You could say the Central Districts Stags' catchment is overflowing, almost harking back to the days in Hawke's Bay when sprinklers spouted with reckless abundance on the front lawns of just about every house.

The endorsement of a summer of plenty for the cricketers comes not only in the form of a Burger King Twenty20 Super Smash grand final as well as Ford Trophy and Plunket Shield pride of perch but also the countless players who have tasted Black Caps game time.

It may be a distraction to throw in assertions from scribes that coach Heinrich Malan is among contenders to become New Zealand mentor, amid speculation that Mike Hesson may step down when his contract expires, but you start getting a sharper resolution on the bigger picture of what the Stags are all about.

"It's a pivotal part of my career and a pathway but it's not something that I'm focused on just yet," says Malan, before they play the Wellington Firebirds in round seven of the Ford Trophy campaign at the Basin Reserve from 11am tomorrow.


"It's perhaps something I would look at down the line but at this stage we're in the middle of a campaign and I'm pretty focused on preparing the boys for the game against Wellington."

No doubt the Plunket Shield kicks in but will he take the New Zealand job if it is offered to him?

"Yes, at the end of the day you score an opportunity to start off one of those bigger jobs. If that happens it'll be a great honour."

The South African-born coach, who arrived in the capital after four flights from Invercargill yesterday, doesn't see their ascendancy as a purple patch.

Frankly, it's just another game for captain William Young and his troops with consistency the main currency, germinated from the nursery of training and time on the crease.

"I think the white-ball blueprint we put out over the last couple of years, especially around one-day cricket, we've been pretty consistent in the way we've played," he says.

After the Firebirds, CD will finish their final round-robin matches against the Northern Districts Knights in Napier on Sunday.

The semifinals will be played on Saturday, February 17. An elimination final will follow with the winners progressing to the Sky TV televised grand final on Saturday, February 24.


The Stags are comfortably perched on the top rung on 23 points, with the Auckland Aces 10 points adrift, while the Knights are third on 12 points. The Firebirds are fourth but tied on eight points with the Otago Volts. Defending champions Canterbury Kings are last on four points.

The Wellington Firebirds have copped the brunt of the Central Districts Stags in the white-ball formats this summer. Photo/Photosport
The Wellington Firebirds have copped the brunt of the Central Districts Stags in the white-ball formats this summer. Photo/Photosport

The banter in the CD camp works like an elixir on whether the batsmen or bowlers deliver when push comes to shove.

"From batting and bowling points of view, at different stages we've been really good and different people have stepped up to help us out when we haven't," says Malan.

"It's something that we pride ourselves on - having fantastic game changers - while we try to play a brand of cricket that is exciting and takes the game forward, so it's really exciting to see players stepping up to do it on a regular basis now."

He echoes the sentiments of former CD international Jacob Oram that it's hard to compartmentalise the spine of the team because both departments have dug the Stags out of a hole.

"I think it's pretty evenly balanced at this stage," he says, juxtaposing the Aces game, when Young and Joshua Clarkson dictated terms, with the six-wicket pummelling of the Volts in Invercargill last Sunday when the bowlers ensured the batsmen didn't have to chase too many runs.

In T20, he says, two players have to define the game. In one-dayers four are required and in first-class cricket up to six.

With the Black Caps in recess in the tri-nations series with Australia and England it's safe to assume seamers Seth Rance and Ben Wheeler, as well as batsmen Ross Taylor and Tom Bruce, will be back in the mix.

However, Taylor, who has suddenly become a regular in the shortest format after Hesson didn't factor him in last season, is most probably going to be handing in a note of absence despite relishing returning to the domestic fold to give something back to his district.

Christian Leopard and Ryan McCone are likely to return home although such player movements from squads are not subject to confirmation until hours before game day.

CD were intending to inspect the Basin Reserve wicket today although they aren't expecting it to deviate from its traditional batsmen's paradise with a tennis ball-like bounce.

The bowlers, Malan says, will have their drift on the size of the ground and which end of the strip is more profitable but he feels it's about the battle between ball and bat and not what tribal colours opposition players are sporting.