Wearing stripes on his sleeves, as it were, for the Central Districts Stags isn't going to change Tom Bruce as a player or person.

"Look, it doesn't change much because, obviously, my mindset is still the same in terms of playing my part in the team, with a little bit on the side with captaining and what not," Bruce says before the Heinrich Malan-coached Stags face the Northern Districts Knights in their season-opening Burger King Super Smash Twenty20 match at Seddon Park, Hamilton, from 7pm tomorrow.

A composed and reserved sort of bloke, the 14-cap Black Caps international prefers to let his bat do the talking.

"I don't say a hell of a lot but when I do I expect to be listened to and to be heard and respected," says Bruce before assuming the mantle of captaincy for the first time in the domestic arena after the news of his appointment was leaked prematurely via social media last week.

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The former old boy of Wanganui Collegiate, who captained the first XI team, believes a lion's share of Stags have played enough elite cricket to know what their roles entail to enable him to focus on collective matters.

Black Cap-in-waiting William Young stepping down as skipper this year signalled a new outlook on captaincy in the Stags' stable this summer. Greg Hay led the Plunket Shield campaign and Doug Bracewell the one-day Ford Trophy one.

Throw in former captain Kieran Noema-Barnett and CD won't be shy of perspectives as they face the Knights, who beat the Wellington Firebirds by 45 runs in their opener on Saturday.

"It's going to make my job a hell of a lot easier, I feel, in having all those guys around us," he says, although the team won't be announced until the eve of game day.

Bruce says it's imperative to have all the feedback as skipper to be able to make the right decisions and he is looking forward to that coin toss in the abbreviated white-ball format.

The strapping 27-year-old from Taranaki possesses a crisp hand-eye co-ordination and has a penchant for clearing the ropes with clean swings for lusty sixes.

Bruce made the TV replays instantly on his domestic debut in the 2015-16 Super Smash, clobbering 223 runs at a strike rate of 140.25. Only retired Sri Lanka international Mahela Jayawardene made more runs for CD in the competition that summer.

While opposition skippers have tried to snare his wicket because he favours the traditional hitting zones, that hasn't stopped Bruce from carving balls over point or, for that matter, scoring heavily in the zone between square leg and long-on.

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Adept at improvising shots, including sweeping against speed merchants, Bruce was almost typecast as a T20 specialist.

However, he went about, in his quiet sort of way, to smash any such preconceived notions when he carved up centuries in the middle order in the first-class format for the 2018-19 defending champions.

The revolving door to the Black Caps will spin more furiously this T20 domestic campaign this season than any other and CD are perhaps caught up in it the most.

Bruce puts the Black Caps scenario down to "it is what is it" because all the Stags simply aim to do their best and leave the rest to the national selectors.

"If you focus on that too much it'll probably take away from your performance so a lot of the boys are aiming to put runs on the board or taking wickets while playing to our potential and the selection will take care of itself."

Tom Bruce says the CD Stags will stick to the mantra of playing an aggressive, expansive brand of Super Smash Twenty20 cricket and everything else will take care of itself. Photo/Photosport
Tom Bruce says the CD Stags will stick to the mantra of playing an aggressive, expansive brand of Super Smash Twenty20 cricket and everything else will take care of itself. Photo/Photosport

On the flip side, he feels the blokes who went on the tour of New Zealand A duty with Malan earlier in the season created a platform at home for young talent to showcase their skills.

"We've already had 15 to 20 of them play for us this season so that's given us a lot of depth in our squad and it's going to bode well for Twenty20."

That sort of robust environment had steered the Stags towards T20 grand finals, albeit coming away empty handed in the past two seasons.

Taking the traditional aggressive approach is a given from tomorrow.

"It's worked for us previously so we just need to go one better," says the Te Kuiti cricketer who had struck a deal in July with the Sussex County Cricket Club to play their entire T20 Blast competition as a middle-order batsman last winter after a knee injury to South African Kolpak player Stiaan van Zyl.

Having made four appearances for Surrey in the Second XI Trophy competition, he left an indelible impression on the Sussex staff when he hammered 172 off 135 balls against the club's 2nd XI.

Bruce echoed the sentiments of Malan that CD should only sign an import of Jayawardene's calibre because he was "class".

"He made a huge difference on and off the field but we're pretty comfortable with our squad and its depth so we'll just trust each other to go out there to perform."

Bruce says the boys have the mental fortitude required to become champions but reconciles that with the beast T20 is.

"Obviously in twenty20 anyone can have their day so it's about combating that and, hopefully, we can get ourselves in the top three."

He believes if the Stags remove the burden of lofty expectations to enjoy the battles then they will prosper although he suspects the Super Smash will be tighter than previous ones owing to the wealth of talent among the major association campaigners.

Bruce enjoyed the T20 launching in Auckland last week and welcomes the domestic women's exposure via TV to grow their game.

The CD Hinds play ND Spirit in the televised curtainraiser from 3.45pm tomorrow.

CD Stags skipper Tom Bruce forges a partnership with Auckland Hearts counterpart Maddy Green in promoting domestic T20 cricket at St Heliers, Auckland, last week. Photo/Photosport
CD Stags skipper Tom Bruce forges a partnership with Auckland Hearts counterpart Maddy Green in promoting domestic T20 cricket at St Heliers, Auckland, last week. Photo/Photosport