Fast bowler Mitchell McClenaghan is confident Auckland can make amends for last season’s disappointing bottom-placed finish in New Zealand’s four-day Plunket Shield competition.
The 2013/14 campaign begins for the Aces on Thursday when they travel to Hamilton to face Northern Districts.
Auckland only won two of their ten matches last term, losing six. It was a return that was simply not good enough, although there were extenuating circumstances according to the left-armer.
“It was probably a very disruptive season for us. We had a lot of guys who performed really well early season and then got called up. Injuries as well cost us. Losing top order guys like Anaru Kitchen was tough. You can’t help those things,” the former Central Districts player told World Cricket Badger.
“But it was good to see a good crop of young guys standing up and contributing to get us to that one-day title at the end of the season.
“The Plunket Shield’s got the most history. The team who’s the most consistent over the year will be the winner. You’ve got to have good form and depth in your squad.
“I know it’s something that we really want to focus on this year. I know Gareth Hopkins would love to hold that trophy above his head this year.
“We’ve struggled in that form of the game for the last couple of years. As I said, we lost a lot of experience due to injury and international call-ups. We almost lost the core of our team in many ways.
“But because of that some other guys got experience last season, and they now know what it’s going to take to have a good season. I feel really positive about our chances leading into this season. We’ve got a great squad building up around us.”
Auckland go into this summer without BlackCaps stalwart Chris Martin, who retired from the game and has since taken up a coaching role with Canterbury, where he began his career.
“It will be a massive loss,” continued McClenaghan, aged 27. “Chris is one of New Zealand’s all-time best bowlers. I think what we’ll miss the most is his calm head in any situation. The way he led by example.
“The more time you spent around him, the more you realised what it takes to be a quality international cricketer and a true professional. That experience will be sorely missed. But hopefully all the guys absorbed all the information that he had passed on and we can move forward.”
As a result, a couple of names to look out for in the bowling department are seamers Matt Quinn (20) and Lockie Ferguson (22), who have only played five first-class matches between them.
McClenaghan even described Ferguson as “close to being one of the fastest bowlers in the country”.
With McClenaghan currently on international duty with New Zealand’s limited overs squad in Bangladesh and then Sri Lanka, he will miss the first two rounds of Plunket Shield action. His first opportunity to play first-class cricket will come on December 4.
It is a format he describes as his favourite, and one he is desperate to impress in having not yet broken into the Test team.
“When I get the opportunity to play four-day cricket, I’ve just got to keep doing what I’ve done in one-day cricket, which is run in and be a wicket-taker. Hopefully my form continues,” he said.
“I think I’ve learnt a lot of stuff by playing international cricket in the limited overs formats. I’ve certainly learnt a lot about myself as a bowler. When I get the chance to transfer that over to the red ball format, things will go quite positively, hopefully.”
It has been an interesting few years for McClenaghan both on and off the field. He has battled back from early career problems with his hips – he had three operations to solve cartilage damage – and has gone onto make a name for himself with the white ball for New Zealand.
He was also a popular overseas addition to Lancashire’s squad for their Twenty20 campaign in 2013, and became the first bowler to ever take five wickets for them in an innings in that format.
Off the field, McClenaghan has featured as an extra in the film Spartacus and is a joint owner of the business Clean Paleo with two other friends. He has tried to stick to the Paleolithic diet as best he can throughout his career.
PHOTO CREDIT: The photographs of Mitchell McClenaghan are copyright of Simon Pendrigh, Lancashire CCC’s official photographer. www.simonpendrigh.com
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James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
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