They say example is leadership and if there's any credence to that assertion then the Central Districts Stags won't have to look very far at Saxton Oval, Nelson, to find it today.

That's because anyone who has seen Doug Bracewell play at any level will tell you the allrounder personifies all the attributes of a blood, sweat and tears kind of guy.

Bracewell is assuming the mantle of captaincy for the first time in his domestic career when the Stags host the Otago Volts in the opening round of the one-day Ford Trophy campaign from 11am.

"It's definitely an exciting time," says the 28-year-old from Napier who is in reality taking the baton from Plunket Shield skipper Greg Hay who has done a sterling job in leading CD to an undefeated two-round start to the top of the table after an unblemished tenure under the leadership of William Young, who stepped down at the end of last summer.


Bracewell, for the record, has never captained a side at senior level but did call the shot a couple of times as a primary schoolboy. However, this will add to an impressive portfolio that must make fans wonder why he isn't a regular in all of the Black Caps' squads.

For a bloke who bends his back to hit the deck with venomous intent at every delivery with a new ball to draw the lines of engagement, it's going to be a challenge and one he's ready to embrace.

Leaving any rock undisturbed at the coal face is a work ethic instilled in him growing up in the Bracewell cricketing dynasty. His father, Brendon, and uncles John and Doug snr, are a testimony to that rich vein of character and resilience.

The once impressionable teenager, who made his domestic debut in first-class cricket at Nelson Park, Napier, on November 17, 2008, is now a seasoned campaigner among a rash of other newbies trying to find a niche at the higher echelons.

With 27 test matches, 16 ODIs and 17 T20 internationals under his belt, the Black Caps seamer is suitably adept to shift teammates around the park from silly mid on to deep mid wicket nowadays without that impish grin.

His 91 four-dayers, 63 one-dayers and 50 T20s matches at domestic level mean Bracewell has been exposed to myriad leaders to formulate a template that fits his philosophy of captaincy.

"I suppose it's a case of just adapting as I go along."

The You Travel Taradale CC premiership player is comfortable in the knowledge other senior Stags will be his lieutenants if he wants to bounce back ideas. They include Hay, returning from List A exile since March 2014 because he was pigeon-holed as a red-ball specialist, and former CD skipper Kieran Noema-Barnett who has returned from his county cricket stint with Gloucestershire although he did help CD two seasons ago.


"I'll be taking the new ball so I'm looking forward to getting stuck in so, hopefully, we can go on to a good start in this campaign."

The right-arm quick says in the past few summers CD have started slowly so a robust beginning at Saxton Oval is on the agenda.

It was an anti-climax for the Stags after they lost by six wickets to the Auckland Aces in the Ford Trophy final at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, in February. It was salt in the wound after losing by nine wickets to the Northern Districts Knights in the Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 final in the previous month at Seddon Park, Hamilton.

Frankly it was a stellar season for the Stags who had exorcised their demons with a shield victory to sign off last summer but in many respects it's a reflection of the high standards they have set for themselves under the tutelage of Heinrich Malan.

CD will take a similar mind set to Plunket Shield, he says, but, obviously, the game plan will differ a little.

"It's going to be a little full on with game schedules, travel, play sort of thing so it's important to have a clear mind set of our roles in the team in getting those combinations going."

Captain or not, CD Stags seamer Doug Bracewell leaves nothing in the tank at every delivery, evident here against the Auckland Aces last summer. Photo/John Velvin, ESPNZ
Captain or not, CD Stags seamer Doug Bracewell leaves nothing in the tank at every delivery, evident here against the Auckland Aces last summer. Photo/John Velvin, ESPNZ

Bracewell says as professionals they should adapt to the new format quite comfortably.

Under Malan, with Englishman Ben F Smith at the helm in the interim while the South African is away with New Zealand A in the United Arab Emirates tour, the mantra of playing an exciting brand of game remains regardless of the format.

"We'll look to take that similar game plan in to play positive cricket and put the opposition under as much pressure as we can," he says.

The absence of several players on the UAE tour continues to offer newbies an opportunity to showcase their skills, something they have done with aplomb in the shield rounds.

Marlborough's Ma'ara Ave, a 19-year-old of Cook Island descent, will slip on the gloves behind the stumps after regular wicketkeeper Dane Cleaver was deservedly called into the NZ A squad to UAE late on Monday as cover for Tom Blundell nursing a groin strain.

Opening swing bowler Seth Rance and speed merchant Adam Milne were already in the Black Caps' equation.

A muster of allrounders, he feels, will provide good balance for the Stags.

"We're lucky to have guys in the middle order who can bat and also bowl but also bat up the order."

Bracewell is happy with his constitution with the body almost back to 100 per cent this season, something he had gauged with a modicum of satisfaction after the red-ball matches.

Taking that shield momentum into the white-ball format is imperative for the defending shield champions.

Working on is middle-order batting is equally important to establish himself as a frontline allrounder.

"I need to just get out there to score runs. It's as simple as that," he says, mindful he's had lean pickings in the two shield matches but realising batting can be fickle although the onus is with him to change his fortunes.

Conversely, white-ball internationals Neil Broom and Anaru Kitchen return for the visitors as does Mark Craig, after a family bereavement.


CD STAGS: Doug Bracewell (c), Ben S Smith, Greg Hay, Joshua Clarkson, Willem Ludick, Christian Leopard, Felix Murray, Navin Patel, Ryan McCone, Bevan Small, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Ma'ara Ave (wk).
Interim coach: Ben F Smith, of England.

OTAGO VOLTS: Matthew Bacon, Warren Barnes, Neil Broom, Mark Craig (co-c), Jacob Duffy (co-c), Josh Finnie, Shawn Hicks, Anaru Kitchen, Mitch Renwick, Michael Rippon, Hamish Rutherford, Nathan Smith.
Coach: Rob Walter.