By Niall Anderson
In New Zealand, we love to praise the domestic battler.
Heck, there’s a whole competition going on for rugby battlers right now, and it’s been great to react in dismay when Matt Berquist or Toby Lynn aren’t nominated, and predict Roy Kinikinlau’s impending status as the all-time battler on the wing.
The same type of thing goes on in cricketing circles, but sometimes the “battler” status isn’t enough. The domestic battler status is usually granted to those who were brilliant domestic players, but never quite cracked the national team – your guys like Michael Parlane, Chris Gaffaney and Joey Yovich.
However, there’s an even better status in my eyes – An obscure domestic player.
We’re talking about players who will play six games over a ten year span, or make one appearance and disappear back to club cricket, never to be seen again.
We’re talking about guys who you react with puzzled astonishment when you stumble across their name online. “Who is THAT guy???” you wonder, seeing an unfamiliar name in an Almanack.
To honour these players, I put together a Starting XI of players who have played a domestic game within the past five years. I’m not reaching into some historic times when you won’t remember anyone. These players have been in front of you at the ground, on your Blackcaps.co.nz scorecard, or even on your TV.
These aren’t your run-of-the-mill battlers who would have made some decent coin out of cricket. These guys hold down full-time jobs, and managed to realise at least part of their cricketing dream. Some may even reappear down the line.
Prepare for some names right out of left field (Or, to use a cricket metaphor – third man). This is your “Obscure Domestic XI”
- Ben Orton
Usually the formula for obscurity in domestic cricket is to play a one-dayer or Plunket Shield game in February, but Orton got his break in the format where international players and imports shine – T20.
He played three games in 2013, making 37* on debut, and even playing in a semifinal. Unfortunately for Orton, he was dropped for the final for Michael Pollard, who made a golden duck, and hasn’t been sighted since.
- Joel Abraham
I wondered why I remembered Mr. Abraham, and it was because I was in attendance for his one and only game in 2011 (This is the least impressive thing I’ve ever said). He made 27 in his first innings but just one in the second.
That game was a one for young talent – featuring 20 year old Corey Anderson, 19 year old Mitch Santner, 19 year old Matt Henry, 19 year old Tom Latham and 20 year old Henry Nicholls.
- Leighton Morgan
Points for persistence for Morgan, who played 23 games over eight years. He debuted in 2002 against the CD bowling attack of Hamilton, Hefford, Mason, Schwass, Oram and Sulzberger – a tough attack probably not given its proper due. He scrapped around ok, making seven fifties and averaging 28, last playing in 2010.
- Tamati Clarke
Part of the inspiration for this idea – I was at the game that Clarke debuted at, yet completely forgot about it until it was brought up to me a few days ago. Clarke played two one-dayers at the Mount in 2013, making 14 in the first and three in the second. He currently plays his club cricket for Manukau.
- Keir Bettley
A stalwart of Hamilton club cricket, Bettley played one game for Northern Districts against Canterbury, making one in his first innings and 18 in the second, trapped in front by Todd Astle both times. Surprisingly took 2-22 with the ball, dismissing Andy Ellis and Reece Young. ND were all out for 119 and 93, and lost by an innings and 114 runs.
- Barry Rhodes
Not to be confused with slightly-less-obscure Wellington player Stewart Rhodes, Barry played four one-day games for the Firebirds in 2011. A high score of 20 was the best he could muster, and he now captains Counties Manukau.
- Shaun Fitzgibbon
Here’s a pub quiz question – which player officially played in a domestic game, but did not bowl, bat, or even get onto the field?
It’s Shaun Fitzgibbon, who was rushed into a 2014 T20 game for Otago as a wicketkeeper, but then had the game rained out. He hasn’t cracked the team since, but under ICC regulations, the game counts as a match played since the toss was made.
- David Fulton
The brother of Peter, David played twice in 2013 – and amazingly never for a full game. First, he replaced NZ-callup Tom Latham on day four, taking one catch, before getting to play two days in the following game before Latham returned. He made 12 in his only turn at bat.
- Lee Edwards
Edwards played in six games over 11 years – a phenomenal feat. He debuted for Wellington in 1999 against a Canterbury side featuring the likes of Scott Pawson and Brad Doody, and was immediately subjected to Craig Cumming, who made 187. He played two games in 2007 before having a final run of three games in 2010.
- Owen Ivins
Northern Districts had a real phase at one stage where whenever Peter McGlashan was on international duty, things got grim at the keeper position. 18-year old Shane Gadsdon got a go, and then Owen Ivins had a crack aged 19. Unfortunately, he couldn’t bat, making five runs in four innings and batting at 11, just like the old wicketkeeper days. He did take five catches on debut, and at age 24 still plays in club cricket.
- Caleb Gaylard
Caleb Gaylard played in a Plunket Shield match in 2014. Having never heard of him before, I found this hard to believe, so I looked it up – he took one wicket for 65 in a fearsome CD bowling attack of he, Seth Rance and Roald Badenhorst. Still a youngster, he could remove his name from the list in the near future.
Here is the second XI of obscure recent players the Obscure Domestic XI would go up against:
Fred Anderson, James De Terte, Marc Calkin, Rory Cristopherson, Ronald Karaitiana, Anthony Bullick, Struan George, Joe Walker, Jason Donnelly, Sunnie Chan, Jeremy Kuru.
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