Ben Wheeler wants nothing more than to be a knockout in cricket all the way into the international arena but, most certainly, not the way he went about it late last month.

To use his words, the fast-evolving Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags allrounder gave himself "an uppercut" in the Plunket Shield match against the Canterbury Kings at Hagley Oval after contributing 58 runs, including 11 boundaries, at Hagley Oval, Christchurch.

His name dropped from No 7 to No 11, with "absent" beside it on the scoreboard, in the second dig as the William Young-skippered CD lost by 71 runs.

"I've had no real injuries so far this season," he said yesterday at Nelson Park, Napier, before the round five first-class match against the Northern Districts Knights from 10.30am today.


"I just got hit in the head so I had a little bit of concussion. I top-edged one against my jaw and it missed the helmet

That left the Blenheim-born, Napier-based Black Caps greater squad member with recurring headaches.

"I got quite groggy and then two or three days later I started to feel all right," said the 25-year-old after CD physio Nate Manu stood him down for 24 hours to consult a Christchurch GP to confirm concussion.

However, when Wheeler resumed training the symptoms returned so he had to take a few more days off to recover from the dizzy spells.

He missed the quake-abandoned match against the Wellington Firebirds in round four.

CD and ND face similar geographic hurdles but there's no arguing about the gulf between the two major associations on the shield table - ND are perched on the top rung and CD at the bottom.

"We're going in as underdogs but there's just been the odd sessions where we've let ourselves down with the ball and bat," he said, something evident in CD's loss to Canterbury where everyone, bar Mitch Renwick unbeaten on 37, simply didn't get off the mark.

In the first game against Otago, Wheeler said the Volts didn't play ball and were not sporting in their declaration.

CD coach Heinrich Malan has released Renwick for CD's four-way provincial A tournament in Taupo from today with the return of Young from NZ A duties.

Seamer Liam Dudding also makes way for Ryan McCone, who has recovered from a hamstring strain while Jesse Ryder remains in the mix.

Having consulted Black Caps nutritionist Gavin Clearkin yesterday Wheeler said he had to make adjustments to his breakfast, starting the day with more than just two pieces of toast.

Clearkin, who also had individual meetings with Young and ND's Scott Kuggeleijn, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi and Dean Brownlie, said the focus on elite players was on good carbos, medium proteins and low-fat food.

"They need to be well fuelled and recovered for nutrition and hydration," said Clearkin, of Auckland, who is here for the next two days. He also monitored their supplement use.

Coach James Pamment have named Brownlie captain with Daniel Flynn still injured. Anton Devcich is nursing a ligament injury and Corey Anderson back ailment.

Sodhi said they wanted to improve on the draw against the Auckland Aces in the previous round. "It wasn't as smooth as we would have liked so to be on top of the table so far we're fortunate to be playing some good cricket with some wins under our belt and some hard-fought draws," said the 24-year-old legspinner from Counties Manukau.

Asked if he would have preferred to be playing in test series against Pakistan, Sodhi said he was striving for some consistency for the past couple of years and the shield provided the ideal arena for it. "You have to learn to bowl in long spells, especially in conditions like this where it's going to be hot and challenging against some very good first-class players on a pretty good deck."

It would always be tough but he felt as long as he was improving he would have all the tools to succeed when he made the step up. New Zealand has traditionally been notorious for benign batting strips where countless batsmen have carved up centuries and even double tons while quality bowlers have broken down and spinners quite often left running out drinks on the grounds that wickets don't offer them any purchase.

New Zealand Cricket seems to have recently acknowledged that and is trying to urge groundsmen to prepare wickets that have a tendency to break down on the final two days to bring spinners into play, after the Black Caps' struggles were obvious in the win-less test series in India.

Sodhi felt every country had home-ground advantages and teams coming to New Zealand also struggled but agreed, in the interest of developing international prowess, New Zealand wickets needed to be variable. However, with inclement weather and just two days of play in red-ball matches there was no time for wickets to break up.


CD STAGS: William Young (c), Tom Bruce, Doug Bracewell, Dane Cleaver (wkt), Greg Hay, Ryan McCone, Ajaz Patel, Seth Rance, Jesse Ryder, Ben Smith, Blair Tickner, Ben Wheeler.

Coach: Heinrich Malan.

ND KNIGHTS: Dean Brownlie (c), James Baker, Joseph Carter, Tony Goodin, Brett Hampton, Nick Kelly, Scott Kuggeleijn, Daryl Mitchell, Bharat Popli, Tim Seifert (wkt), Ish Sodhi, Josef Walker.

Coach: James Pamment.