Few options for silverware-starved Firebirds

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014
Luke Ronchi
GARETH COPLEY/ Getty
MAN ALONE: Luke Ronchi remains Wellington's only representative in the Black Caps.

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Cricket Wellington have no plans to overhaul their ageing side. Not that they're in a position to anyway.

Chances are the Firebirds' 10-year title drought won't come to an end, with just the 50-over competition remaining this summer.

It would be wonderful if it did, not least for the players themselves. The team have had their critics, but it's hard to argue with the individual statistics most of the players have posted this season or the work they've put in to improve their games.

Equally, though, you wonder if there's a tipping point, a time when their employers say thanks, it's been great, but we won't ever win a chook raffle with you lot.

CW's director of cricket, Robbie Kerr, says not. He's hardly elated by the lack of silverware, nor the fact that transplanted Australian Luke Ronchi will be Wellington's only Black Cap for the foreseeable future.

But the simple fact is that this province doesn't boast players better than the ones already in the side and of those that could have been, two are now playing for other associations and a third has given cricket away completely.

"When you look at developing players, the two we got into our side and invested some time in were [Scott] Kuggeleijn and [Craig] Cachopa. They're both guys that could play international cricket and it was a real shame to not have them play their whole careers for Wellington," Kerr said.

Then there's allrounder Harry Boam, who took a sabbatical at the ripe old age of 22.

Kerr is confident that in Michael Pollard, Josh Brodie, Tom Blundell, Henry Walsh, Fraser Colson, BJ Barnett and Matt Taylor, Wellington have batsmen capable of performing at domestic level. Pollard's proving he can, but Brodie hasn't become the Black Caps prospect most predicted and the others are only promising.

Those players will be drip fed into the side where possible, said Kerr, but the likes of Mark Gillespie, Andy McKay, Brent Arnel and Jeetan Patel are going to have to keep bowling their hearts out for a few summers yet.

"On the bowling front, it's fair to say the gap's reasonably large. Gillespie, McKay and Arnel have done really well to stay on the park. They are well ahead," said Kerr.

"I don't think the Iain McPeakes, Ollie Newtons and Ilis [Ili Tugaga] are really pushing those top three at the moment, but we've got to move because they won't be here forever."

As for a spinner to relieve Patel or Luke Woodcock eventually, Kerr indicated that none existed.

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CW are "hunting titles big time" and had identified the Plunket Shield as the one the Firebirds ought to win this season. The team are likely to finish near the bottom of the table instead.

"The position won't tell the full story. They've played a fantastic brand of cricket and been unlucky with the weather," Kerr said.

Kerr hopes head coach Jamie Siddons and Arnel, as bowling coach, can further develop some of the emerging players over the winter. But the likelihood is that the nameplates over the cubicles in the Basin Reserve dressing sheds won't read a lot different, come the first match of next summer.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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