Cricket: Passion for game keeps Sinclair's hunger intact

By David Leggat

Prolific century maker's motivation comes from helping the up and comers.

Retirement isn't on the cards for 36-year-old batsman Mathew Sinclair just yet. Photo / APN
Retirement isn't on the cards for 36-year-old batsman Mathew Sinclair just yet. Photo / APN

It almost got overlooked in the wake of Jesse Ryder's double whammy to help Wellington off to a roaring Plunket Shield start this week.

But before the first of Ryder's centuries in Napier, Mathew Sinclair did what he's been doing for 15 years, hitting his 35th first-class century, one short of his age - although ageless might be a better term for the veteran batsman.

Sinclair's 143, as part of a 224-run third wicket stand with fellow century-maker Carl Cachopa - a CD record against Wellington - means he has scored at least one first-class hundred in each of the last 10 domestic summers.

Throw in a brace of hundreds for Aaron Redmond, now 33, in Otago's win over Canterbury and it was a good week for the over-thirties.

In Sinclair's case, it's a remarkable testimony not only to his ability but also to his longevity. His international days are long gone. That part of his game will always provoke curiosity.

A quick reminder: on Boxing Day 1999, Sinclair, who turns 37 next Friday, marked his test debut with 214 against the West Indies at the Basin Reserve, just the fifth of only eight New Zealanders to have done so. Apart from Dan Vettori, his teammates from that match have long retired.

Then followed 150 against a formidable South African attack at Port Elizabeth in November 2000, and 204 not out against Pakistan at Christchurch four months later.

After 12 tests, Sinclair averaged 52.55. The remaining 21 tests included three half-centuries, a pile of single-figure scores and ended with a one-off callback against Australia in 2010 and he finished on 32.05.

But all the while CD have been the beneficiary of the Northern Territory-born batsman's talents. He has scored more centuries, 26, and most runs, 8669, for the province in the most games for them, 110.

Only nine New Zealanders have scored three successive first-class centuries. He's one of them.

Last season his 809 Plunket Shield runs topped the chart. Age, it seems, is not wearying him. He still has personal goals he wants to tick off, but has another motivation which keeps him going.

"For me it's all about helping the youngsters. I've been part of CD for a good number of years, so now it's my time to give something back. That's a motivation for me," he said yesterday.

Sinclair admitted he gets ticked off when he hears himself described as a has-been or similarly dismissive terms. A glance at his numbers - first-class average 49 - back his view, too.

He acknowledged that as players age, they get to know their game better, where their strengths and weaknesses are and tailor their play around that.

So it irritates him when the door is effectively closed on players once they reach a certain age, as though they can no longer make a worthwhile contribution.

"In general we write players off very quickly in this country, which I don't think is right," he said citing Redmond as a case in point, burned after making 83 and 19 against Australia in Adelaide in late 2008.

"We need to hang on to these guys. They have so much to offer and we don't have enough players to pick from. We need them around."

Sinclair's prime motivation now is providing for his young family, wife Tina, baby Liam, 3, and 2-year-old Holly. But he's not ready to pack his bat away in the cupboard just yet.

"I take it day by day, year by year and form and fitness are key parts. While that's going well then there should be no reason why I can't keep on going."

For which CD should be grateful.

First-class centurions

Matches Average 100s

1 Glenn Turner
NZ, Otago, ND, Worcestershire
455 / 49.7 / 103
2Martin Crowe
NZ, Auckland, CD, Somerset, Wellington
247 / 56.02 / 71
3 John Wright
NZ, Canterbury, Derbyshire, ND, Auckland
366 / 42.35 / 59
4 Bert Sutcliffe
NZ, Auckland, Otago, ND
233 / 47.41 / 44
5 John R. Reid
NZ, Wellington, Otago
246 / 41.35 / 39
6= Mathew Sinclair
NZ, CD
179 / 49.39 / 35
Stephen Fleming
NZ, Canterbury, Middlesex, Wellington, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire
247 / 43.87 / 35
Stewie Dempster
NZ, Wellington, Scotland, Leicestershire, Warwickshire
184 / 44.98 / 35
Ken Rutherford
220 / 39.92 / 35
NZ, Otago, Gauteng
10 Geoff Howarth
NZ, Auckland, ND, Surrey
338 / 31.90 / 32.

- NZ Herald

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