Here's a thought for the 21st century coal miners of the cricketing world who go down the shaft in the mould of Ben Wheeler but return with bewildered soot-stained faces after 20 to 50 overs.

They often enter dark, dirty, noisy claustrophobic arenas, filled with explosive, cantankerous mobs of fans, where cheers erupt no matter who is swinging the bat like baton-wielding riot police trying to restore order at a protest march gone awry.

Frankly it is the pits, so why do the bowlers scramble over each other to be shafted in twenty20 cricket?

Wheeler becomes a great case study. The 25-year-old from Blenheim, who has been based in Napier for the past five years, is an adroit bowler.


About this time last year the media were waxing lyrical about the new-ball seamer after he had helped the Black Caps tame Bangladesh after a four-month injury layoff.

But that script became distorted last Friday at a postage-stamp-sized Eden Park when the rampant Aussies carved him up for 64 runs from 3.1 wicketless overs and all sorts of records took a hiding.

The reality is T20 is seen as the best-paid job in the pit despite existing in a false economy.

Seriously, how much should centuries and innings totals be devalued in the Aussies' five-wicket victory last week when taking into account variables that make the game so lopsided for bowlers?

Wheeler isn't mentally scarred and if his international career is over then there's something terribly wrong with the Black Caps system, if T20 becomes the yardstick of how wicket-savvy someone is.

The game is a circus and the players, bowlers in particular, know they will be used as human cannonballs.

The smart money, of course, is on Wheeler and other battered boys to bounce back.

But is there a need to police a volatile format in a manner similar to what the SPCA do in monitoring the impact of rodeos on animals?


No doubt, those who get a fix from T20s will argue bowlers go into the game knowing they have a propensity to become victims of assault and battery.

But that is no different to rugby, rugby league players and boxers who pick themselves to carry on despite medics on the field urging them to take a concussion test.

Never mind what format of cricket, it must be a fair battle between bat and ball. Smaller venues, hybrid bats and tennis-ball wickets simply make bowlers lambs to the slaughter.

Sure, it always stumps me why bowlers persist with pace and short-pitched deliveries when yorkers should be the staple diet in the death overs or when a batsman's got his eye in.

But dropping a player after a game where everything from batsmen, bowlers and field placements came under scrutiny suggests a scapegoat was needed to appease the mob.

Should coach Mike Hesson have given Wheeler another chance last night to exorcise his demons?

CD coach Heinrich Malan is expecting Wheeler will be released for the domestic one-day Ford Trophy grand final match against the Auckland Aces at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, on Saturday.

Malan says part of the CD preparation, before the Stags move hastily through the revolving doors to international cricket, is finding themselves at the end of a pasting as a bowler or ending up like a busker with loose change in the hat on a hostile street as batsmen.

"At any stage, even in our competition, there's an opportunity for people to get hurt because we play on small grounds and good surfaces, the bats are getting bigger and the batters are more fearless in terms of going out there to play," he says.

The South African coach says Wheeler has a solid reputation for taking the new ball to claim scalps and then hitting the back end of the death overs in hitting the hole.

"It's also the mindset that the [New Zealand] team goes into, from my perspective, because I think the BCs [Black Caps] were trying to defend 240 as opposed to trying to bowl Australia out."

He questions the field placements, for argument's sake, when Australia batsman Darcy Short was at the batting crease.

"Three times there were no slips but they had a cow at deep square leg and the third man in the ring.

"That tells me that their mindset was wrong and, unfortunately, that showed throughout their 20 overs because Australia got ahead a little bit too much."

Malan says he has spoken with Wheeler, who was champing at the bit to play last night, about his role when he returns to the Stags stable.

"He's been jumping out of his skin to play for the Stags because he's played only one game in two weeks so he's pretty keen to put some substance back into his performance again."

Manawatu seamer Bevan Small will make way for the Black Cap in the Stags' squad of 13.