Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Bharat Popli named in New Zealand A team to play Pakistan

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TOP CLASS: Tauranga's Bharat Popli has been selected in the NZ A team to play Pakistan in Nelson next week. PHOTO: FILE
TOP CLASS: Tauranga's Bharat Popli has been selected in the NZ A team to play Pakistan in Nelson next week. PHOTO: FILE

Bharat Popli is a step closer to his dream of following his former Tauranga school mates Kane Williamson and Doug Bracewell into the Black Caps.

Popli, 26, has been selected to play for New Zealand A against Pakistan in a three-day First Class match at Saxton Oval in Nelson, beginning on Friday, November 11.

Last season Popli won the NZC Domestic Player of the Year award as well as Northern Districts men's Cricketer of the Year and Batsman of the Year.

Popli joined Martin Crowe, Jeff Crowe, Graeme Hick and Michael Papps in the select group of batsmen to have scored 1000 runs in a New Zealand first-class season.

His breakthrough season netted him 1149 runs from 10 games at 65.78, including three centuries and on three other occasions he was dismissed in the nineties.

Popli's first-class statistics make impressive reading.

He has played 22 matches, 37 innings, 1651 runs, average 47.17 with a highest score of 172. He has scored three centuries and nine fifties.

He is a rarity in the modern age to only play first-class cricket with not one appearance for Northern Knights in the shorter form of the game.

Popli plays club cricket for Rotorua's Bay of Plenty Indian Sports when he is not away on representative duties with Northern Districts or Bay of Plenty.

Before teaming up with Williamson at Tauranga Boys' College, Popli played at Tauranga Intermediate with Black Caps pace bowler Doug Bracewell.

"[Williamson] is a massive inspiration," Popli told Bay of Plenty Times earlier this year.

"When you grow up with someone and then see him perform on the big stage and really dominate world cricket, it gives you confidence that maybe you can do it as well.

"He has done so much for Bay cricket and Northern Districts. Everyone who grew up around him has really cherished that."

Popli was still at Tauranga Boys' when he made a century on debut for Bay of Plenty against Hamilton in the 2008/09 season. He has struck nine centuries for the Bay, five more than the previous record of four, shared by Richard Shrimpton, Mike Wright and Mathew Hart.

New Zealand A Selector Gavin Larsen said the side to play Pakistan represented the next tier of talent to push a claim for future Black Caps selection.

"It's an exciting opportunity for these guys to match up against a quality Pakistan side," Larsen said.

"We've been impressed by the performances of these players in the Plunket Shield this year and last year, and see this as another step in their development.

"Performances for New Zealand A provide further information about these players' suitability for the international game and the selectors will be taking a keen interest."

The only other Northern Districts playerselected is Mount Maunganui resident Dean Brownlie who will open the batting.

New Zealand A team v Pakistan

Henry Nicholls (c) (Canterbury)
Todd Astle (Canterbury)
Tom Blundell (wk) (Wellington)
Dean Brownlie (Northern Districts)
Colin de Grandhomme (Auckland)
Jacob Duffy (Otago)
Lockie Ferguson (Auckland)
Ed Nuttall (Canterbury)
Bharat Popli (Northern Districts)
Jeet Raval (Auckland)
Will Young (Central Districts)
Shawn Hicks (12th man) (Auckland)

- Bay of Plenty Times

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