Under-used Kiwis forced to bide timeSave
By David Leggat
Yes, it's early days in the Indian Premier League, but you can be forgiven for missing any New Zealand involvement - so far it's lean pickings.
Ten New Zealand players are in the IPL this year, either picked up in the auction, retained from last year or, in the case of the big-hitting Colin de Grandhomme getting a late pass into the Kolkata Knight Riders replacing West Indian whirlwind Andre Russell, who has been suspended over missing drug tests.
Russell has been banned for a year for breaking the whereabouts clause around testing. The ban runs until January 30 next year. So it's a big opening for de Grandhomme, whose skills are tailormade for the T20 game.
His presence, however, hasn't been required so far as Kolkata have had a win and a loss.
Indeed, the only New Zealand players sighted on the park so far have been former skipper Brendon McCullum for the bottom-placed Gujurat Lions, Trent Boult at Kolkata, Mitch McClenaghan and Tim Southee at Mumbai Indians, and Corey Anderson at the Delhi Daredevils.
That leaves national captain Kane Williamson (Sunrisers Hyderabad), Rising Pune Supergiants fast bowler Lockie Ferguson, de Grandhomme and Kings XI Punjab pair Matt Henry and Martin Guptill still to make an appearance. Guptill is now over his leg injuries and is expected to be a contender for either the Kings XI's third game early tomorrow against Kolkata or Delhi this weekend. The IPL rules allow only four overseas players in any playing XI. If you argue that it's essentially a beefed up domestic T20 competition, that's fair enough - after all, promoting Indian talent is a key to the eight-team competition.
Or, if your ambition is to make this a truly international event, taking place within India, bump the number up to, say, five.
How some faces fit and others don't is one of the more bizarre aspects to the IPL. You look at the list of players unwanted and think 'how can that be?'
It's down to the often peculiar whims of franchise coaches and bosses.
In the case of Williamson, you have the world's third-ranked T20 batsman, behind only Indian skipper Virat Kohli and Australian Aaron Finch. He can't get a look in at Hyderabad who, to be fair, have won both their games going into their third match, early today against the Mumbai Indians.
Hyderabad's top four are David Warner (14 off eight balls, and an unbeaten 76 off 45 against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujurat respectively), flamboyant Indian opener Shikhar Dhavan (40 off 31, nine off nine), Australian allrounder Moises Henriques (52 off 37 and 52 not out off 39) and blockbusting hitter Yuvraj Singh (62 off 27 against Bangalore).
So where does Williamson, who scores at a strike rate of 104, fit in? One point is the IPL loves players who flog the ball into the crowd. It is, after all, an entertainment event. Williamson has many strengths but power hitting isn't one of them.
McCullum has managed 40 runs in two innings, Southee has one for 34 from one appearance; Anderson bowled an over for 10 and scored two off four balls in Delhi's easy win over the Pune outfit; McClenaghan has been busy at Mumbai. He's played both games so far, a loss to Pune and win over Kolkata, taking one for 36 then one for 51 off four overs apiece. How's this for a stat: his 19 short balls so far have produced none for 41.
And how about Boult, the US$1 million man? He's had a couple of matches for Kolkata. He took one for 40 in the 10-wicket win over Gujurat and one for 47 from 3.5 overs in the final-over loss to Mumbai, not helped by some clown fielding in the closing moments.