Determined van Wyk plays it as he sees it

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

IT'S THE sort of thing you are unlikely to see from a bloke such as Kruger van Wyk.

But, then again, small he may be in physique but certainly not in stature as the Black Caps wicketkeeper/batsman bounces a ball in the training nets at Nelson Park, Napier, to scone lanky allrounder Andrew Mathieson on the helmet.

The Alan Hunt-coached Devon Hotel Central Districts stable of players and coaches cracks up with laughter as Mathieson sheepishly walks out of the net.

A grinning Van Wyk calmly walks away from the bowling crease.

That pretty much sums up the demeanour of the 32-year-old South Africa-born cricketer who defied odds with dogged determination to find a berth in the Black Caps equation last summer.

Consequently it's important to see what his mindset is going into the opening four-day Plunket Shield match against the Wellington Firebirds at Nelson Park from tomorrow.

"It's always important. There's always a lot of excitement around going into the first game of the season.

"It's nice to be back together as a squad once again. It'll be nice to start with a good brand of cricket.

"We've all had a fair bit of preparation going into this one so it's important to start well."

Van Wyk says the blend of Wellington is quite similar to the Kieran Noema-Barnett-skippered CD.

He observes the younger guns in the opposition are "good quality cricketers, too".

"They are a strong team and one we respect so it'll be a good battle come Sunday."

Van Wyk echoes the sentiments of Noema-Barnett that while former Hawke's Bay allrounder Jesse Ryder poses a threat, the Stags will have to adapt the mental fortitude of picking up 20 scalps if they want an outright victory when the dust settles on Wednesday.

"Jesse is a wonderful player but there are other players in the side who are a force so we're not really looking at individuals.

"We know it's a team game but we'll respect Jesse as much as we'll respect his other teammates as well."

He is loathe to single out game breakers in the mould of former CD coach Dermot Reeve, who championed a collective in an almost laissez-faire culture.

"We expect everyone to perform and I suppose everyone wants to do that.

"I think the biggest thing is when you get the opportunity to put your hand up and contribute in a big way to win a game then you do it.

"We'll have 11 match winners in our side so I'll be backing everyone to do that.

"We're quietly relaxed but we're very focused so we're looking forward to Sunday.

"It's a longer form of cricket so it's about moving your feet and being patient and those lovely words that go with the longer format of the game so you've just got to play it as you see it," says the Ruahine Central Hawke's Bay cricketer who belongs to the philosophy of treating every delivery as an event while digging in his heels at the batting crease.

"You just keep it nice and uncomplicated and just go out there to express yourself."

Sri Lanka, Van Wyk says, will be a far cry from the benign batting wickets of Nelson Park and other New Zealand venues.

"When we get there in a couple of weeks it'll be dry and it'll be spinning big.

"Over here I don't think it'll be spinning at any stage so it'll be different but time in the middle is exactly that - time in the middle - and it'll be valuable.

"Jeetan and Woody are good bowlers and they have a nice attack they can play around with," he says of Black spinner Jeetan Patel and ex-international Luke Woodcock.

He relished the tour of India before the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka recently.

"India was awesome. It's an unbelievable country to play cricket in."

While the conditions in India are foreign to here, offering big-time purchase to spinners, Van Wyk is ready for Sri Lanka.

"It's about finding a method that'll work for you earlier on and trusting that method.

"It's also about being confident because it [Sri Lanka] is a place where you have to be positive in your own ability just like anywhere in the world," he says, expressing an insatiable desire to be challenged.

"That is when you find out your depth, too."

In Van Wyk fashion, he sees room for improvement: "I can't rest on my laurels or get complacent with those things because I have a four-day match to play as well.

"That's the nature of the beast so I'm looking forward to other challenges whether it's for CD or my club side in Waipuk."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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