Cricket: Flynn set on stepping up to challenge

By Peter White of the Bay of Plenty Times -
Daniel Flynn has never been one to back off from a challenge. Photo / Getty Images.
Daniel Flynn has never been one to back off from a challenge. Photo / Getty Images.

Daniel Flynn has never been one to back off from a challenge, as his courageous attempt to keep batting after losing one of his front teeth against England at Old Trafford in 2008 shows.

But the pugnacious left-hander is facing a career-defining period in the Black Caps test team as he desperately tries to secure his position in the batting line-up.

Flynn needs to succeed in Sri Lanka, starting with tomorrow's first test in Galle, and then in an even tougher assignment against the world's best team South Africa in December, before coming home to face the English attack in February.

The 27-year-old knows he hasn't achieved anything like what he should have after batting in 37 test innings since his debut in 2008.

Cricketers are judged more by statistics than many other sporting codes so his average of 27.81, with four 50s and no centuries, does not do justice to his talent.

"Obviously they are not stats to be proud of but I have got a lot of starts in those innings and I have not managed to capitalise on them," Flynn said.

"Over the next couple of years it is something to build on and look to improve on, and hopefully I can start to do that with this tour in Sri Lanka."

Flynn has been shunted all over the batting order as the Black Caps have struggled to find a permanent spot for him, which has not helped him feel settled at the crease at test level.

The generally poor performances from those around him have not helped either.

"It has turned out that way but unfortunately that is just how it is.

"There are guys who are cemented into positions so you have to fit in where you can and try to make the most of your opportunities.

"I have had a spot in the middle order so hopefully I will get another crack there in Sri Lanka and I can try and make the most of it.

"I enjoy batting in the top order and that is a challenge I thought I could make the most of, but the new coaching structure decided on Brendon [McCullum] going back to the top, which is understandable with the success he has had there.

"A lot of times in test cricket I have been in and we have behind the eight-ball a little bit, so I haven't had the freedom to go out and play my natural game."

Flynn left for Sri Lanka in great form after scoring 181 for the Northern Knights last week and in the process going past former England batsman Graeme Hick's record of 10 centuries for ND. He now has scored more than 4000 first-class runs at a healthy average of 37.85 plus is a powerhouse run scorer in the shorter versions of the game.

"My record for ND is pretty good and, ideally, I want to transfer that into the international game. That is what it is all about, really, making that step up. I need to start scoring hundreds at the next level."

Sri Lanka is not the easiest place to tour with steaming hot humidity and dusty, slow wickets making it a difficult place to succeed.

Flynn says recent tours to India and Sri Lanka have been ideal preparation for what they will face in the two-match test series.

"Spin plays a major part in what we have to face in Sri Lanka, which is something we have to adapt to. We are fortunate enough obviously with the recent tour to India, and also the West Indies where the wickets are more spinner friendly, and more low and slow, so we have had a chance to adapt in those conditions".

The prospect of taking on the feared South African fast bowlers on their own bouncy wickets is something Flynn is looking forward to doing again, after he opened the innings in the Wellington test in March and scored an accomplished 45 in the first innings.

He says he relishes the chance to test his technique, talent and courage against the world's best bowlers.

"I definitely look forward to that challenge. I got to play against them at the end of last summer in the test series and I guess it is what every cricketer plays for is to test yourself against the best.

"Their attack is probably the best pace bowling attack going around so it is a great challenge."

One thing Flynn is yet to experience is to play in the English County championship, but it's up there on his wish list.

"I would love the opportunity but it has to present itself. If I hadn't been picked to go to the West Indies I was going to spend some time at Gloucester under John Bracewell."

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