The most popular event in New Zealand’s cricket calendar is back for another year, featuring many of the same former Black Caps as last time. Calum Henderson casts the net a little wider to select his nostalgic dream XI.
Tonight Mount Maunganui’s Bay Oval will be busier than it was on any day of the recent Black Caps vs Bangladesh test as a sellout crowd flocks to watch a team of retired New Zealand cricketers take on a selection of past and present rugby players in the fourth annual T20 Black Clash, the cricket match that seems like it should be for charity but isn’t.
For the diehard fans who’ve paid more than it costs to go to a real international cricket match to be at the ground, as well as those of us watching the event free-to-air on TVNZ 1, this is an exciting chance to see some of our favourite cricketers of yesteryear back in action. This year Team Cricket includes such legends of the game as Stephen Fleming, Adam Parore, Daniel Vettori and Shane Bond, while to make it fair even the big-hitting Brendon McCullum will be playing for Team Rugby.
I am not ungrateful for the opportunity to find out what Adam Parore looks like now or see how fast Shane Bond can still bowl without getting a stress fracture, but none of these players are in my first choice team of former Black Caps. Some of the team (Watling, Elliott, both McCullums) feel too recently retired to have any novelty factor yet, while others have played in seemingly every previous Black Clash already.
A handful of the players in my Dream XI have taken part in this event before too, but they also fit my main selection criteria of being an entertaining and/or deeply nostalgia-inducing cricket personality who I think could feasibly be available. While age isn’t necessarily a barrier – Ewen Chatfield only recently retired from club cricket at the age of 68 – I have nevertheless made the difficult decision to not select Sir Richard Hadlee.
1. Mark Greatbatch | Does he still have what it takes to tonk it onto the roof the way he did at Eden Park in the 1992 World Cup, when he set the country alight by scoring at a touch under a run a ball? Seems unlikely at the age of 58, but it’s a punt I’m still willing to take.
2. Bryan Young | New Zealand’s original wicketkeeper-turned-specialist-batsman has been selected primarily to field at first slip, where he is under strict instructions to do his trademark “pocketing the ball” celebration any time he takes a catch. He will also open the batting in his trademark helmet without the grille, sending a couple of scorching cut shots to the boundary before chopping one on.
3. Jesse Ryder | Cricket has rarely been as thrilling as when JD Ryder was at the crease with a bandana peeking out from under his helmet. New Zealand’s leading proponent of the “see the ball hit the ball” batting technique was last seen on a first-class cricket pitch in Central Districts colours in 2018, and nothing would bring more joy to this exhibition cricket match than the sight of him happily bludgeoning ball after ball to the boundary once more.
4. Scott Styris | It’s no coincidence the Black Caps’ transformation into the nice guys of international cricket took place after the retirement of Scott Styris, an opponent so annoying that Mitchell Johnson once tried to headbutt him even though he was wearing a helmet. It is exactly this kind of adversarial attitude that he has been selected to bring to the squad, however jarring and unnecessary it may seem.
5. Craig McMillan (c) | The Peaky Blinders superfan has been granted a special dispensation to wear his trademark cheesecutter in this match. He hasn’t requested it and may even try to claim he doesn’t want it, explaining the cheesecutters he wears are very expensive and he doesn’t want to get them sweaty, but rules are rules.
6. Chris Harris | Played his final game for New Zealand in December 2004, just two months before we played our first ever T20 international (for which most of the team wore 70s fancy dress for some reason). It’s a tragedy his career didn’t overlap with the T20 era because his bowling style in particular is perfectly suited to the modern game. He’ll take 1/20 off his four overs against any opposition in the world, and you can almost guarantee that wicket will be a caught and bowled.
7. Katey Martin (wk) | There hasn’t been a White or Black Fern in the Black Clash since Liz Perry and Kayla Cocksedge were selected for the inaugural match in 2019. There’s really no excuse for this – even back in the 90s, when women still had to play cricket in skirts, it was normal to include at least one representative of the women’s game in this type of match. Otago stalwart and funniest member of the Spark Sport commentary team Katey Martin (who, unlike the rest of this team, isn’t actually retired yet) takes the gloves in this XI, along with a microphone and earpiece to provide running updates from the middle.
8. Daryl Tuffey | The big man has been selected primarily to open the bowling, so the commentators can talk up his uncanny knack for taking a wicket in the first over in homage to the late, great Martin Crowe. The first ball will be so wide it’s taken at first slip, but his third or fourth delivery will hit the seam and be inside edged onto the stumps. Hogan’s ghost will smile down on the oval and the wind will whisper his favourite word: “Sensational!”
9. Simon Doull | Furious at being denied the new ball, the swing king and 90s style icon will no doubt be coming in off the long run and hitting the Patumahoe soil deck hard. Doully is under coach’s instructions to grow his goatee back, wear a gold chain necklace and re-pierce his ears a la David Brent in order to recapture his full 1990s rock’n’roll bad boy energy.
10. Danny Morrison | These days it’s hard to imagine him as anything other than a nomadic T20 commentator prone to lapsing into a strange kind of beat poetry any time somebody hits a six or “maximum”. But this strange man once spearheaded New Zealand’s pace attack with the most aesthetically pleasing bowling action I’ve ever seen in my life. If he can produce even a glimmer of his former magic, it will have all been worth it.
11. Chris Martin | Vibes like the kind of guy who probably hasn’t touched a cricket ball (and certainly not a bat) since the day he retired, but I also strongly suspect Chris Martin would still be able to put it on a good line and length without so much as a warm-up delivery. He has, however, been selected mostly for his batting. In many ways he’s the most entertaining batter we have ever known, and you can guarantee this match is headed toward a contrived scenario in which he faces the final ball requiring one run to win.
12th man: Chris Pringle | Coloured zinc is mandatory for this match.