The Clubrooms: Dylan Cleaver – The next big thing in New Zealand cricket

OPINION:


Winners

Finn Allen

Never one to miss an opportunity to make a point of making a point, Jimmy Neesham was at his imperious best when asked on New Zealand’s favourite specialty cricket podcast,href=”https://podcasts.apple.com/nz/podcast/the-byc-podcast/id1531637824″ target=”_blank”>The BYC, about Finn Allen.

“He’s a very talented player,” Neesham said. “I think he’s player number 35 or 40 to leave Auckland in the last 10 to 15 years and immediately start dominating for another team somewhere else in the country. There’s something there.”

There is something there, undoubtedly, but just for the minute let’s glory in his 2020-21 Super Smash, where the 21-year-old Auckland has peeled off scores of 53, 11, 91 not out, 75, 92 not out, 27, 4, 4 and 66 for his adopted Wellington.

In his nascent T20 career he’s racked up five half centuries in 11 bats at an average a tick under 50 and, more importantly, a strike rate above 180.

His ball striking feats reached a crescendo yesterday when he took just 16 deliveries to reach a half century against Central Districts, guaranteeing his side a spot in a home final in the process.

Allen’s talent has been obvious throughout age-group cricket. When he left his job as national batting coach Peter Fulton identified him as one of four New Zealand batsmen to look out for in the future along with Devon Conway, Will Young and Rachin Ravindra, so he’s in useful company.

If he can get his red-ball game together he adds another piece to the burgeoning depth in New Zealand’s batting stocks – not Auckland’s though.

Australian Rugby

Upon learning that Rugby Australia had made an offer to host the Lions “tour of” South Africa this year, my thought process went something like this (you have to picture a speech bubble):

“Pffffftt. That’s going to happen.”

(Ten minutes later…)

“It wouldn’t work.”

(Ten minutes later…)

“It couldn’t work, could it?”

(Ten minutes later…)

“Imagine if they could get it to work.”

(Ten minutes later…)

“I’ve just spent a long time thinking about rugby in Australia.”

(Ten minutes later…)

“I hope they can make this work.”

New Zealand Cricket

For using whatever muscle it might have to tackle racism when it said: “NZC is disgusted and appalled by an indefensibly racist exchange between a talkback caller and host John Banks on MagicTalk Radio.”

This was not trying to suppress free speech or cancel culture as weak-as-water critics might suggest, it was an organisation telling a media partner if they’re not going to do something about hate speech on their programmes – and the “discussion” between fill-in Magic Talk breakfast host John Banks and the openly racist caller certainly met that threshold – then they wanted a separation.

More power to them. Especially when you consider the vacuum of leadership on the same topic at the head of the “Losers” column.

Losers

Racist football fans + socila media giants

Black and other minority players account for approximately 25 per cent of all footballers at England’s 92 professional clubs, and that figure is higher among the 20 clubs of the Premier League.

Those 25 per cent or so are subject to nearly 100 per cent of all racist abuse directed at professional footballers in England.

It was another shocking weekend for English football, with reports that Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Reece James among other were all subject to racist abuse. There’s no such thing as a brave bigot, but the abusers are even more cowardly these days, having slithered from mindless terrace chanters to thumb-twiddling social media warriors.

There is an argument that if you’re going to lower yourself into the septic tank of social media you should expect to resurface smelling of s***, but that doesn’t cut it.

As someone duly noted: if Facebook and Twitter can flex enough to bump a white supremacist president from their platforms, why can’t it do more to root out other vile users of their tools?

The Warriors

The fact that it was always likely to happen doesn’t make it any easier.

The prospect of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck taking his talents to another professional oval-ball franchise in the same city must feel like a punch in the guts to fans of the always-beleaguered club.

American Magic

With only three syndicates competing for the Prada Cup, the first to leave was always going to face scorn for being an expensive folly. At various times it looked like that would be either challenger of record Luna Rossa or, most likely, Ineos Team UK, who were laughably bad in the pre-Christmas regatta.

Ever since January 17, however, there has only been one loser, the syndicate backed by the mighty New York Yacht Club.

Regardless of how blame is apportioned for the calamitous campaign, what is clear is they spent a lot of money getting not a lot right.

Does the Black Caps touring England mean they are basically guaranteed to be in the World Test final? Neil Coxhead, Glendowie.

It’s a nice thought, Neil, but no. They’re going because the England and Wales Cricket Board desperately need cricket content to help their coffers.

Having said that, if New Zealand was to make the World Test Championship final then it would benefit them in terms of preparation.

As it stands, there are two series remaining that will have a bearing on who makes it: India hosting England in a four-test series starting later on Friday; and Australia’s scheduled three-test tour to South Africa in March.

Across those two series there are 150 different combinations of results. Only 12 of those combinations will see New Zealand knocked out of the top two spots. Four of those combinations involve England winning 3-0 or 4-0 in India, which is really far-fetched.

The most likely way New Zealand will be denied is if India beat England by 2-0, 3-1, 3-0 or 4-0, combined with Australia beating South Africa by 2-0 or 3-0.

Hope that helps.

My favourite story of the week by a long shot was the sharemarket frenzy surrounding struggling video game retailer GameStop. But it’s not about sport, you say. Well, it kind of is in a weirdly tangential way. I can’t be bothered explaining why, but The Ringer does, expertly.

No Prada Cup, no Black Caps, no Super Bowl, no compelling Premier League midweek fixtures, no Super Smash finals… maybe just sort the kids first week back at school, enjoy some sun and then ready yourself for an absolute smorgasbord of sport the following week… Or watch some NBA basketball. Up to you.

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