Wellington coach Siddons faces tough decisions

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2014
Jamie Siddons
CRAIG SIMCOX/ Fairfax NZ
COACH: Jamie Siddons.

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Jamie Siddons doesn't shirk the tough questions - now we wait to see how he goes with the tough decisions.

The Wellington coach knows his team is ageing, just as he is aware that it has yet to win a brass razoo in his almost-three years in charge.

Two of this summer's domestic titles have already been decided. The Firebirds finished fifth in the Twenty20s and lie fourth, with a game to go, in a Plunket Shield competition that Canterbury have already won.

Siddons says they'll get an outright win over Auckland, when their last four-day game starts on Eden Park's Outer Oval tomorrow, to end up finishing second.

He laments rain and the ''20 or 30 points'' that went down the drain with it. But he also appreciates that blaming the weather won't really wash.

Beyond wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi, Siddons doesn't expect any Firebirds to play Black Caps or New Zealand A cricket over the offseason. He believes Michael Papps and James Franklin are good enough to and that Michael Pollard would have earned A selection, if he weren't still troubled by a broken thumb.

But results and the likely lack of national representation mean the coach will look to the upcoming 50-over competition with two goals in mind.

''The one-day comp will be about the future and about trying to win the comp as well,'' Siddons said.

Some senior players will be ''under the pump to hold their spots'' as the coach seeks to find places for Henry Walsh, Tom Blundell and Matt Taylor. Siddons said all three would feature during the campaign, although he hadn't decided at whose expense.

''Our Twenty20 team was slow and I'd like to add some pace around the field and some energy. But you don't discard blokes that are great contributors in one-day cricket to do that. We'll have to look closely at how we go about it.''

He added that it was all very well to say some Firebirds had had their day. But Mark Gillespie (34-years-old) and Andy McKay (33) are the top-two wicket takers in the Plunket Shield. Papps (34) is the top runscorer, with Franklin (33) fourth on the list.

''They're the most senior guys in the team and they've been our best performers,'' Siddons said.

Still, it's yet to yield silverware and when teams can't win it's the coach that carries the can.

''I'm not worried about what people are thinking of me. But we've had Franklin in career-best form, Papps still in career-best form, [Grant] Elliott's now in career-best four-day form, McKay back in career-best form and Gillespie the same.

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''I look at Blundell making a hundred, Pollard making two hundreds. These things are good for Wellington cricket and show we're on the improve.''

A hand injury has put opening batsmen Josh Brodie in doubt to meet Auckland. Blundell would replace him, with Stephen Murdoch pushing up from No.3 to open. Jeetan Patel is still on paternity leave.

- The Dominion Post

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