IT'S A question that bamboozles many cricketers: "Why do you play the game?"
Bronson Meehan replies: "That's a good question."
The 22-year-old Complete Flooring Napier Technical Old Boys batsman mulls over it for a few seconds before finding a modicum of traction: "It's so odd a team sport because it's very individualistic.
"Yes, I think that's why we keep coming back to play the game," Meehan says before opening the batting for the Pay Excellence Hawke's Bay senior men's representative team in their two-day Hawke Cup-qualifying match against Wairarapa at Nelson Park, Napier, from today.
A sports co-ordinator at Nelson Primary School in Napier, Meehan has been in hot form with the bat recently, carving up two centuries in his last four innings including a maiden ton for the Bay against Wanganui here in the previous round a fortnight ago.
"I've only been out once in that time," he explains before outlining he couldn't bat to save himself before that this summer.
"I couldn't get past 10 runs at one stage."
Therein lies the irony of the summer code.
A selfishly individual sport masquerading as a collective one, where the team benefits from runs and wickets a player hauls in but the second the player's confidence is brimming everything can turn to custard in the blink of an eye.
"That's the complete beauty of our game where you're up and then you're down - one minute my confidence is up, the next it's a completely different scenario."
For Meehan, it simply boils down to how much hunger he has when he walks out to the wicket to ask for middle and leg.
Middling the ball with the willow for the ropes when ticking the strike over while digging his toes in at the batting crease, Meehan says such commitment ensures he's delivering for the "team and I".
"You're out there batting in twos, bowling by yourself, so it's just an amazing game."
Veteran batsman James de Terte, of Taradale club, has retired and Meehan lauded the former Bay skipper who has the third all-time caps for the senior men's rep team with 80-odd games.
"His 10 centuries is a record for Hawke's Bay until I beat it, of course," he says with a laugh, adding De Terte was a long-time servant of the game who was forever available at a level where players didn't receive remuneration like the Stags.
"You don't get paid and you have to give up Fridays to Sundays and DT's done that for almost 10 years so Hawke's Bay Cricket will acknowledge that."
He recalls De Terte was not one to settle for 50s. At Bay senior level, he was a firm believer of turning them to tons to ensure victories.
Meehan, no doubt, is equally hungry to make the cut for the Stags squad but accepts other players are performing better than him.
An ex-Bay under-17 rep, who scored 156 runs against Auckland here in the national under-17 tourney six years ago, Meehan veered off the cricket trail three years ago after a duck shooting-season mishap claimed the life of his father. "It's been a tough three years. It was devastating and it happened at the wrong time but that's life because you can't plan these things," he says, reconciling it with keeping his head down to put up tons selectors can't ignore.
Tech's Stevie Smidt (hand) and Liam Rukuwai (foot) are out with injuries while spinner Ajaz Patel and seamer Andrew Mathieson are unavailable because of their CD stints, so that means a young brigade of Jack Arnall, Ben Stoyanoff and Driaan Lubbe will shine the ball.
"It's a great chance for the young to step up with the CD guys gone," Meehan says, adding the great thing with the Stags is they come down to their team not behaving like they are better players.
While Wairarapa, minus several seasoned players from last summer, are underdogs, he feels it's a good test for the young not to entertain any complacent thoughts because no one rolls over to die in Hawke Cup games.
Hawke's Bay (from): Jacob Smith (c), Jack Arnall, Sebastian Langridge (wkt), Ben Jackett, Jayden Waters, Michael Taiaroa (Cornwall); Angus Smith, Henry Hunter, Driaan Lubbe (CHB); Toby Doyle, Ben Stoyanoff (Taradale); Bronson Meehan (NTOB).
Coach: Lincoln Doull.
Wairarapa (from): Henry Cameron (c), Tim Lucas, George Deans, Joe Hull, Harry Clinton-Baker, Alex Treseder, Ben Foster, Harry Greenwood, Nash Patel, Sean Jarvis, Jock Cameron, Stefan Hook-Sporry.
Coach: Sam Curtis.