As of early Saturday morning (September 21), Glenn Phillips leads all run-scorers in the 2019 Caribbean Premier League. There was a slow start with two single digit scores, before Phillips racked up scores of 58, 62, 28, 40 and 87 with an overall strike-rate of 157.06 to take him to the top spot. Last year's CPL saw Phillips finish 2nd behind Colin Munro in total runs, with 41.54avg/146.94sr and while this hasn't quite resulted in Phillips blowing up the bigger T20 tournaments around the world, CPL consistency is a solid foundation for Phillips at the moment.
That's because in Aotearoa, Phillips doesn't seem to be a player of any great note and has slid back into the pack of batsmen chasing an opportunity with the Blackcaps. The 22-year-old made his First-Class debut in March 2017 and will soon wiggle into his third full season of First-Class cricket, where Phillips has recent enjoyed low key success that defies the logic of his white ball antics.
To dive further into Phillips funk; List-A debut in 2015, T20 debut in 2016 and FC debut in 2017 for Auckland Aces. Add to that Phillips making his T20I debut for Aotearoa prior to playing a Plunket Shield game for Auckland and Phillips' career looks a bit all over the show, even more so considering his last T20I game last almost a year ago over in Dubai. However you chose to view Phillips in the pecking order of Aotearoa's promising batsmen, I'd suggest that this simple note probably isn't too high on your agenda; Phillips is a 22-year-old with a FC average of 41 and a strike-rate that is aligned with four-day cricket (61).
Most view Phillips as a whacker, but you perhaps Phillips is the batsman version of Lockie Ferguson as Phillips and Ferguson both do their best domestic work in the four-day arena. Phillips averages 31.03 in List-A and 31.68 in T20, then a jump up to 41.73 for FC cricket and this is on the back of a Plunket Shield campaign last summer which saw Phillips average 76.25.
22 batsmen scored 300+ runs last season in Plunket Shield and only three of those 22 averaged over 50. Canterbury's Stephen Murdoch, Wellington's Devon Conway and Phillips didn't just average 50+, these three averaged 70+ and with Murdoch being a veteran and Conway blasting into Aotearoa's best overall domestic batsman spot, Phillips sits in fairly good company. And yet Phillips wasn't close to being in contention for a World Cup spot, nor was Phillips in the Blackcaps T20I squad that played in Sri Lanka.
The primary competition for Phillips in white ball cricket is Tim Seifert, who not only handles the wicket-keeping duties but also fills the younger whacker role. Phillips is unlikely to take up any wicket-keeping for the Blackcaps and tends to dabble in more spin bowling for Auckland than wicket-keeping; Phillips bowled 52 overs in Plunket Shield last summer, 6w @ 33.33avg while Ben Horne did the wicket-keeping thing.
Seifert, Tom Bruce and Hamish Rutherford were all selected ahead of Phillips for that Sri Lankan series and based on what Phillips has done in the past 12 months, I'm intrigued as to what happens this summer with Phillips. If Phillips can maintain this momentum and rack up Plunket Shield runs to start the domestic summer then flow that into further runs elsewhere, we will be graced with greater insight about the order of fringe Blackcaps batsmen. Usually this makes little sense and Blackcaps squads are selected without much clarity, regardless of weird decision-making though, Phillips will be sorted into somewhere.
The group of fringe Blackcaps batsmen is hearty and Phillips only has to look around his Auckland Aces changing shed where someone like Mark Chapman will be eager to make an impression this summer. Chapman was thrown into Blackcaps cricket, then spat out the other end and Chapman bounced back nicely with 54avg in Plunket Shield last summer along with a solid Super Smash campaign (32.50avg/125.80sr). Every domestic team has one, two, maybe three batsmen who could command Blackcaps opportunities in October, November and December, for Auckland it's Phillips and Chapman.
Phillips feels a bit closer though and he will be eager to crack the World T20 squad next year, which starts with strong domestic performances in four-day and 50-over cricket. Despite his prowess in Plunket Shield, I'm not suggesting Phillips should get a Test crack asap, that's merely a sign of his general batting ability and development. Phillips has dominated the CPL for two back to back campaigns, while dominating Plunket Shield in-between and that should at the very least have Phillips knocking on the T20I and ODI door.
This may depend on what Colin Munro does for the Blackcaps as his ODI opening gig is slipping away and after averaging 8.33 vs Sri Lanka in that T20I series, Munro's needs some big boy runs asap. Phillips would be in the mix to open in limited overs Blackcaps teams and this is the best example of Aotearoa's simmering depth as even though Phillips is piling up runs, competition for these spots is immense.
Without the Blackcaps context, I'm simply excited to see what a young bloke who has already done so much under the radar, can do when this summer's Plunket Shield sparks up. All signs are pointing to Phillips making his mark again and settling in as Auckland's leading batsman.
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Peace and love 27.