West Indies tour tops list for Mark Gillespie

AIMING HIGH: Mark Gillespie in action for the Wellington Firebirds.
AIMING HIGH: Mark Gillespie in action for the Wellington Firebirds.

Mark Gillespie has a long and evolving to-do list.

The first job is making New Zealand's test team to tour the West Indies, which is announced tomorrow. That will help determine whether another item on the Wellington fast bowler's agenda - ankle surgery - goes ahead or not.

If he's not required for the Windies and does have his ankle tidied up then Gillespie reckons he'll start his own newspaper.

After that, his goal will be to become the greatest wicket-taker in the history of New Zealand's first-class competition.

The 34-year-old has taken 333 for his beloved Firebirds which, as the honours board above his seat in the Basin Reserve dressing room constantly reminds him, leaves him trailing Evan Gray (357) and Ewen Chatfield (403) as Wellington's third-most successful bowler.

He's adamant both can be overhauled, with the added bonus that when he makes it to 404 he'll have taken more wickets for one province than any New Zealand bowler.

Gillespie's first priority, though, is being on that plane to the Caribbean in just over a month.

New Zealand took five fast bowlers on last year's two winter tours to England and Bangladesh, in Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, Doug Bracewell and himself. Bracewell won't be picked, while Gillespie's 42 wickets were the most by any bowler in this summer's Plunket Shield.

"I don't feel there's any more I could've done so, to be honest, if I'm not involved in this tour I'll be pretty peeved off," Gillespie said.

He feels he can't be far away, having been placed on standby by the selectors for New Zealand's test against India at the Basin Reserve in February.

That Gillespie took 42 wickets was a feat. He injured his ankle in the first game of the season and hobbled on thereafter. He'd wear a moon boot between games, then push through the pain barrier when it came time to bowl.

"It was all worth it to get through the season and win something along the way," he said.

It had been 10 years since Wellington had won a domestic trophy, with Gillespie, James Franklin, Jeetan Patel and Luke Woodcock the survivors from back then who just about crushed Luke Ronchi to death after he broke that title drought in Saturday's 50-over final.

"Luke [Ronchi] said that, even if the final had been his first game for the team, he would've known who'd been around for that whole 10 years just from the way guys hugged him at the end. He said there were four of us that felt a lot different, like it just meant that much more to us."

The Plunket Shield had been the one Gillespie wanted to win. For him, it's in first-class cricket that you prove your real worth.

If he can get another four-day title in the coming seasons, and surpass Chatfield, then he'll have a good reply to the people who once said he was too brittle in mind and body to be a good Firebird.

His team-mates tell him he'll need at least two summers to get to 404, but he fancies doing it sooner.

"The last two seasons I've taken 40-odd wickets and they've just been mediocre seasons so, for me, 70 wickets is one good season. Then I put it back on them and say ‘if you guys could catch I would've already got there'," he said.

The other running gag is how Gillespie might celebrate the milestone, assuming his body holds up long enough.

"I've joked that when I get the 404th wicket for Wellington, I'm just going to take my cap [from the umpire] and walk off."

Never to play again? We'll have to wait and see.

Fairfax Media