Cricket: Wagner prepared to wait longer

By Michael Brown

Neil Wagner. Photo  / 	Paul Estcourt
Neil Wagner. Photo / Paul Estcourt

What was supposed to be a family celebration has turned a little sour for Neil Wagner after he discovered his attendance could further complicate when he qualifies to play cricket for New Zealand.

The South African-born left-armer expected to be available to wear the black cap from next month after four seasons playing for Otago and would have been a strong contender for July's tour of the West Indies. But he learned last week that might not be the case and he might not be eligible until October at the earliest.

Wagner isn't clear on when he might be free to play for his adopted country, but is worried a six-day trip back to South Africa in December 2008 to attend his brother's wedding could be an issue and put back his date of availability even further.

"I was 100 per cent under the impression it would be okay," Wagner said. "They said I could go back for family reasons and if I still spent 183 days in the year in the country then I would be fine."

International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations state a player must reside in their "preferred" country for a minimum of 183 consecutive days in four consecutive years.

Wagner is also worried his involvement in Otago's 2009 Champions League campaign in India is another possible area of contention.

"I can't see how they think that would be a problem because it's the reason you are here and work is taking you out of the country," the 26-year-old said.

"Hopefully they will overlook that one. The other factor I heard was it was four years and not four seasons. I have no idea."

It's why New Zealand Cricket (NZC) are seeking clarification from the ICC and are hoping to hear back later this week. They have submitted details of all of Wagner's international travel since his arrival in New Zealand.

Wagner is still holding out hope he will be available next month but that seems unlikely and it's clearly a blow for a player who had pinned his hopes on playing for New Zealand this winter.

"It's something I didn't expect and obviously didn't want, but I can't control it," he said. "It's not in my hands. You just have to sit and be patient and wait and listen. It's not easy, I'm not going to lie, because it's been a long wait. You build your hopes up and look forward to this and build your whole season around it.

"It's pretty stressful and plays on your nerves but I can do nothing about it but sit and wait. I will be patient and not try to work myself up too much about it.

"I can honestly say I'm not giving up. Although it has meant I might have to wait longer, that's what I will have to do. I won't turn my back on New Zealand or Otago cricket because they have been good to me."

Wagner has also been good for Otago. This week he snared career-best figures of 7-46 against Wellington in Dunedin and admitted there was a fair bit of anger and frustration in that performance.

It took his haul to 44 wickets in the Plunket Shield this season. Last summer he claimed 51 wickets at the impressive average of 18.15, including a record five wickets in one over against Wellington, which helped him win the New Zealand domestic bowler of the season.

New Zealand tour India, Sri Lanka and South Africa this year after July's tour of the West Indies.

"We want to get it all cleared up so we can have him as soon as possible," NZC national selection manager Kim Littlejohn said.

- APNZ

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