There was a moment during Wellington's Twenty20 loss to Auckland on Saturday, that summed up Luke Woodcock.
The 31-year-old will not be remembered as the best Firebird of all time or the most talented. But there will be plenty of team-mates that have to answer "no" when they ask themselves if they got as much out of their natural ability as he did.
Woodcock is a battler, in the best sense of the word, as evidenced by the chase he put in to save a run while Auckland were batting. Having seen another Firebird put in a token dive at mid-on, Woodcock pumped and strained from midwicket to the long-on fence, to stop a ball going for four.
Some blokes might've given it up as a lost cause, but not Woodcock.
"Pure effort, pure desire for the team. That's what I'm about as a player," Woodcock said, ahead of tonight's rematch with Auckland at Eden Park.
His triumphs might be of the small kind, like the satisfaction he got from hitting a six over cover on Saturday after two years trying to perfect the shot, but you don't begrudge him any of them.
"I've probably had to push a lot harder than a lot of guys I've come up against or played with. You find that fire within and that would be one of my main strengths right through my career," he said.
"This is something I've always wanted to be a part of and I know I have to push more than other players and I've accepted that. You have some knocks along the way but, at other times, I actually rather enjoy that and it's a big part of my game.
"I s'pose I've earned a bit of respect from people round the traps because of that and that's something I do fall back on. You're never out of a game of cricket and I always try to think like that and whether it's a bowling role or a batting role or a fielding role, that desire inside keeps me going."
Once an opening batsman, who nicked and nudged his score along, Woodcock won't bat any higher than eight at Eden Park. If wickets tumble and he is required, then he'll find a way tick the score along like he did during Saturday's 15-ball knock of 30.
It's his left-arm orthodox bowling that'll be critical tonight, especially given the ground's boutique boundaries. Eden Park isn't great for spinners, as Woodcock knows.
"One of my overs went for 20-plus there last year. So, because it is so short straight, ideally you want to be hit squarer, so you tend to bowl a little bit shorter. Trying to get hit to one side of the ground is pretty important as well," he said.
Wellington qualified for last year's finals on the back of six Jesse Ryder-inspired wins. Lose tonight and they'll have just one win in four starts and need to win five of their last six matches just to match last summer's record.
As much as Woodcock might not believe in giving up, there's been little in their campaign so far to suggest they're capable of going on a winning run like that.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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