Cricket: McClenaghan makes up for lost time

By David Leggat

Howick's Mitchell McClenaghan knows he can bowl faster than 140km/h. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Howick's Mitchell McClenaghan knows he can bowl faster than 140km/h. Photo / Greg Bowker.

Having been through "the hardest times of my life", Mitchell McClenaghan now plans to make up for it.

It's taken three surgeries and a pile of rehabilitation to get the lively left armer to the bowling crease again, and Auckland have felt the benefit immediately.

In his first game at provincial level since February 19 last year at Whangarei, McClenaghan knocked the top off the Northern Districts innings last week finishing with five for 30, taken inside his first six overs, to roll ND for 99.

He backed that up with six for 41 from 9.3 overs in Auckland's loss to Wellington on Sunday.

"It's been pretty unreal, to be fair," McClenaghan said yesterday en route to Auckland's final-round Ford Trophy game against Central Districts in New Plymouth today.

Much remains to unfold in the future, but right now the McClenaghan story is one of triumph out of despair.

Hastings-born but in Auckland since he was 11, McClenaghan made his debut for Central Districts in 2007-08 but between then and now, and 15 first-class games, hip problems have bedevilled him.

There have been small pockets of cricket activity interspersed with plenty of pain and frustration since then.

"I tore all the cartilage in both hips, had to have it repaired and bone inside the hip remodelled so it would fit the socket properly," the 25-year-old said.

It seemed to have been fixed with the first surgery in 2009, after taking five for 36 against the England Lions at Lincoln.

The effect of bone smashing against the socket meant bone had to be removed. Last year McClenaghan was under the surgeon's knife again, in April and June, once on each hip.

McClenaghan understands at least part of the problem was down to bad luck.

"Unfortunately I had a little bit of extra bone which was causing damage," he said, and allied to the sheer pressure fast bowling puts on the body, it seemed to have dashed his ambitions in the game.

McClenaghan went to the Champions League with CD in late 2010, and has been repairing himself in Auckland before tentatively starting back with Howick Pakuranga this season.

After a handful of club and Auckland A games, the late withdrawal of overseas import Andre Adams from the ND game opened a door for McClenaghan.

He believes he's lost none of his pace, has not changed his action and knows he's capable of bowling at more than 140km/h.

"The surgeons are pretty confident the same injury won't come up again. I've worked really hard over winter losing a lot of weight to get the body into the best possible condition I would, so hopefully everything is all in order."

But McClenaghan vividly recalls the darkness of the recovery period. Surely he harboured doubts he'd ever make it back on to the field.

"Mate, almost every day. My family put up with quite a bit," he said. "It was probably the hardest time of my life.

"Cricket is something I love and things were going really well.

"Then to be set back two or three years was frustrating and it was really hard to stay motivated."

Not any more and it may not be long before McClenaghan's name is being pencilled in among a growing list of promising fast-medium bowlers on the New Zealand domestic stage.

Auckland have brought in Dusan Hakaraia and Dean Bartlett for the CD game, from which a bonus point win will ensure Auckland of top spot, hosting a semifinal and, if that is won, the final on February 12. Andre Adams is out with a recurrence of a chest infection.

Former international batsman Daniel Flynn returns to the ND side for the first time this season to play Canterbury at Rangiora, after battling a hip injury of his own. Another, more recent international, Jesse Ryder is back for Wellington's game against Otago in Invercargill, having been sidelined by a damaged calf muscle since December 27.

Points with one round remaining: Auckland 20, Otago 19, Canterbury 17, CD 17, Wellington 11, ND 6.

- NZ Herald

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