PREMIER PLAYER PROFILE
Wan to know more about who plays for your Premier side or their opposition?
Well this is the place to come because over the course of the season we'll be doing weekly profiles on Premier players from around Auckland.
ALAN BURTON, GRAFTON UNITED
Clubs: Grafton United, Cambridgeshire (Minor Counties UK), Peterborough CC (Northamptonshire UK)
Batting: Right handed batsman
Bowling: Right arm off-spin
2011/12 season so far: 485 runs (HS 95)
Grafton United's overseas professional Alan Burton will head back to the UK in three weeks time and amongst his luggage he is hoping to carry a minor championship winners medal.
Burton and his Grafton teammates go into the final round with a five point lead over Birkenhead City with the knowledge that one more first innings victory is likely to secure promotion to the major championship: "We have a great chance and have played some good cricket all year. The way we have played I think it would be unjust if we didn't gain promotion but with one game to go it is in our hands to take."
Burton first joined Grafton as a 21 year old before returning four years on at the beginning of this season: "I really enjoyed my first year and after going to University in the UK I was delighted to return this year.
"The competition has changed since my first season. Obviously the big difference is the split into major and minor championships. We don't play the likes of Suburbs New Lynn and Cornwall as often as we used to but the minor championship is still a good standard and hopefully we can get a crack at the top level next season."
Burton has 480 runs to his name this time around, with his highest score of 95 coming in the most recent game and suggesting he is hitting form at a crucial stage of the season: "I have struggled for form at times this season. I think the mentality is different here to back home and I have been so desperate to do well for the club and help them push for promotion. I have had a few good scores lately and am bowling some overs as well so hopefully I can put in a big performance and help get us over the line in the final game."
Burton has an extensive cricketing C.V. in the UK having been a part of Bradford/Leeds University centre of excellence, played five seasons of minor counties cricket for Cambridgeshire, and even one game as 12th man for England `A` against India `A`: "That was in my time around the Leicestershire CCC squad. I was with them for a while as well as Northants and Essex second teams, I have never been contracted by a county side but have always had aspirations to reach that level. However, now that I am 25 I'm not sure if I will get that opportunity."
When he isn't playing Burton fills the role of junior development manager for his club as well as coaching the Central West premier women's side: "I have found that job really interesting because I did my University dissertation on Women's participation in cricket. The team has done well, winning a trophy before Christmas, and Sam Curtis is on the edge of being selected for the White Ferns. It is great to see how hard she is working to reach that goal. I pretty much spend every evening at the club helping with all the junior grades and it is a very enjoyable role to have."
ISH SODHI, PAPATOETOE
Club: Papatoetoe CC
Batting: Right handed batsman
Bowling: Right arm leg spin
2011/12 season so far: 32 Wkts, Avge 15.7 and 261 runs
At 8am Friday 24th February Ish Sodhi received a phone call that he will never forget. On the other end of the phone was Aces High Performance coach and Sodhi's mentor Matt Horne who told the young leggie he had been selected for New Zealand's Under 19 side for a quadrangular tournament in Australia beginning in April:
"When I got the call I was absolutely stoked. I let out a big yell so loud that the neighbours actually came round to see if everything was ok. I had just come back from a three day trial in Christchurch where the squad was going to be selected from. We played three one-day games and I thought they had gone well but I wasn't sure and they kept the information about who had been selected very well hidden."
While Sodhi is a more than capable batsmen, which has been proved by his 261 runs in premier cricket to date this season, it is his leg spin which has really grabbed the attention. But leggies weren't always the way for Sodhi and it wasn't until a meeting with a former Blackcap that he was converted:
"I was a pace bowler up until the age of 11. Then I attended a clinic with Dipak Patel and I thought to myself I want to be like him and bowl spin for New Zealand."
It's been a busy period for Sodhi, not only with his New Zealand selection but he is also currently involved with the latest Auckland 'A' game and has aspirations to go much further: "It is definitely a goal of mine to play first class cricket within the next season to season and a half. I've played for the A's for parts of the last three years and really look up to the spinners in the squad and would love to be a part of that sooner rather than later."
One of those Aces spinners is Papatoetoe teammate Bhupinder Singh who is another person Sodhi credits for helping him along the way: "I have been lucky to have pretty much been around Bhuppy all my cricketing life and he has been a huge help. I have never played for any other club and only played a few games at Papatoetoe High School because I just wanted to play seniors at the club."
This season has been successful not only on a personal level for Sodhi having claimed 32 wickets to date but also - more importantly to him, for Papatoetoe: "The thing that is most pleasing for me is the fact that at this time last season we were battling to avoid relegation and only did so because we won a playoff. Now we are up there in the top four and challenging for the title and the pleasing thing from my point of view is just being able to contribute to a team that is performing well."
While Papatoetoe are almost 17 points behind leaders Suburbs New Lynn in the Hedley Howarth Trophy standings with only two games to play he doesn't believe Suburbs should claim the title is theirs just yet: "We won't rule anything out until it becomes impossible. Yes they have a good lead but anything can happen and they can be sure we will be putting the heat on them until the final ball of the season".
VICTOR DAVIES, SUBURBS NEW LYNN
Club: Suburbs New Lynn
Batting: Right handed batsman
Bowling: Right arm medium pace
2011/12 season so far: 749 runs, avge 39.4. 15 wkts, avge 23.8
Suburbs New Lynn hold a mammoth 21 point lead in the major championship and they look well placed to add to that margin after amassing 302-6 on day one of their latest outing against Howick Pakuranga.
Victor Davies was the star of the Suburbs show scoring 138 - his second century at premier level, his first of this season: "I've had a couple of scores in the 90s this year so it was good to get that monkey off my back. I was fortunate on Saturday as we had a very good pitch to bat on, we won the toss and it was one of those days everything went in my favour."
The score takes Davies to 749 runs for the season making him the highest run scorer in premier cricket: "I wasn't aware of that stat and I'm absolutely gobsmacked to hear that to be honest. I think back only a couple of years when I was playing as just a bowler and batting at 10, but I have put a lot of hard work into my batting and I guess that has come to fruition."
From a team perspective it is hard to better what Suburbs have achieved this season and the success is particularly pleasing to a player like Davies who has grown up at the club: "Obviously it was disappointing to lose the one-day final but overall it has been a fantastic year. I was born and raised out west and I have played for Suburbs all my life - the club has always been great to me.
"At the start of the season we lost Jimmy Neesham and have had several players called up for the Aces but that has opened up the door for us younger lads to get a chance and I think we have taken that. We have an attitude where if we work hard for each other we will get individual and team success and that has been proved this season."
Davies was rewarded with a call-up to the Auckland A side earlier in the season and is hoping for more representative honours in the future: "I think the one-day game I played against Northern Districts has just left me wanting more. It is certainly an aim to play A's again and then push for Aces selection."
During the week Davies plies his trade as a personal trainer, something he feels undoubtedly helps him in his cricketing pursuits: "I certainly pride myself on my ability to be quick between the wickets. Whether that be quick singles or turning twos into threes I firmly believe fitness is key to a player's success."
MICHAEL RAVLIC, PARNELL
Batting: Right handed batsman
Bowling: Right arm fast medium
2011/12 season so far: 33 wkts, avge 21.91
At just 18 years old Michael Ravlic has been nothing short of sensational for Parnell in his first year of premier cricket.
Ravlic has 33 wickets to his name and is one of only three players to have claimed three five wicket hauls this season.
His latest five wicket bag came in Parnell's recent victory over Howick Pakuranga, their first victory of 2012: "It's fair to say we didn't perform as well as we would have liked at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, but we still have time to turn things around this season and with lots of good youngsters coming through we will be aiming high next season."
Ravlic played his junior cricket at Grafton United and represented Mt Albert Grammar in schools cricket before making the switch to Parnell two years ago: "From playing reserves and school cricket the step up to prems is huge. Obviously the players you are up against each week are very talented and I have learned that you need a good mindset and you must have a plan when you bowl."
While most would be satisfied with a successful first seasons output, Ravlic has set his sights much higher: "After the first few weeks of the season I set a goal that I would like to take 50 wickets. That is a little way off at the minute but I will keep persisting and I also would like to finish as the leading wicket taker in premier cricket.
"Like all young players I'd one day love to play for the Blackcaps but a more immediate goal would be to play overseas in the UK and Australia. So I will keep working hard and see where things take me"
TERRY CRABB, BIRKENHEAD CITY
Bats: Left handed batsman
Bowls: Left arm medium
2012 season so far: Terry is currently 8th on the club cricketer of the year standings with 779 points.
There aren't many players in Auckland cricket who can boast a C.V. as extensive as Terry Crabb.
The 35 year old has 20 years premier cricket experience in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, has represented Auckland and has even played international cricket for Denmark.
Back in 2001 Crabb was an overseas professional in the Scandanavian country, and he performed so well for his side that he was selected to represent Denmark as their overseas player in a tournament that summer:
"It was one of the most enjoyable years I have had. The standard wasn't great, certainly not as good as premier cricket here but I really had a good time over there. The experience was very different. We played on coconut matting which is very slow and low and the guys had their own style which made for some interesting cricket."
Denmark is known more for its snow than its cricketing prowess and Crabb saw plenty of that in his time there: "I remember the first game I played the ground was covered in snow. It was amazing, a TV camera crew came down and they obviously knew nothing about cricket as they decided to set up their camera about a foot behind the stumps at the wicket keepers end to film the game. After a few deliveries they quickly realised that wasn't a good place for an expensive camera and we didn't see them again."
It was around this period when Crabb made his debut for Auckland and although he wishes he had performed better during this time he still enjoyed the experience: "I was in and around the squad but just didn't cement a place with my performances. I really enjoyed my time with Auckland and when that time was up I decided to move to Wellington to pursue first class cricket there."
Until that point Crabb had been a mainstay in the Birkenhead side having made his way up through the junior ranks at the club: "I started playing in the midgets grade at Birkenhead and stayed there right through until I went to Wellington. During my ten years away the club dropped down a grade so when I returned to Auckland I went to North Shore, but when Birkenhead came back into premier cricket last year there was never any doubt I would return to my home club."
Crabb is now into his second season as captain and coach and believes the club is making huge strides: "Last year we were very inexperienced at premier level with only really myself, Phil Treanor and Darrin Crook having played this level before. That season was a lot about learning, but now we have more depth and plenty of guys with experience under their belts which is making this year even more enjoyable. The ground work has been done and now we can just concentrate on progressing as a team."
JOSH TASMAN-JONES, NORTH SHORE
Teams: North Shore & Auckland U21 (white)
Batting: Right hand bat
Bowling: Right arm medium fast
The Hyderabad Hawks U21 side will return to India at the end of the T20 Dunar Cup certain to remember the name Josh Tasman-Jones.
In two outings for the Auckland U21 Whites team Jones blazed the tourists to all parts of Waikaraka Park, scoring 74 from 46 balls in the first game, and following up by smashing 76 from 43 in their second encounter. In both matches Jones took the man-of-the-match honours, whilst putting in solid performances in the rest of the competition.
"I'm really enjoying the week, getting a chance to play against players and teams that we wouldn't normally come across, and any form of rep cricket is an honour to be involved in. Personally I'm feeling in good form with the bat and it was good to get a couple of scores against Hyderabad."
Josh was one of the first names on the U21 representative team lists after consistent performances for club side North Shore. He has over 300 runs and more than 20 wickets in all competitions, whilst also captaining the side.
In Shore's current game Jones took 5-36 against Papatoetoe, but it wasn't enough to give his side a first innings lead…..although he refuses to rule his side out of the game just yet: "It was obviously very disappointing to be rolled for just 93, but we bowled well to restrict them to 183. We are only 90 behind and still believe we can get an outright."
Being captain of North Shore was a natural progression for the 21 year-old having practically grown up at Devenport Domain: "That place was like my back yard as a kid. I took up cricket as a three year old and was down there almost all the time. I had a few years away playing for Westlake School but I always knew I would go back to Shore, and it is a great honour to now captain the premier side."
Jones will be spending this off season in the UK playing for Ushaw Moor of the Durham County League in his second winter overseas: "I went to Darwin my first winter after school, but this will be my first time to the UK. I'm looking forward to the season, I hear they play almost every day over there so I will be able to work hard on both my batting and bowling. It's going to be great having another year round summer, although it's going to be interesting to see how warm it is in the 'summer' in the north of England."
VEDANT ZAVERI, AUCKLAND UNIVERSITY
Club: Auckland University
Batting: Right handed batsman
Bowling: Right arm leg-spin
It’s been a meteoric rise for Vedant Zaveri. The 19 year-old only made his premier cricket debut at the beginning of the season, but he has emerged as a frontline all-rounder at Auckland University with 14 wickets and 160 runs to his name and has also been selected for Eastend Southerners in the Franchise competition.
Zaveri began his cricketing life at Cornwall as an opening bowler, but his coach at Kings College, Ray Goodyear, suggested a change of approach: “Ray said to me why not give leg spin a go. I did and things have progressed well since then.”
With Brad Cates leaving for Perth over the Christmas period University looked to have a significant hole in their bowling attack, but Zaveri's performances in 2011/12 to date have eased those concerns.
In his first outing of 2012 Zaveri claimed 3-20 in Uni’s shock victory over Howick Pakuranga, a team brimming with Auckland Aces: “It was great to get a victory over those guys and to pick up three wickets was personally very pleasing. With Brad leaving I have an opportunity to become the number one spinner at the club and I am relishing that challenge. Brad helped me a lot when he was here and our coach, Barrington Rowland, started life as a leg spinner in India, so I have had plenty of good advice along the way.”
There was another significant milestone for the youngster earlier in the season when he recorded his first premier half century against Birkenhead: “I played a lot of school cricket, but this is only my second season of seniors. The difference between school and premier level is that you have a lot more balls bouncing over waist height and you don’t get that one loose ball an over which you always get at school. I have been putting in a few extra hours at training on both batting and bowling and they have paid off so far, so hopefully that continues.”
Within two months of his premier debut Zaveri had already taken his next step up the ladder when he was selected for the Eastend Southerners Franchise team which contained a host of Auckland stars led by Andrew De Boorder: “Just to be in the same dressing room as some of those guys was a great experience. Andy was really supportive and guys like Mitch McClenaghan really helped me out a lot.”
Zaveri is the ultimate all-rounder, and not just in the batting, bowling and fielding departments as his physiotherapy skills often come in useful for his AUCC teammates - whether it be re-setting dislocated fingers or massaging a pulled muscle he is always willing to mix his skills: “I’m one year into a four year physiotherapy course at University. The next two years should be fairly demanding, they say third year physio is harder than third year medicine but I will continue to work hard on my cricket as well and it is my aim to play at the highest level possible.”
ANDY LANE, GRAFTON UNITED
Batting: Right handed batsman
Bowling: Club: Grafton United
2011/12 season so far: 288 runs, Average 41.1
No player had more reason to be frustrated by the weekend’s washout than Grafton’s Andy Lane. The 18 year old was just ten runs shy of his maiden premier century, but didn’t get a chance to complete his ton when day two of Grafton’s encounter with Eden Roskill was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
“It was very disappointing” said Lane “I guess that is how the game goes sometimes. I had set a goal that I wanted to score a premier century before Christmas so that makes it even more frustrating, but at the end of the day I’m very happy with the way I have been batting”.
Lane has nearly 300 runs at an average of over 40 at premier level this season which is a fair effort from a player who just 12 months ago was playing in the B1 grade for East Coast Bays: “I was doing pretty well at the B1 level but I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere and wanted to play higher. Mick Watson from Grafton was my sports director at Rangitoto College and he got me a spot in the reserves at his club. I had a good start scoring a century in my second game before getting promoted to the prems for the last two games”.
After a getting a taste of premier cricket Lane went to work almost immediately in the off season in a bid to improve his game: “I started in mid-May working with the likes of Mick Watson, Richard Irving and Dion Nash. With Richard and Dion it was more technical work while Mick helped me a lot with the mental side of the game as well as hitting lots of balls. As a club we are very lucky to have those guys along with senior players such as Guy Coleman who have so much knowledge and experience”.
South African born Lane has set plenty of goals for his immediate, and long range cricketing future: “This year my focus is still getting that first century and I would also like to finish in the top ten run scorers for the competition. Long term I want to get into the Auckland framework. I don’t have much experience yet at the shorter forms but I would love to eventually play four day cricket”.
Grafton coach Grant Thorpe rates his young opening batsman as one for the future: “He has been brilliant this season and is certainly one to watch going forward. He has worked very hard at his game and is probably one of the best fielders in the comp, if not the best, so hopefully his success continues”.
While batting and fielding are obvious strengths for Lane his bowling is still a work in progress: “To be honest if I’m bowling we are probably in trouble. I think (wicketkeeper) Cam Fletcher would get thrown the ball before me actually so that is certainly an area I could improve”.
KIERAN PEARCE, EDEN ROSKILL
Batting: Left handed bat
Bowling: Left arm medium
Clubs: Eden Roskill, Ruston CC (Northamptonshire, UK)
2011/12 season so far: 268 runs, 4 half centuries.
Kieran Pearce is certainly well travelled having played cricket in Australia, South Africa and his native England during his nine years of service in the Army.
Pearce's travels led him to our shores in September, and the Eden Roskill opening batsman is liking his new surroundings: "I am in the middle of a career change and purposely timed it so I could come out here to play cricket. Auckland has been great so far, it's a really nice city - apart from the public transport. I'm glad I have a car otherwise I don't no how you can get around."
Roskill have had an indifferent start to the season with only one victory but Pearce doesn't believe his team's record truly reflects their ability: "We certainly haven't done ourselves justice. We have a hugely talented team but that hasn't translated onto the field yet."
Pearce's form certainly can't be questioned having compiled over 250 runs with four half centuries so far but he isn't satisfied with his personal success: "To be honest I've been a bit scratchy and haven't batted that well. I also would have liked to convert at least one of my starts into a century but I suppose I can't really complain."
Pearce plays his club cricket in the UK for Rushton CC of the Northamptonshire Premier League - the same league in which James Cowell from Takapuna plays in the off season: "Like James said last week the standard of cricket is very similar to here. Probably the biggest difference is we don't get the first class players playing for clubs, let alone international players like they do here. Back home there is just that much county cricket the players don't need to play for their clubs".
With the Christmas break rapidly approaching Pearce has plans to see more of what New Zealand has to offer: "I am having a Christmas lunch with one of the Roskill players then we are heading out on a road trip to Queenstown. We will be away for a few days and I'm looking forward to seeing more of the country".
JAMES COWELL, TAKAPUNA
Bowling: Left arm fast-medium
Batting: Left hand bat
Clubs: Takapuna, Wollaston CC (UK)
What a season 2010/11 was for James Cowell. In the one-day competition Cowell was the leading wicket taker with 18, and in the two-day comp his 30 scalps played a huge part in Takapuna retaining the Hedley Howarth Trophy.
Cowell played his junior cricket with the club, before returning three seasons ago after a four year absence and has had nothing but triumph since: "It's been great to have this type of success for really the first time in my career" said Cowell "We have a great team spirit, we play hard and aggressive cricket and we always have a laugh together".
The 2011/12 campaign hasn't begun in an ideal fashion with Cowell's side losing their first two games in the major championship, but the left arm quick says there is no need for his team to panic: "Obviously it's not an great start but there is a long way to go and we have a lot of belief in the side".
With Craig Cachopa moving on, and brother Brad likely to miss considerable time with the Aces, the Takapuna side will have a different look to it this season, but Cowell thinks they have the players to fill the void: "Last year we always had someone step up and get the job done, whether it was Craig, Brad or whoever, everyone contributed. It's a big test without those guys but I know we are capable of not only turning our two-day form around, but also making a good run at the T20 and one-day comps".
Being part of such a successful unit over the past few seasons has meant little opportunity with the bat for Cowell, but an off season in the UK has prepared him should more chances come his way: "Batting down the order in a successful side sometimes means you don't get much of a go, so it was good to get to the UK and remind myself that I can get runs. I played for a club called Wollaston (Northamptonshire) and batted at six all year. It was a good standard of cricket, similar to Auckland premier cricket and it was a good test".
Cowell will be back at Wollaston this winter but for now he is focused not only on Takapuna but also on pushing for higher honours: "I got a call up for Auckland A last season but unfortunately had to say no because I just couldn't afford the time off work. I was desperate to play as I always want to compete at the highest level possible. I will keep giving my all which is putting 100% into every delivery, keep enjoying myself with my team mates and hopefully another opportunity will come my way".
AARON JEAVONS, WAITAKERE CITY
Batting: Left handed bat
Bowling: Right arm off spin
Clubs: Waitakere City, Staffordshire CCC (UK minor counties), Wolverhampton (Birmingham League, UK)
First class debut: 2010
2011/12 Season so far: 331 runs, Avge: 66.2
It was a proud moment in the young career of Aaron Jeavons on Saturday when the 22 year old brought up his maiden premier cricket century in New Zealand.
In his second stint with Waitakere, the English import was relieved to finally convert a fifty into a three figure score against Auckland University: "Last season I had a pretty good year but I kept getting a lot of 50's and 60's. It was hard work early on in the innings but I just tried to occupy the crease for as long as possible and it got easier as the day went on. It was pleasing to not only convert the fifty to a hundred, but then to go on a make it a big one".
Jeavons was eventually dismissed for 160 putting his side in a commanding position, and although City were defeated in the game, he believes his side has plenty of potential despite a slow start to the season: "From a personal point of view it was nice to set the team up for a big score, but to then go on and lose was obviously disappointing. We can however take some positives from the game, to get 372 on any surface is a great effort, and we battled hard with the ball and in the field, without getting the rewards. Despite losing our first two games I still have no doubts we can challenge for a spot in the top two".
Jeavons has an impressive cricketing pedigree, with a highlight being a half century on his first class debut for Oxford University against Middlesex. He is also a regular in the Staffordshire minor counties side, and hopes to use his second stint on these shores to further his first class county ambitions: "I had 650 runs and 25 wickets last year so something similar this time would be pleasing. Playing county cricket is certainly my goal, hopefully a good season here can help build up my C.V. then maybe start trialling with counties when I get back to the UK".
Aaron's link to Waitakere stems from the time several current and former City players spent in the UK with Jeavons' original club Milford CC: "Anaru Kitchen, Ronnie Hira, Keeley Todd and more recently Daniel Morton have all played for Milford so that's how I gained contact with Waitakere. I've found the standard to be really good over here, playing against first class and even International players on a regular basis is a great test. I'm now playing premier league cricket in the UK for Wolverhampton in the Birmingham league which is a pretty good standard, but I'd say the Auckland competition is as strong if not stronger than that".
DONOVAN DEEBLE, EAST COAST BAYS
Club: East Coast Bays
Bowling: Right arm medium fast
Batting: Left handed batsman
2011/12 season so far: 10 Wkts, Avge 13.4, Strike Rate: 23.3
Donovan Deeble's six wicket haul was instrumental in East Coast Bays surprise victory over Takapuna last weekend. After setting the current Hedley Howarth Trophy holders just 166 to win many sides would have given themselves little hope, but Deeble still believed: "Once we got past 150 we felt that, with our attack, we had enough. That is the mark we set ourselves, we have bowled teams out for less than that before, and we proved we could do it again.''
Deeble took three wickets before the close on the opening day and that proved to be a turning point in the game: "I think they got a shock to be honest. Richard Lane bowled four consecutive maidens at one end, and I picked up some cheap scalps at the other, and that changed the match.''
He added a further three the following Saturday to finish with the impressive match winning figures of 6-45 from 19.1 overs, but insists the victory was a team effort: "Everyone pitched in, it certainly wasn't all about me. The previous Saturday we knew we only had 12 overs so I ran in and gave it my all for six - this week we needed to work more as a unit and we did that brilliantly.''
After facing the reigning champions, the schedule isn't offering anything easier in the coming weeks: "We have a very tough draw, with Howick Pakuranga this week then Suburbs New Lynn after that. But we won't fear any side - that victory over Takapuna has proved that to everybody.''
Deeble cited his off-season stint in the UK as a key factor in his personal success which has seen him snap up 10 wickets in the first four games: "It wasn't the greatest standard of cricket to be fair, but it did allow me to work on some things to bring back across for this season. It was more about mental application and it has certainly helped me so far.''
Deeble describes himself as 'well travelled', adding spells in schools cricket and the Bay of Plenty to the UK and his three year stint with Bays, and he is hoping his cricketing journey will eventually lead him to the first-class ranks: "It is certainly my aim to play at that level, especially here in Auckland. I played a trial game last weekend and that squad has been whittled down to 22 for the upcoming 'A' game against ND. Hopefully I can make the final 12 or so and take it from there.''
SARVAJITH DR, PAPATOETOE
Batting: Right hand bat
2011/12 Season so far: 307 runs (5 innings), Avge: 76.75
Sarvajith DR is one of the form players in Auckland Premier cricket at the moment and we caught up with him earlier in the week, to find out more about the Papatoetoe phenom.
It's the best start I’ve had to a season” said Sarvajith “Now I’m going to work even harder and hopefully my form carries on through the season”.
After spending his junior years at Grafton, Sarvajith joined Papatoetoe three seasons ago and hasn’t looked back: “It's a great club. Guys like Gareth and Lance Shaw, Bhuppy and Shane Singe are fantastic players and I enjoy learning from their experiences. Also the new facilities we have here are awesome”.
Now boasting indoor nets, a gym and an artificial hockey turf - which can be used for fielding practise, the Papatoetoe set up is the envy of many clubs and DR believes these facilities are helping to improve the playing standard as well: “In years past we used to have to cancel trainings if it rained, but now we just head indoors and use the nets or the hockey turf. That means as a squad we are always working hard and it means your preparation is as good as it can be”.
Coach Shane Singe put the indoor nets to good use in the off season honing some technical aspects of Sarvajith's game of which he is now reaping the benefits: “He spent the first couple of seasons here adapting to premier cricket”, said Singe, “but now he feels comfortable at this level. He is certainly a more mature player, he has a clear mind at the crease and he feels comfortable in his own game”.
DR sights an additional reason for his success: “I've been working hard on my game and have definitely learned a lot over the past year, but off the field I'm enjoying my job and having some success there which means I can turn up to cricket with a clear mind and that always helps”.
As with any player who scores runs on the early season synthetic pitches the question will always be asked if they can convert that to runs on turf. Sarvajith answered that question immediately, top scoring with 48 against Howick Pakuranga and believes his best is yet to come:
“For me the surface doesn’t matter, it`s more the format of the game. I actually prefer the two day cricket, that is more my comfort zone. In the one dayers you don’t have long to get going, you need to be constantly turning the strike over, but in the two dayers there is less of that pressure and that suits my game the most”.
As for his Papatoetoe side, DR believes the potential is there for a great season: “We have hit the ground running and have a lot of guys in form. We have been good, but we can get better. Last Saturday's innings against Howick was a good team effort and a few more performances like that from us and I’m confident we can compete with anybody in the top 8”.
JACK SHANTRY, CORNWALL
Batting: Left-hand bat
Bowling: Left-arm medium fast
Clubs: Cornwall, Worcestershire CCC
First class Debut: 2009 Worcestershire v Nottinghamshire
Last season Daryl Mitchell scored almost 1000 runs for Cornwall to leave a lasting impression on one of Auckland’s greatest clubs. Following in his footsteps is no easy task, but Jack Shantry has made a great start, turning in some impressive performances in his opening games.
It should come as no surprise that the left-arm quick is succeeding at Cornwall Park, as it was Mitchell himself who recommended his Worcestershire teammate to the club:’’Mitch is my club captain in England and he talked very highly about his times at Cornwall, so when the chance came up to play here I jumped at it."
Shantry spent his last off-season playing in the tough Sydney grade competition, but he is impressed with the level of cricket he’s seen in Auckland so far: "Certainly a good standard. Each team we have played has had a couple of Auckland players in and I've been really impressed with the talent at Cornwall."
Like most seam bowlers Jack is happy the early season synthetic fixtures are over: “I must admit that was a bit of a culture shock. I think I played a couple of school games on Astroturf when I was about 13, but that’s the only experience I’ve had. Now I’ve put the spikes back in the boots and am looking forward to getting back to running in on the grass.’’
Whatever the surface Shantry looks at home - he claimed five wickets on the astro against Suburbs New Lynn a week ago before bagging another four against North Shore on Saturday on turf. The highlight of the season so far for him, however, is the memorable one-day victory over North Shore two weeks ago.
Chasing 184 to win Cornwall slumped to 30-6, then 60-7, and the game looked all over bar the shouting. But Shantry joined Brad Chemaly at the crease and the pair put together one of the greatest partnerships in club history to seal a remarkable victory: “We were in trouble, but me and Brad both believed we could do it from the start. I was lucky because when I came in the ball had stopped swinging and with Brad being such a good player we knew we had a chance. We took it 10 runs at a time and before we knew it we had put on 50 or 60 then we just carried on to the end.’’
Known on the UK county circuit primarily for his bowling, Jack is keen to work hard on his batting during his stint in Auckland: “I don’t want to be just known as a bowler, so the half century was a nice way of showing the guys I can bat. My main goal here is to help Cornwall to a successful season, hopefully winning a championship, but on a personal level I’m really working hard to improve as a batsman.’’
Rex Smith is delighted with his new recruit: “He’s made a great contribution so far and he’s fitted in at the club nicely. He’s giving us what we expected with the ball, and his match winning innings against North Shore was a huge bonus.’’
Shantry’s county side Worcestershire have been known as a yo-yo club recently, having been promoted then relegated in four consecutive championship seasons. But this year, against all the odds, the county survived in Division One: “It was great being a part of that and now I hope we can go from strength to strength and maybe push for some trophies. We have a very young squad, the average age must be about 23 or 24, so we have a lot of potential to develop and I’m going to work hard to be a part of that going forward.’’
BEN RAE, PARNELL
Batting: Right hand bat
First class debut: for Canterbury v Wellington, February 2007
Ben Rae has made a scintillating start to the season with scores of 81, 93 and a mammoth 154 already to his name. His average currently stands at an astronomical 164 and in a Parnell side which contains three Auckland Aces, it is Rae who has been the star in all three victories.
We caught up with Ben to find out what exactly is the reason for his success in his second year at Shore Road: "Last season I had just moved to Auckland from Christchurch. Cricket wasn't my priority as I was new to the area and didn't have a settled job. This season that has all changed, I'm now not happy just turning up and playing Saturday cricket, I have a new motivation for the game".
The fresh start has also meant a new approach at the crease for the destructive right hander: "I've certainly changed the way I play. I keep things simple, play each ball on its merits and I don't worry about things as much as I used too".
A few years ago Ben played a handful of games for Canterbury and would jump at the chance to play at that level again should the Aces come calling: "Definitely. My last year in Christchurch I wasn't enjoying my cricket, but now I'm settled in a new town and new job I have a renewed motivation in my cricket and would be eager to play that level again".
Fitness won't be an issue for Ben as he spent the off season training for the Sydney marathon, which he completed in a shade over three hours: "That was really my winter training. The time disappointed me but then again it was a scorching hot day, so it was really hard work".
His coach at Parnell, Ian Trott, believes Ben's high fitness levels are key to his success so far: "If you are fitter and stronger you can concentrate for longer and that is the case for Ben. He got a lot of starts last season but this year he is making big scores and fitness plays a part in that. You can also see a big difference in his game. He is playing with a free mind now and that helps. He hits through the line and has great hands and I see no reason why his success wouldn't translate to a higher level".
DOUG KING, SUBURBS NEW LYNN
Batting: Right hand bat
Bowling: Right arm medium-fast bowler
From: London, England
Club: Suburbs New Lynn
Clubs in the UK: Buckinghamshire, Buckinghamshire U25s, Harefield
"A perfect start" is how Suburbs New Lynn`s English import Doug King described his opening day five wicket haul against Eden Roskill.
The London based fast bowler, had arrived in the country just a couple of weeks earlier and made an immediate impact for his new club. While his figures of 5-26 were impressive, the most pleasing aspect, in the eyes of Suburbs coach Shoruban Pasupati was Doug's preparation for the game:
"He had played a couple of the warm up games and, as he wasn't used to the synthetic pitches, he had strayed a lot down the leg side. On the Tuesday before the Roskill game he filmed himself bowling. He watched the tape, made some adjustments, gained some confidence, and then got the results. I thought that was pretty impressive".
Like many English players, the use of synthetic pitches is a new experience for Doug, as almost all cricket in the UK is played on turf: "It was certainly different. I found running in to bowl from grass to astro was tough at first, but on the plus side it was good to get some carry and bounce which you don't get much of back home on turf".
Doug plays his club cricket for Harefield CC in the Home Counties Premier League and has represented Buckinghamshire in the Minor Counties championship, and on his return to the UK he will be linking up with county side Gloucestershire for some training sessions with them.
This is King's first trip to New Zealand, besides a holiday in his youth, and he is loving things so far: "The atmosphere in Auckland is fantastic at the minute with the World Cup, and I'm looking forward to doing some travelling in the Christmas break. The only thing I'm not sure about yet is the weather. We seem to get summer and winter in the same day. I have to take two sets of clothes with me every time I leave the house!"
King has just qualified as a teacher, graduating from St Mary's and St John's University but his smarts are not just limited to the classroom according to his coach: "On and off the field he is a young, bright and intelligent bloke" says Shoruban. "He has contributed a lot to team discussions, he has been great to deal with and he has fitted in with the club brilliantly".
King feels the same about his new club:"Everyone has been so welcoming. They have all gone out of their way to make me feel at home".
DEAN BARTLETT, ELLERSLIE
Batting: Right hand bat
Bowling: Right arm medium fast bowler.
First class debut: 2010 v Northern Districts
Dean is a member of the Auckland Aces training squad leading up to the first four day game of the season in November.
After making his first class debut in 2010, taking six wickets in two games, and being a regular in the Auckland 'A' side the past two seasons, he is looking to cement a place in the full team this year.
We caught up with Dean after training on Thursday, to get his thoughts on the season ahead:
You're a member of the Plunkett Shield training squad, how has it been going?
DB:"It's been great. It's a lot of hard work, three hours a day for the last two weeks, but I need to keep working hard and hopefully I'll get an opportunity once the season starts".
You have been around the squad, and the 'A' team for a couple of years now, do you feel this is a big season for you?
DB: "Yes every season is a big one, but I've really enjoyed being able to work with the likes of Chris Martin, Daryl Tuffey and Kyle Mills. I'm trying to soak up everything they pass on to me, and it's good to talk to them about their experiences".
You made your first class debut in 2010, what are your memories of that game?
DB: " The two games I played were fairly eventful. My debut against Northern Districts we lost outright, which was disappointing, but we came back strong the next week to beat Central Districts outright".
There's still a month before the Aces season starts, so in the mean time you will be playing for Ellerslie, how do you feel the club is shaping up this year?
DB: "We have lost a couple of key players over the winter, but hopefully us younger players with a year's more experience can step up and perform".