifinals while the two teams they tied with, Sri Lanka and West Indies, contested the decider.
"There's a sense of frustration there. That's just the way that format has worked out, you go to a super over and have a bit of lottery cricket.
"That just shows how close we are to getting it right with those two teams going through to the final. I felt I contributed in most games I played without really nailing that huge matchwinning performance."
Also at the Champions League will be Ross Taylor (Delhi Daredevils), Brendon McCullum (Kolkata Knight Riders), Nathan McCullum (Sydney Sixers) and Wellington's import Luke Ronchi (Perth Scorchers), while Jacob Oram (Uva Next, Sri Lanka) and New Zealand champions Auckland contest this week's qualifying tournament.
- The Dominion Post
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