Cricket: Boys play in senior grade, says CEO

By Anendra Singh

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Craig Findlay was selling raffle tickets at Riverbend Cricket Camp matches to raise funds yesterday. Photo/Glenn Taylor
Craig Findlay was selling raffle tickets at Riverbend Cricket Camp matches to raise funds yesterday. Photo/Glenn Taylor

Hawke's Bay Cricket CEO Craig Findlay says he would love to play against his son when the 10-year-old becomes a high school student and is eligible to play in the senior men's competition.

"I tell you I also won't be cutting him any slack," Findlay said yesterday amid robust debate in Hawke's Bay Today and social media that went viral across the world.

"I can't wait for him to play against them [experienced adults] ... to compete against the best," said the Complete Flooring Napier Technical Old Boys (NTOB) player after scoring 307 runs, retired, against the St John's College First XI team in the region's senior men's division one grade.

Findlay was reacting to scathing criticism from parents and fans after it was revealed the Hastings high school team captain, James McNatty, had pleaded with him to retire 23 overs into the 45-over game "because things were getting out of hand" in the mismatch.

Just after Christmas Findlay had unsuccessfully asked outgoing St John's principal and First XI coach Neal Swindells to drop his 15 to 16-year-old boys to the second tier of the grade because they were struggling to compete in division one.

"I'm gutted and I haven't stopped thinking about it," the former Central Districts cricketer said yesterday while he was selling raffle tickets as the annual Riverbend Cricket Camp organiser to boost junior cricket funding.

"The people who think I've let them down, perhaps I can help them get back on the horse so we can come to an agreement that we can make cricket work for them, too."

Findlay said had he put his innings on hold, when asked twice, then the media would be staging a different debate about whether it was a grade to retire at the height of a match.

"I've been given grief that I retired hurt. People were saying Why I hadn't carried on to get 400 or 500?"

He said his hamstring tightened so he had no choice.

Findlay was defiant he was "still going to enjoy playing with my mates on Saturday" although conceding as the CEO and parent he could have shown some compassion.

"Maybe, maybe we could have cut them some slack but we didn't so that's obviously where the negative feedback's coming from."

It frustrated him that people perceived it as schoolboy cricket when it was an adult competition.

It pleased him to receive some "positive feedback" from here and around the world "saying, nah, you stick to it because you've gone out there to hit the ball as it's done".

"Catches win matches and if they had then this story wouldn't have gone ahead."

It saddened him that players were put in a position to not bat, bowl and field for a team to be competitive.

"That goes to that PC world I've been talking about.

"That's the feedback I've got today with people saying, 'Gosh, this world's gone wrong when parents are whingeing about their kids playing cricket in a senior men's competition."

He hoped to meet Michele McNatty, the mother of the St John's skipper, and other parents.

Findlay agreed St John's probably didn't learn anything last Saturday.

"How would they have learned if we hadn't played, retired or whatever?"

Findlay said he strode out to parks as a player, not CEO, but if there was a conflict of interest then he would leave that to the HBCA board to decide.

"I'll obviously then have to consider not playing cricket but my board likes me to get out there to play cricket and hard against schoolboys and division one."

"I'm getting why should I retire and then I'm also getting why should I go out there to play against schoolboys but I'm out there playing against First XI and senior men's cricketers," he said, adding some school teams were commendably beating men's sides.

Hastings Boys' High School coach Trent Miller had contacted him to say his team were looking forward to play the Tech seniors and the like of Findlay and fellow ex-CD reps Mike Pawson and Paul Whitaker so HBHS could win the Gillette Cup as well.

The 42-year-old reiterated he could be good enough to play at the prem level but he had played only one game this summer and got out for one run facing three balls from HBHS bowler Jarrod McLeod.

The quality of bowling at prem level demanded he needed to practice but he wasn't prepared to do that because he had a young family.

"Every weekend I go out to bat, I hit the ball as hard as I can. If people call it that [bullying] then they call it that." he said.

The best thing Findlay had received yesterday was feedback from other fellow division one teams in the two-tier grade that "that's what we need".

"The feedback I'm getting from a couple of St John's parents is that they don't want senior men to be playing in this grade.

"That scares me because they won't be playing senior men's grade. They'll be playing First XI cricket against other First XI teams and then going straight to the premier grade."

Cricket stronghold regions in the country, he said, were playing against senior men, first-class and Hawk Cup cricketers every week. They included Palmerston North Boys' High, New Plymouth Boys' High and Hamilton Boys High.

"Our schoolboys don't get that opportunity so do we lower our standard of competitions?"

Findlay said it seemed the Bay needed to sort its grades.

"Maybe it's going to be a struggle for St John's this year."

He attributed Lindisfarne College's first challenge for the Gillette Cup (NZ secondary schoolboys' tourney) in several years to the senior competition here.

He had played Lindisfarne First XI, scored a century against them and coach Matt Kidd had claimed his players were going to learn from how Findlay had batted.

Before Christmas the pupils had dismissed him for four runs, confirming he had a penchant for offering his wicket to those who wanted it.

"So what should I do against Celtics this weekend?"

St John's, he said, had lost to Celtics before Christmas although the latter had won four other games.

Lindisfarne and HBHS First XIs were division one pace setters.

Asked if he should have given the St John's side a break when captain McNatty pleaded, Findlay played bat/pad.

"Is sport about showing mercy?

"Possibly. We could have walked off the park ..."

Findlay stressed it wasn't Mercantile (business house), Riverbend Camp or schoolboy cricket but seniors, a level down from the elite premier grade men's club cricket.

"Do we just walk off when we're better than a side?"

Findlay said he wasn't out to make a point against St John's, as some had suggested.

"I go out there every time with the goal of getting a 100 every week to the best of my ability. Some days it comes off and some days it doesn't.

"I certainly don't go out there to show people how to play cricket but simply to bat properly," he said, adding that was the same with fellow premier grade opening batsman Bronson Meehan who had returned from Australia to play for the Tech seniors on Saturday before making his first prem appearance the following day.

Meehan, who Findlay said had got dispensation from HBCA board chairman Derek Stirling, has posted several remarks in Findlay's defence on the HB Today website.

"Bronson hasn't played cricket since September and he's just returned from Perth. He may not have played seniors if the prems were playing on the same day," Findlay said but was unsure as he didn't have his finger on the pulse of NTOB nowadays.

The Prem play on Sundays when the Lincoln Doull-coached Bay men's rep side compete in the two-day Hawk Cup matches. Last weekend the Bay beat Horowhenua-Kapiti outright but are unlikely to represent the CD region in the zone 2 challenge with Manawatu leading.

In hindsight, Findlay felt Meehan was too good for the seniors.

"Gosh, what people aren't looking at is when I was a school kid I looked forward to playing better cricketers and I didn't want to take a backward step.

"So how do we get St John's to be better? I don't know but I think they need to be playing against their peers and at their level."

He had received feedback from overseas, too, having played as a professional in the English third grade for Burnage CC in Manchester where he didn't have to retire, either.

"They didn't ask me to get off the park when we had too many runs."

Taradale batsman Jamie Cotter, who played prems last summer, had scored about 480 runs, averaging about 75 runs at senior level after averaging 7-8 for the Prems.

"It is a step up but my body struggles to get through a senior game so maybe I can hit a few balls."

Findlay said he had scored 213 against Cornwall CC seniors last summer and there was no negativity surrounding that.

"It was a similar innings but no one complained about that."

He emphasised St John's fielders dropped him twice but he had fallen prey to them, too, this summer.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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