Cricket: Chief to have ball before opening innings

By Anendra Singh

For the next 12 days from today Craig Findlay will put his feet up to enjoy the tranquillity a South Pacific island holiday offers.

The 41-year-old will let himself go to the tune of lavalava-clad Rarotongans plucking the ukulele strings and Cook Island drums as the Findlay clan of 18 get into the mood during the school holidays to celebrate the 70th birthday of the most senior family member and the president of Hawke's Bay Cricket Association, Harry Findlay.

"I'll be non-contactable. [Wife] Raewyn will be checking my iPhone because she's already warned me I won't be doing any work while I'm in Rarotonga," the younger Findlay says, harbouring slim hopes of reading this story on the Hawke's Bay Today website.

Needless to say, Findlay is mindful of making the most of his rest and relaxation opportunity because not long after he returns he'll be up to his eyeballs with work as the newly appointed chief executive of Hawke's Bay Cricket.

HBCA board chairman Derek Stirling confirmed the appointment at the weekend, adding Findlay had an open-ended contract to head the drive to develop and enhance the country's No 1 summer sport in the province.

Anticipating a start late this month or early next month, Findlay says he received numerous phone calls from people in the Bay asking him to assume the mantle.

"They effectively said, 'Craig, take it up because you're going to make a big difference'.

"I won't want to be there for good but probably five years or so," the Napier Technical Old Boys (NTOB) stalwart reveals although he is very thankful to HBCA for having so much faith in his ability to get the job done.

Having played to an elite level as a Central Districts Stags player and having won the Hawk Cup as a Bay senior men's representative and having served on the HBCA committee in the 1990s, Findlay makes no bones about having a rapport with the movers and shakers in the code.

"I believe I have all the skills," says the man who, with sister-in-law Donna Trow, co-owns a primary schools' programme, Kelly Sports, and did an excellent job with HBCA to ensure the annual Riverbend Cricket Camp for children in the Bay kept running after stalwarts Ray Mettrick and father Harry Findlay stepped down.

Findlay doesn't have any sports degrees and, frankly, he doesn't feel he needs one to prove his credentials.

"I have my own degree that I studied for over 15 years," he says with a laugh. "I have no tertiary education, just life skills."

He took the HBCA role of junior development for about four years before it became a fulltime job, too.

"It started as the Milo Have A Go programme," he explains, adding that gaming grants, sponsorships and cricket camps all came within the ambit of a junior drive that initially fell on the lap of a schools' association that Harry Findlay, Mettrick and Gary Rose ran with aplomb.

Craig Findlay was pivotal in approaching and trying to convince the major cricket clubs of the merits of taking high school players under their wings.

NTOB's robust 11-junior team built over a decade is a testimony to following his gospel, something a few clubs ignored at their peril.

Napier Tech premier men's team, who boast having no overseas imports or "outsiders", had a stranglehold on club championship titles for several years.

Consequently, on the priority list of his agenda is to help Havelock North Cricket Club and Napier Old Boys' Marist build a similar foundation to avoid player shortages at the start of each summer, although he likes to believe it'll be across the board for all clubs.

He draws on his experience as a Bay age-group representative who made his debut in the summer of 1982-83 and someone who grew up in Central Hawke's Bay playing for the Wallingford School where his father was a teacher.

"There I was at the Wallingford School playground thinking I was bowling like Richard Hadlee but I found later I was more like Chris Cairns.

"I have CHB blood in me so I'll always have time for them and the country schools."

Findlay believes it's time to reintroduce "health checks" he initiated with clubs a few years ago to keep his finger on their pulse. Having six strong clubs in the premier men's club competition is imperative as a base for junior players to aspire to.

"I want to sit down with all the clubs and do health checks to see where Hawke's Bay Cricket can help because they are our stakeholders, so listen to them."

The women's competition, he says, is also crucial because the biggest challenge for all is to "keep them playing".

"Not many of the guys and women are playing over the age of 25," Findlay says.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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