Cricket: McClenaghan means business as he fills Southee's shoes

By Michael Brown

Bowler Mitchell McClenaghan can go for a few runs but can also be a strike weapon who applies the pressure. Photo / Dean Purcell
Bowler Mitchell McClenaghan can go for a few runs but can also be a strike weapon who applies the pressure. Photo / Dean Purcell

It has been said that Mitchell McClenaghan has a touch of blue steel about him, a look made famous by the comedy Zoolander, and not just because he's a part-time model.

The 26-year-old has made a striking start to his international cricketing career and has now been rewarded with a call-up to the New Zealand test squad for the upcoming series against South Africa starting on January 2. He comes in as a replacement for the injured Tim Southee, who is sidelined for at least a month with a thumb injury, and also benefited from the ongoing injury problems of Mark Gillespie.

There are no guarantees McClenaghan will play against South Africa. It's uncommon for sides to play two left-arm seamers, with Trent Boult likely to lead the attack along with Doug Bracewell and veteran Chris Martin, but McClenaghan has taken his limited opportunities well.

It has probably helped that he has played under a captain who is equally aggressive, because Brendon McCullum has told him to bowl with fire and not be afraid of leaking runs.

McClenaghan took three wickets the first time he put on a black cap for a warm-up game, then opened with a wicket maiden in his first T20 international - a rarity in the shortest format of the game - struck South African captain Faf du Plessis with a fiery delivery and impressed with his pace and hostility.

McClenaghan will probably always go for a few - it's the way he approaches his cricket - and his raw statistics don't make for particularly compelling reading. He has played 26 first-class matches and snared 76 wickets at 39.03 and this season has 14 wickets from his four Plunket Shield matches at 34.85.

The Aucklander is not short of confidence and regularly bowls in the mid-140km/h bracket and hopes he is a direct replacement for Southee in more ways than one.

"Unfortunately Timmy's thumb wasn't right," McClenaghan said ahead of this morning's deciding Twenty20 international against the Proteas in Port Elizabeth.

"But I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to step into his shoes if I get the chance. I believe I can take wickets and be a lot more threatening.

"I can be used in short spells and hopefully I will be a substitute for Timmy in the wicket-taking department. Most of the boys bowl at a good click but I definitely feel like I can bowl a good spell of heat and put them on the back foot."

It's a triumph for a player who once endured a dreadful run of injuries that included a fractured pelvis, three hip surgeries and a snapped ankle ligament.

More recently he's followed a rigorous crossfit training programme and diet which has seen him give up, among other things, bread and pasta.

"The diet's been massive," he said recently. "No sugars, no breads, no nothing, really. Just good veges and broccoli, lots of broccoli. I've learned to love it."


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