Otago Volts have a wee it more balance between their domestic troopers and youngsters compared to other domestic cricket squad for the 2019/20 season, yet there is still plenty of youthful funk to enjoy from the deep south. Considering how prominent the young wave of kiwi cricketers is in Aotearoa, Otago may have the most settled group of veterans in Aotearoa and after a niggly 12 months, those vets will be tasked with leading Otago into brighter times.
Neil Broom and Hamish Rutherford will be the key batsmen, especially Rutherford who has enjoyed a minor resurgence of late. Finishing 4th in Plunket Shield runs last summer (41.15avg), Rutherford also finished 6th in Ford Trophy runs (65.50avg) and this saw Rutherford pick up a contract with Worcestershire on the Kiwi County Tour as well as being part of a wider Blackcaps squad that faced Australia in their World Cup preparation.
Along with Anaru Kitchen, Mark Craig, Michae Rippon and Jacob Duffy, the Volts have a core group that should offer a consistent foundation. At this stage, 25-year-old Duffy is definitely a veteran and Duffy rarely gets mentioned in the promising seamer group despite being the top-dawg seamer for a couple seasons now. Duffy made his Plunket Shield debut back in 2012, playing alongside Craig Cumming, Nathan McCullum and Ian Buttler, with the highlight of Duffy's campaign last summer being his Ford Trophy antics; 2nd in wickets to Hamish Bennett, averaging 19.40.
Another strong performer with ball last season was Matt Bacon, who finished 4th in wickets @ 26.37avg in the Ford Trophy and 3rd in Plunket Shield wickets @ 24.61avg. Bacon and Duffy will need to double down on those efforts and all of Otago's veteran experience outside Duffy sits in the batting or spin group, leaving Nathan Smith and Michael Rae to offer support.
Two seamers who made solid contributions last summer were Warren Barnes and Christ Viljoen, neither of whom are in the contracted list for this summer with Barnes retiring and Viljoen apparently not offered a contract. Duffy and Smith both averaged over 40 with the ball in Plunket Shield last season, while Smith also averaged over 40 in Ford Trophy. This leaves a lot of space for Smith to level up, along with Rae to ensure that Otago are a decent threat with their seam stuff.
Rippon, Craig and Kitchen will handle most the spin bowling. Dean Foxcroft's move down to Otago from Central Districts is one of a few moves to bolster the batting department, although Foxcroft was also a factor with his spin bowling last summer. Foxcroft took 12 wickets @ 12avg in his three Plunket Shield games and wasn't quite as impressive in Ford Trophy with 37avg; Foxcroft will be a handy option though.
While Foxcroft didn't take many wickets in Ford Trophy, he did manage to average 51.80/94.52sr with the bat in Ford Trophy. That's the talent that Otago are hoping will absorb the loss of Shawn Hicks, who like Barnes had to step away from cricket due to health issues. Foxcroft is joined by Nick Kelly and Dale Phillips in moving south, Kelly leaves Northern Districts Knights and Phillips leaves Auckland Aces.
Kelly is a prime 'change of scenery' candidate for this summer after not doing a whole lot with the Knights prior to his departure. Kelly will need to command selection though as Otago have Josh Finnie and Mitch Renwick as middle order batting options. Renwick and opener Camden Hawkins (averaged 34.27 in his debut Plunket Shield campaign) feel like the strongest options, with Renwick a #3 or #4, then Finnie and Kelly will likely battle it out for more middle order game time.
Like Duffy, Finnie has been on the scene for a few years and is a naturally talented cricketer. 22-year-old Finnie made his white ball debut in 2014, with both Finnie and Kelly in need of a strong summer across the formats to take their careers to greater heights. Hawkins and Renwick feel a lot more solid in terms of where there careers sit, Foxcroft is coming in hot off a breakout summer and then Finnie and Kelly need to demand further opportunities.
Phillips is also low key interesting as the younger brother of Glenn Phillips. Similar to Rachin Ravindra, Phillips earned Aotearoa A/XI honours before getting a crack in domestic cricket and while he has been a decorated junior, he is yet to showcase his talents on the domestic circuit. Phillips would be an option for the middle order and dabbles in seam bowling, although he is likely to be behind those mentioned above. This level of competition for game time will make Otago an intriguing group for domestic cricket nerds as someone will emerge as the leading figure; most likely Foxcroft.
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Peace and love 27.