It was quite the pleasant wake-up call for a young Canadian cricketer to discover he had been named a prize winner on the other side of the world.

Unreal Grass Wicket Wanganui allrounder Akash Gill was named the Hawke Cup player of the year in the Central Districts Cricket Awards on Tuesday night, NZ time.

Back home in Mississauga, Ontario, the 20-year-old Gill was tucked up in bed as the award winners were announced on livestream across the Central Districts association's social media platforms, with no physical ceremony taking place this season during to Covid-19 restrictions.

"I had just woken up and I checked my phone and saw a few messages from a few of the Central Districts boys and from head coach Aldin Smith," Gill said in an email to the Whanganui Chronicle.

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"It definitely came to me as a surprise, I wasn't expecting anything to be honest.

"I am truly grateful for the recognition and I want to thank my Wanganui teammates and the staff for the support over the years and also CD for recognizing me for this honourable award."

Gill, who has played in Whanganui since the 2016-17 summer, and now qualifies as a local player instead of an overseas guest, has benefitted immensely from constant cricket seasons through the Canadian-New Zealand exchange set up by former Cricket Wanganui general manager Dilan Raj.

He has represented the Canada at ICC Under 19 World Cup level and in his last northern summer joined the Edmonton Royals in the Global T20 Canada tournament for July-August, playing alongside the likes of Black Caps Kane Williamson and Jimmy Neesham, along with South African skipper Faf du Plessis in the professional league.

Gill returned to Whanganui after the Global tournament to step up as one of the leading allrounders in the Wanganui XI for their Furlong Cup games against Manawatu, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Taranaki and Horowhenua-Kapiti.

He finished as the top run scorer for the whole competition with 314 including two centuries – 103 in the narrow first innings points loss to Manawatu in November, and then 100 not out as part of the magnificent Wanganui record partnership of 338 with Ben Smith (240no) in the big first innings win over Taranaki in January.

Ben Smith and Akash Gill - a record breaking partnership against Taranaki in January.
Ben Smith and Akash Gill - a record breaking partnership against Taranaki in January.

Gill also top scored with 67 in the disappointing run chase against Wairarapa in December, losing on first innings, and so finished with a competition average of 78.50 at a strike rate of 64.34.

Part of a strong pace bowling unit with former Sri Lankan international Vikum Sanjaya, Connor O'Leary in the first half of the summer, and the Kinnerley's – Ross and Fraser – this season Gill would come on at second or third change, finishing with five wickets at a 32.80 average and a runs-per-over of 2.16.

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He was solid in the field as well, with two catches and a direct hit run out.

Gill's form was vital in the first half of the season when a number of his team mates were struggling through lack of game time, before they continued the habit of recent seasons of winning both remaining fixtures after New Year.

"I really enjoy representing Wanganui at any level and this past season was definitely one to remember," he said.

"The boys played hard throughout the season and I feel we gained a lot out of it from a team's point of view.

"The season had a theme of "What Ifs" - a few points here and there for the Furlong Cup could have seen us in a better position.

"But, that is the beauty of this sport and we learned a lot and gained plenty of experience to take and move forward."

Akash Gill bowling against Horowhenua Kapiti in February.
Akash Gill bowling against Horowhenua Kapiti in February.

Gill also cemented his place in the Central Districts A team throughout the summer, playing matches in the middle of the week.

In November, both Gill and Wanganui team mate Greg Smith were in the CD A team that played the North Island T20 tournament at Owen Delaney Park against the other 2nd XI squads of Auckland, Wellington and Northern Districts.

Smith and Gill topped the team's batting standings, averaging 23.25 and 20.25 respectively with strike rates of 113.41 and 100.

"From the CD A campaign I was pleased with how it went, I was tested and had to grind for each game, that's what I want from the higher level - to prepare me for what is to come next," said Gill.

"The lads are very welcoming and the spirits in the group are very high. Looking forward to what next season has in store."

No doubt hopeful of breaking into the Central Stags lineup, Gill will be back in 2020-21, although at the moment there is no cricket for him in Canada due to all sports being on hiatus.

"At the moment, the plans for the upcoming summer are blurry with this pandemic going on, so it's hard to say what might happen," he said.

But, I'm doing everything I can to keep myself ready to go and I will do whatever is necessary to help improve my craft to go and showcase my skills at the next level."