Another cricket season, another Central Districts Stags squad that is stacked with talent. Despite losing coach Hienrich Malan to Auckland Aces, the foundations of the Stags group are strong and the Stags have once again assembled the most talented collection of cricketers in Aotearoa. The loss of Malan wasn't the only departure either, with Ryan McCone, Navin Patel and Dean Foxcroft other notable absentees.
McCone finished last season as the Stags leading wicket-taker in Plunket Shield and has now retired, while Patel epitomised what this Stags group is about in doing a lovely job backing up the top-tier seamers and is now stepping away from cricket to wok in England. The beauty about the Stags is that the have the most talent, although that talent is largely on the fringes of the Blackcaps and with Doug Bracewell, Blair Tickner, Seth Rance and Adam Milne all flirting with Blackcaps cricket, having capable seam options like McCone and Patel to step up when needed has been crucial to CD's success.
Foxcroft heads south to Otago to take up an opportunity that should see him get consistent game time and continue his development. Having so many established cricketers does limit the opportunities presented to younger lads coming through and as one of the best breakout players from last summer, Foxcroft needs to level up. All you need to know about CD cricket is that despite losing three strong contributors, their squad is still the most talented.
The only players who weren't contracted by CD cricket last season from this group are Adam Milne and George Worker, who slide down from NZC contracts and Kieran Noema-Barnett who wasn't contracted last summer but did play. Everyone else are certified domestic cricket troopers, even the younger lads have already begun to rack up domestic cricket experience and could blossom this season; Josh Clarkson, Christian Leopard and Willem Ludick.
Considering that there are 13 other players who should all be playing regular domestic cricket, those younger lads will have to pounce on their opportunities. My 1st 11 when everyone named is healthy, would look something like this:
Greg Hay, George Worker, Will Young, Tom Bruce, Dane Cleaver, Doug Bracewell, Ben Wheeler, Adam Milne, Seth Rance, Blair Tickner, Ajaz Patel.
Ben Smith offers top order batting cover, while Clarkson, Leopard and Ludick are all versatile cricketers who can bat throughout the line up and offer funk with the ball. Noema-Barnnet is the OG veteran who could easily wiggle into that 1st 11 above for one of the seamers to adding batting weight and would likely be called upon first, ahead of the younger lads.
With one spinner and one wicket-keeper in the contracted list don't stress about any possible depth questions. Bruce and Worker can offer service-able spin, Bruce also dabbles in wicket-keeper, however last season the Stags relied on lefty-spinner Felix Murray and wicket-keeper Ma'ara Ave to step up. Murray is 20-years-old, Ave is 21 and while neither is in the contracted group and then that Stags squad is stacked with quality, these two will feature at some point in the summer.
What is most intriguing about this Stags group and the summer ahead is what happens when all those fringe Blackcaps get the call up, opening spots up for the younger lads and exploring CD's depth. Will Young for example should get more Blackcaps chances this summer, while Tickner, Bracewell, Worker, Milne, Rance, Patel and Bruce are all high chances of being selected in a Blackcaps squad (any format) at some point this summer.
That is when the quality of the Stags is on show as someone emerges, flourishing with their opportunity. Last summer, it was Foxcroft who caught the eye and while it's exciting to follow a team that has this level of talent, it's just as exciting to see who is next up off the Stags production line. Most of the attention will zone in on the Stags top-tier of talent and there are kinda two levels of breakthrough intrigue with the Stags as we wait to see who can crack consistent Blackcaps selection as well as which of the fringe Stats steps up.
Hit an ad to support the Domestic Cricket Daily.
Support the Niche Cache was we try to build our base on Patreon. Support the underdogs as best you can, a little goes a long way.
Peace and love 27.