Cricket: CD Mr Fixit to squat behind stumps today

By Anendra Singh

Nuts and bolts loose? Tap fittings need to be loosened or tightened?

What do you reach for?

No doubt, a shifting or crescent spanner - especially if you are someone not that well versed with power tools - will do the trick.

So when the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags needed an adjustable player for their opening HRV Cup Twenty20 match, to be televised on SkySports 1 from 7pm tonight, against the Northern Districts Knights in Hamilton, guess what they did?

Coach Alan Hunt and his assistant, Lance Hamilton, reached into their tool kit and pulled out The Station Napier Old Boys' Marist (NOBM) cricketer Mathew Sinclair.

A trusty gadget - for goodness sake, just don't call him old - there isn't anything veteran Sinclair can't do.

The former New Zealand international, who turned 37 early this month, is bat savvy, can roll his right-arm sleeves to the tune of medium deliveries, can keep wicket behind the stumps and is an excellent slip catcher with 25 to his credit from 48 matches.

If that's not enough, he can grow a wicked Clark Gable-like moustache every time Movember kicks in.

Mention the whiskers and an outspoken Sinclair perks up.

"The Indian boys here seem to have no problems. They grow it so well and us boys from New Zealand seem to be struggling," he says of ex-Black Cap leggie Tarun Nethula, Plunket Shield batsman Jeet Raval and left-arm offspinner Ajaz Patel who have joined fitness trainer Anthony Sharp to help raise awareness of prostate cancer and depression among Kiwi males.

"It's a bit of good fun and the boys have cottoned on to it."

The Kieran Noema-Barnett-skippered Stags got into Hamilton via five-hour car rides.

"We've never done that before because we're always flying everywhere," he says, adding the breathtaking scenery he saw for the first time from Whakatane to Tauranga was akin to the picturesque ride along the coastal drives to Napier.

The jocularity and small talk out of the way, Sinclair impresses every major association is keen to clinch the HRV Cup bragging rights considering the winners will represent the country in the lucrative Club World Championship before summer here next year.

"It's the glitz and glamour side of the game so it's good for the players to show their skills," he reckons, mindful a lucrative contract with the IPL Twenty20 competition in India can change players' bank balances, too.

For a player who has broken a plethora of international, CD and national domestic records in a career spanning 17 years, Sinclair isn't shy to express his views, at times, to the detriment of his limited stint with the Black Caps.

Not seen as selection worthy and "suspect when facing fast bowlers", he reveals it's a cause for consternation to see New Zealand Cricket throwing so much money into T20 when the current tour of Sri Lanka is again a testimony of where the country's top summer sport is heading.

"I worry because we're struggling at test level. I don't know what's going on there.

"How can we improve things at domestic level with the four-day game?" he asks, believing some of the emphasis must shift from T20s in "some form or shape" to rejuvenate Plunket Shield cricket which offers the ideal platform for nurturing young talent.

"Perhaps we can have a monetary change to get the best out of players in the four-day format because it shouldn't be the be all and end all of T20 cricket."

He says the second-tier New Zealand teams - NZ A or domestic sides - can only be as good as their first ones, men or women.

Looking at tonight's game, Sinclair says traditional battles between the two fragmented major associations are always a nail-biter.

Needless to say, the Stags feel they have the wood on the Knights after a convincing eight-wicket outright victory over the hosts in Gisborne on Tuesday.

"We've played bloody well against ND so we'll be taking that momentum through to Friday night."

Sinclair says his injection with the gloves, with No1 wicky Kruger van Wyk playing for the Black Caps in Sri Lanka, offers Hunt and Hamilton an opportunity to tinker with the batting/bowling dynamics.

"I've been working hard at training with the gloves," he says, adding he had kept wicket for NOBM at premier club level in the few games he played this summer.

"I'll just be taking the catches and stopping the byes," says the top-order batsman who has been part of similar experiments before but emphasises van Wyk will be back for the second T20 match against the Wellington Firebirds on Friday, December 7, at McLean Park, Napier, from 7.10pm.

More importantly, how well the CD men adapt to the change from a four-day shield match to a T20 one will be the litmus test.

If that's not enough, they will have to snap back into Shield mode at the weekend for the start of their match against the Otago Volts at McLean Park from Monday next week.

English import Peter Trego arrived in Hamilton late yesterday afternoon and it's hard to imagine he won't be put out to pasture tonight.

The 31-year-old allrounder from Somerset will make his debut for the Stags in his first visit to New Zealand.

Born in Weston-super-Mare, the tattooed one sees himself as a right-handed batsman who can bowl.

To put things in perspective, Trego gave the touring South Africa cricketers a bit of stick at No7 for Somerset in a three-day match this year to score a quick-fire century from 60 balls.

He also scored an unbeaten 80 off 70 balls against Nottinghamshire, helping his county side to chase down 395 on the last day to claim a five-wicket victory in the first-class match.

While labelled a medium pacer, he likes to believe he can hit the deck with a little more venom and a shade quicker - around the 130km/h to 135km/h mark.

It's fair to say Sinclair is in as much darkness about Trego's prowess as ND will be.

"I know he hits the ball well and is a new-ball option so he'll be bringing in a good skill set.

"With Jake Oram and Ross Taylor not here it's a good opportunity for Jamie How, Trego or myself to get us through."

Patel, Marty Kain, Andrew Lamb, William Young and Dean Robinson are included in the Stags' T20 squad for the first time.

Sinclair doesn't rule out the option of going with two spinners - seemingly Nethula and either Kain or Patel.

Speed merchant Adam Milne also showed in the Shield win over ND he is adept with the bat at No11, reflecting CD's depth.

ND have imports in ex-England wicketkeeper James Foster, of Essex, and Lancashire offspinner/batsman Steve Croft.

The word is the Seddon Park wicket is batter friendly and in keeping with its claustrophobic boundary for thrills and spills.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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