Drink talk mars first test Black Caps' build-up

MARK GEENTY IN DUNEDIN
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2013
Jeetan Patel
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LATEST INCIDENT: It has been revealed Jeetan Patel may have missed the second day of play for the NZ XI due to a hit on the head sustained while out drinking.

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Coach Mike Hesson denies there's a drinking culture within the New Zealand set-up after a second off-field incident emerged in as many days on the eve of the first test against England.

Hesson, explaining the absence of Doug Bracewell from the side, also had to glance off questions about spinner Jeetan Patel's night out in Queenstown during the New Zealand XI tour match against England last week.

English tabloid The Sun reported Patel went out with friends last Wednesday night and hit his head, ruling him out of the second day's play. It is understood he suffered mild concussion, although no further details were available. Radio reported at the time that Patel was suffering from a virus which saw him remain at the team hotel.

Hesson glanced off a direct question about whether there was a drinking culture in the side, and insisted there were high standards within the Black Caps.

"We've got really good standards in terms of the expectations we have on our players. They are also human and also spend a lot of time away from the group," Hesson said.

"The expectation is that what they do certainly doesn't conflict or affect their preparation and we're pretty strong on that."

Hesson pointed out the Bracewell and Patel incidents happened outside the Black Caps team environment.

Having opened the shutters on Monday about the Bracewell incident, where he cut his foot on glass during a post-party cleanup at his Napier home, New Zealand Cricket slammed them shut yesterday when the Patel story emerged.

Hesson confirmed Patel hit his head during the night out and was unable to take the field the next day, but couldn't add any detail. "I wasn't out at the time so I'm not sure. You'll need to speak to NZC about that."

New Zealand XI manager Lance Hamilton said he wasn't the man to comment on the Patel incident. An NZC spokeswoman said the matter was dealt with at the time by team management and the Cricket Players' Association, and no one from NZC would comment further.

NZC vehemently denied anyone from the team or management had misled the radio commentators and told them Patel had a virus.

A request via Wellington management to get Patel's side of the story was declined, saying NZC was handling all comment on the matter. Cricket Wellington, who Patel is contracted to, was unaware of the incident yesterday.

Bracewell, meanwhile, is expected to be fit for the second test starting in Wellington next Friday. Via team manager Mike Sandle, Bracewell apologised for the inconvenience he caused his team-mates, members of the public and the neighbour who twice telephoned CPA boss Heath Mills to complain about rowdy parties at Bracewell's house.

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Bracewell insisted to Mills and Sandle that he had "a couple of beers" and wasn't drunk during a gathering of nine or 10 people to watch the rugby at his house last Friday night.

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said the Bracewell situation had been "blown out of proportion".

"It was an accident, and that's unfortunate, because it's rubbed him out of a test which he was determined to be at his best for."

- The Dominion Post

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