Cricket: Big hits chance to impress fans

By Andrew Alderson

James Franklin had more reason than most Black Caps to enjoy cannoning sixes into the stands at Wankhede Stadium against Canada last week.

Franklin hit 31 runs off eight balls to find some elusive World Cup form with the bat. He also epitomised the adage that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

Franklin signed with the Indian Premier League's Mumbai Indians for US$100,000 in January and, in dispatching the ball to all parts, will have recruited a legion of fans at his new home ground. He's probably not threatening local hero and team-mate Sachin Tendulkar for popularity just yet, but it is a start.

The final over, which had to be completed by Harvir Baidwan after medium-pacer Rizwan Cheema was replaced for bowling two illegal beamers, went for 31 - that is the third most runs off an over in one-day history. Franklin hit 28 of them, including three sixes.

"It was nice to have a game on Wankhede Stadium before the IPL starts. Even just getting a few balls out of the middle was helpful after my form recently," Franklin said.

The week after the World Cup Franklin teams up with Indian internationals Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Munaf Patel at the Mumbai franchise while Australian Andrew Symonds, Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga and West Indian Kieron Pollard are among the overseas recruits.

Franklin has kept franchise contact to a minimum for now with his priorities focused on the World Cup. A couple of emails with management and a meeting with one of the coaches at the team hotel have been the extent of it.

That is probably best. The World Cup has been a tricky tournament for Franklin. He admits to making little difference with the ball. He has only taken wickets (three for 50) in one of his last 13 ODIs; bowling in nine of them.

He has had little chance with the bat recently either. Two of New Zealand's five World Cup matches resulted in 10-wicket trouncings. Until his Canada innings, he had made 0 and 1 against Australia and Pakistan respectively.

The 30-year-old is yet to recapture the form that made him New Zealand's best batsmen in the one-day series loss to India pre-Christmas. He had three consecutive not out scores of 98, 72 and 17 followed by 62 in Napier against Pakistan.

Franklin is a fluent strokemaker in his prime, as seen at Gloucestershire on the county circuit last year. The BBC said one of his Twenty20 innings of 90 from 50 balls was notable for "not once slogging" - a compliment seldom offered in that format.

His performances propelled him back to lead New Zealand A in Zimbabwe before he was recruited as Black Caps cover for Hamish Bennett in India. He completed the circle with a belated New Zealand Cricket contract after missing out mid-year.

"The volume of cricket at Gloucestershire helped as did being reunited with coach John Bracewell for a second year," Franklin said. "The diet of four-dayers mixed and matched with shorter matches means you don't get tired of one format, as can be the case in New Zealand."

Franklin will spend the New Zealand winter at home this year. Gloucestershire have signed Kane Williamson and Muttiah Muralitharan as their overseas professionals.

- Herald on Sunday

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