Northern Districts' move to bring in veteran Daryl Tuffey for the remainder of their Twenty20 campaign has hit a raw nerve with some of the squad.
The 34-year-old former Black Caps seam bowler was summoned into the Knights this week after playing club cricket in Sydney as ND attempt to win a maiden title in the short-form game.
Tonight the Knights meet the Canterbury Wizards, at Seddon Park in Hamilton, in their penultimate regular season HRV Cup match before travelling to the capital to take on the Wellington Firebirds on Sunday.
Northern need to win one, possibly both games, to seal either top spot for a home final or a place in the 2 v 3 playoff.
Tuffey's addition, which is a bizarre move, is understood to have miffed some of the other pace bowlers in the ND setup.
Graeme Aldridge, who offers basically everything Tuffey does, has fallen out of favour, while there were several decent performances from ND bowlers at the recent A tournament.
However, Knights coach Grant Bradburn is backing his former team-mate Tuffey to bring some different skills to the table.
Bradburn said Tuffey had been in their thinking during the season and now was the time to draw on his experience, especially with regular captain Scott Styris and Corey Anderson ruled out through injury.
"One area that we're continually trying to improve and work on is our death bowling, and Daryl brings a skill there which gives us another option," Bradburn said. "He also brings huge skill at the front of the innings too.
"And he is someone who can clear the rope with the bat.
"One of the key experiences that he brings is that he has played in two HRV Cup finals and bowled significantly well, and, as a past international, that is the type of experience that we feel can just give us a little lift to put us in a position to contest this final.
"Despite missing eight of our frontline players at this point in time, we, as a team, are committed to assembling our strongest, most well-balanced side.
"And we're desperate to make the finals. Already Daryl has added huge spark and a nice lift to the side, both in training and just being in and around the group."
Tuffey played 11 seasons at ND before playing five with Auckland.
He was offered a contract with Auckland at the start of this season but retired in September citing fitness issues. He has since been playing for Bankstown, flying across the Tasman every Friday night, before taking a couple of weeks off around Christmas for the birth of his second child.
Anderson was due to play tonight before flying to South Africa to join the Black Caps one-day squad, however he broke a thumb in the Knights' last outing - a 28-run loss against Auckland at Mt Maunganui on January 6.
Styris missed that game after tearing a hamstring when playing for the Hobart Hurricanes in Australia's Big Bash League the previous night. He will also miss ND's game on Sunday and hopes to be right for a potential playoff.
To get back to their winning ways, Bradburn said, the Knights had worked hard to keep improving. He said that when they had success this season they had done the simple things well so that was a focus in order to play well at the sharp end of the competition.
Meanwhile, Canterbury, who are all but out of contention in fifth spot, have brought Peter Fulton up for the game - though he's unlikely to play as he still searches for full fitness after a knee injury - while import Mitchell Claydon is no longer required.
- Waikato Times