Jamie Siddons has scoffed at suggestions that his Wellington Firebirds might as well be called "Australia A" for the next couple of weeks.
As many as four Australians are a chance to play for the Firebirds in their domestic Twenty20 opener against Canterbury at Westpac Stadium on Friday.
Former Australian Twenty20 and one-day player Luke Ronchi will definitely be in the Firebirds line-up, along with South Australian imports Shaun Tait and Cameron Borgas. Queensland club cricketer Dane Hutchinson is also in the selection mix.
He produced a useful showing in the Firebirds' Twenty20 practice match at the Petone Recreation Ground yesterday.
Ronchi and Hutchinson have New Zealand passports and Tait and Borgas are here for only two matches, before England's Chris Woakes and Tamim Iqbal from Bangladesh take over the import spots.
But that hasn't stopped some people around town from having a whinge about all the Aussie accents in the Firebirds team.
Siddons has heard the chatter from outside the team, but reckons it does not stacks up.
"Our real pros are an Englishman and a Bangladeshi.
"These guys [Tait and Borgas] are filling in for the games that they weren't available for," Siddons said.
"It's not like I went and hunted Aussies for the whole thing. It's just the way it panned out."
For short-term stints like the ones that involve Tait and Borgas, Australia's proximity made it the logical country to turn to, Siddons said.
And it's not as if any of the quartet of imports are duds.
"We've got three international players coming in and Borgas is a T20 specialist, so we've done pretty well, I think," Siddons said.
"Tait is an Aussie cricket team opening bowler in T20 and an IPL opening bowler in T20, so it's not a bad get."
Tait and Borgas arrived yesterday and will participate in today's intra-squad match at the Petone Rec.
Yesterday's match saw the Firebirds squad basically split in half, to enable the best bowlers to match up against the frontline batsmen.
Some of Wellington's better club players made up the numbers for a match which the "batting" team ended up winning by seven runs.
Ronchi looked a million bucks, hitting Andy McKay for three sixes and then clearing the long-off boundary from Mark Gillespie's bowling. The six off Gillespie was no mean feat, given Ronchi was hitting into a gale.
Hutchinson's death-bowling ability impressed Siddons, while Mark Houghton and Sunnie Chan looked the best of the club players. Another striking feature of the game was Luke Woodcock's re-modelled action.
With Jeetan Patel off to join the Black Caps' Sri Lankan tour on Friday, and then likely to feature in their home test matches during the summer, Woodcock has become Wellington's only spin-bowling option.
Rather than plug up an end, Woodcock will have to take wickets in that case and he and Siddons have spent a lot of time developing a much more round-arm action.
"We've changed him a lot and he's looking really good," Siddons said.
"It was important he made the adjustments and it'll give him more of a chance to spin the ball and get lbws."
Siddons has confirmed nine players in his mind for Friday "with two spots that are really up for grabs."
Jesse Ryder and Grant Elliott are among the nine.
Neither played yesterday, but will take part in today's game.
Canterbury, meanwhile, have named a 13-man squad.
Outside of batsmen Peter Fulton, Shanan Stewart and Dean Brownlie, it's light on international class and high on youthful enthusiasm.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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