The Captain’s Blog
To keep you in touch with what's going on we've got Auckland Aces captain Rob Nicol to provide us with blog updates about what's happening inside the camp.
They'll provide you with the inside word on how the season's going, what the players are thinking and their take on the season's events.
On the road again
It's been a busy period for us over the last fortnight. A lot of travel, some quality wins and a couple of losses plus an interesting wash out in the deep South.
I suppose you can measure how your campaign is going by how you travel as a team. After winning a close battle against the Volts at home we took off to Christchurch in high spirits knowing we had played well at home on a quality surface, but keen to pit our skill sets on a different turf.
We played poorly. But I don't want to dwell on that. I'd rather talk about our reaction leading into the next fixture. We had an unusual travel period where we were in Wellington for two days before playing again. Both Tarun and Michael were accosted from the other side of the street by a local restaurant owner asking them about a previous televised match and they got talking and booked in a team dinner. El Matador on Cuba, if your ever in Wellington try it out. Argentina BBQ. Apart from the quality food and company it was the relaxed nature and discussion on everything - bar cricket - that was so pleasing. Sometimes as a group you don't need to train or scout or do a fitness session. Letting your hair down can be just as powerful.
Our next fixture against Wellington we took all our learnings and applied them resoundingly. The Colins were imperious and have been so far in this competition. It's been super satisfying watching their appetite to improve. It's infectious around the group.
Home and then on the road again ... to Dunedin which disappointingly was a washout. There wasn't a huge amount of rain but there were a couple of high traffic areas that didn't dissipate the surface water, which ended any chance of play. We felt bad as it was truly glorious weather that afternoon and the spectators had to pack up and leave without watching a top of the table clash.
Home again and then on the road again to Hamilton for a must-win game. Add Martin Guptill. Cricket-wise he preformed but it was the behind the scenes things I'd like to touch base on. His demeanor around the changing room and the calming influence are truly world class. But the measure of the man was the next day whilst the guys were warming up he took the team fielding drill. All this whilst not actually playing. We are so lucky to have guys that really do love playing for Auckland.
Finals weekend is upon us. We'd like nothing more than to bring home the cup. It'll be tough but the one thing we assure you is we will be having fun whilst trying to achieve it.
Watching world records
We have been privy to some pretty special cricket over the last fortnight, our crowds have witnessed a world record and a tied match that went to a super over. Our guys would have had a feeling something was going to happen as they had a sneak preview during our two weeks of training on Eden park number two.
We were extremely lucky to get out and do some scrimmages and play a couple of inter-squad games. You really can't beat that sort of training. The visuals you get from fielding positions and knowledge of how your striking the ball - and to what area - as a batsmen and where you are trying to be hit as a bowler is easily replicated at the same time as having the intensity of a game situation.
We then started our campaign belatedly after the other sides had already played a couple of fixtures each. Many people have asked us about this but truly it hasn't really been at the forefront of our minds. We are trying to concentrate on our processes and preparations.
Yarrow Stadium was our first hit out against Central Districts. If you'd watched it on Sky you would have agreed it was a pretty exciting game which we disappointingly lost. The positives out of it were a fifty on debut for our self proclaimed outdoors man Robbie O'Donnell, a quick fire start from Jeet Raval opening the innings and some quality bowling from Lockie Ferguson. Poor old Lockie didn't manage to keep their batters at bay in the penultimate over, but I know he will have taken those learnings and be better off for it next time.
Back home we came. We knew with our surface and ground the game would be slightly different but no one expected the world record showing. Both our Colins were lava hot and showed the competition why they are a proper force to be reckoned with. They are both real characters in our team and lift us. We managed to hold CD at bay and the side was collectively calm. Will Young played a fantastic innings for them and is someone to watch out for in the future.
The Kings fixture I'm sure was exciting to watch from the sidelines ... it was a different kettle of fish from a players' perspective. The ebbing and flowing nature of the game and the crescendo was nail-biting to say the least. Both Michael and Colin showed steely nerves to get us the points in the super over. It was awesome to get Mitch back even though I'm sure he'd have been disappointed not to be part of the test squad in Australia.
We drove to Hamilton to play the Knights but instead watched tv in the changing room whilst waiting for the umpires to call it off due to the rain that in the end curtailed the fixture. So we drove home.
It's now a busy time now to catch up on the fixtures we are behind on. Unfortunately we will miss Kath's lovely homemade muffins she provides us at the start of play. We have a few games away now. So if you see us at the airport come say hi.
We couldn't have asked for a better start to the season. Victory over two-time Plunket Shield winners Canterbury, a trip to the Mount and a character-showing win against Northern Districts has us on 34 points.
The Canterbury win was an interesting one. Playing this early in October at Eden Park is a first for a lot of us. The groundsmen deserve a mention as we thought they produced a brilliant four day wicket first up. We are all hoping for those high standards throughout the rest of the season.
It was a great win against the reigning champions. They really know how to play shield cricket and we obliged them at every facet. We also got a sneak preview of some of the form the Blackcaps were taking into their tour of Australia and of those who are waiting in the wings. Mitch bowled a spell I probably will never forget. After 100 overs in the field and himself bowling 20 plus overs he suddenly hit overdrive and bowled the speed of sound at the end of the day. It lifted the whole side. It was super impressive to watch and see how it gave everyone a spring in their step at the end of a big day.
The Mount was the first away trip of the season. Exciting is an understatement. It had pretty much everything. From 23 wickets on the first day to a bleak rainy day with not much play to a beautiful bluebird day the next. As such the wicket slowly improved as did the weather and we managed to finish up with a win. It was a massive show of character especially after being dismissed for 90 odd in the first innings. It may sound crackers to some people but I was very impressed with how we played in the first innings in trying conditions. In hindsight it really helped us advance the game and showed we are trying to play winning cricket.
We now have a break and change of format. It's a big couple of weeks for the squad working hard in our preparations for the Georgie Pie Super Smash. Check out our website or Sky Watch for times.
Our home games are on the number two at Eden Park at good times for local crowds to enjoy. We are really hoping for some home advantage from our fans.
Blog 1 2015/16
As the 2015-16 season rapidly approaches we have had one of the most comprehensive starts to the season I can remember. From anxiety and resilience workshops to fitness testing to sleeping out in the bush overnight.
This season is the first we have started the contract period earlier. I would imagine most domestic players across the country would agree it's been a positive step forward and utilises the contract period better than previous years where we finished in early April and twiddled our thumbs waiting for the season to end.
Both the NZCPA and NZC took the opportunity of the earlier start to give us a run down of the season. The highlight for me and some of the other guys was the anxiety/resilience workshop run by Matt Beattie from Instep.
Instep is available to all players throughout the season. He gave some great insight into ways of dealing with pressure situations and how we could recognise if our team mates were battling and how we could help.
And while I'm talking about battling, I've always said fitness testing would be one of the things that would in the end make me hang the boots up. It always creates nervousness waiting to do the yoyo or get your skin folds done but it's part of the gig now. The guys did really well and looked super fit and raring to go.
As a group we were very lucky to get the opportunity to go to Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre in Tongariro National Park for our pre-season camp. It was a lot of fun and brought the group together in a different way to the usual training and playing cricket that is usually prescribed. It took us all out of our comfort zones at different times, whether it was building rafts with rope and tyre inners going down bitterly cold rivers in grade two rapids to talking guys through what step to take through a giant ropes course or traversing on Mount Ruapehu. It'll be cool to fly by during the season knowing we did a 60 meter absail and traverse on that mountain.
This week we have been at The Mount - a great facility for training hard and cricket specific. What a place, the weather really is conducive to some quality outdoors we don't get in Auckland. The top brass are working towards some sort of tent structure at Eden Park that would get us back in line with other major associations.
Now the season is upon us. We are most definitely looking forward to our first shield fixture at Eden Park number two starting on Thursday the 15th. If you don't have anything on and the weather is grand we'd love to see you there.
Getting back into the routine of the shield was great fun. It was my first Colin Maiden experience of the season. You do have to say that it has potential as a venue - the surroundings and view especially.
Auckland turned on the weather for our four days vs Canterbury. The first "headache” we had was trying to decide when to declare. We had a timely function the night before with some past players. Very interesting meeting some of the characters of past teams and getting their take on when we should declare. All super interesting stuff that I think the lads enjoyed and hopefully the past players did as well.
Unfortunately our declaration didn't leave us with enough and we were beaten to the post by Canterbury. We asked them to play out of their socks which they duly did, and we couldn't manage the wickets we needed. At the end of the game there was some passion flying around and it was great to be up close watching the theatre as it unfolded, but disappointing we weren't celebrating. We want to risk losing to win games and have to accept that it didn't pan out for us on the day.
The passion after the fixture brought some interesting debate on player behavior afterwards in the changing room. I have a pretty strong view on this. It is my opinion that the standard of behavior has deteriorated over the years I have been playing. Things are creeping in that make our summer game not so enjoyable. As a cricketing community we need to make sure we pass on the game in a better place than when we took it on. Hopefully NZC can change the tide over the coming months. I strongly persuade them to look at the English county system and how they discipline/ control players with match referees and umpires.
In Dunedin we didn't get the result we were looking for either. As a full group we lacked resolve and hunger to win the small battles. This can sometimes happen. Now it’s about how we try to change the direction we are going, pulling it back. We have to somehow ease the pressure heaped on us at times and battle back in first class cricket. We will get there, I have no doubt.
I had the horrible experience of getting hit in the helmet in the Otago game. It is the second time in my career it has happened and it is never nice. I ducked into a Neil Wagner bouncer just as we were gearing up for one of our usual battles. Initially I thought I was ok. The helmet had done its job dispersing the energy from the ball. After a delay I faced up again, hit the very next ball and took off running. I was told after the fact that lifting my heart rate is what in turn made me feel nauseous. Trying to face up to the next over before the ball was bowled I had to pull the pin and run off to be sick. I didn't want to do it on the field. In the end I was able to get some anti nausea tabs from David the St Johns ambulance staff member we have on stand by at every fixture. We’re lucky to have these guys on hand for those occasions when we do need them.
That knock might mean the end of my season but I really hope that the guys can make it a positive finish to the competition and sign things off in style. Things didn’t go our way against Wellington but the boys are turning it round down in Napier. Winning this game and then finishing things off against Otago at home would be a good way to end what’s been a positive season.
The view from the porch.
It's fair to say the porch and I are familiar. It's where I seemed to migrate to and set up camp. It's where I tried to parent from when Billy was playing in the backyard and iced, it's where I escaped to take phone calls and iced, it's where in the middle of the night when I had insomnia I'd sit and ice. 'Ice becomes your friend as you get older' is a saying Mark O'Donnell keeps telling me.
Being injured is really tough. I don't mean feel sorry for poor old me, it's just a real all round mental challenge with the added rehab of an injury. I guess people are like, well yeah, but I haven't really experienced this long out of the game during the season before. I have a new found empathy for players I've watched go through it, and respect for how they carried themselves. I've gone through a range of emotions over the period out. Your motivation levels dip and peak, your belief is tested and your nerve while watching the internet and waiting for it to refresh twitches.
The Ford Trophy final didn't go to plan and the first people that would tell you that is the top order. For a period leading into that fixture we didn't really have that momentum of partnerships. We seemed to initially start ok and then lose wickets without being able to establish any semblance of a partnership. CD were the chief destroyers in the trophy. They seemed to be able to extract that weakness out of us the most. They played the far better cricket on the day. It was a fitting way for Jamie How to bow out after such a career. I wish both himself and his family the very best in their next endeavours.
Players that excelled through the competition for us were Tarun [Nethula], Michael [Bates] and Colin [Munro]. Tarun once again carried out a very difficult task for us of bowling tight overs while still trying to take wickets. It was a strategy point of ours to try and constantly strive for wickets. Although things have gone well for Tarun on a personal front, I know he'll be extremely disappointed that it hasn't coincided with silverware, and will be motivated at this back end of the season.
Michael has taken everything in his "Lego foot" stride. He carried on that form he discovered during the Georgie Pie Super Smash. It was a tough little period for Michael before he came good. Watching from a distance he has really taken charge and ownership of the side and I think that is starting to become apparent in the way we are playing in the [Plunket] Shield. I challenge him to score his maiden first class hundred. He has been very hot with the willow of late and I know he'd love to tick that box.
Colin played some typical Colin innings. I love how every time he walks out to bat, people move to the edge of their seats and ready themselves for what might unfold!! In addition he played a couple of knocks where you saw him build an innings and take ownership of the fixture - the Basin innings that guaranteed us finals cricket being the standout.
The back end of this season is going to be tough. I'm coming in with five four day fixtures to go, which I'm really looking forward to. Some of the guys are going to play seven in a row. It's pretty impressive playing so much cricket in so little time. It's a great chance to soak up all the learnings and reads of the mighty gentleman's game.
The Great Rural tour. First stop Timaru!
Usually during the summer we will head rural and play another association. One of Canterbury’s ‘country’ grounds if you like, is Aorangi oval. Top of the line spot in Timaru. I'd thoroughly recommend it! The place has a nice vibe and the people are super friendly.
If comparing cricket grounds, it’s the South Island version of Eden Park number two - a small, quick scoring surface.
It didn't disappoint. Unfortunately we were on the wrong side of the ledger this fixture. Our first top order fail.
A highlight though was Quinn hitting the second to last ball for four to get us to safety regarding a bonus point loss, and then seeing him shoulder arms the last delivery for a not out.
The next day we started our travels from the middle of the South Island bound for the middle of the North Island with Barry our Bus driver. The trip was a good chance to catch up with the guys and see where everyone was at, we had both Jeet and Carl coming into the side too. Easy drive that Timaru to Christchurch.
Palmerston North was busy. Had a lot of coffee with Hornet theorising. Also got to catch up with a good friend and retired Mondiale Aces player Chris Martin. He now owns and runs a Four Square there. After training all the guys visited for an ice cream.
CD had our number. Again our top order didn't produce but the thing that encouraged was our resilience in the field and with the ball. We gave ourselves every chance.
So cricket wise the rural tour didn't go down a success. It did in other ways though. It was a couple of days turn around and we were back on a plane to Wellington this time. Our last trip to Wellington. Best ground in NZ. It's just got history. This was a very telling trip as we needed to respond as a group. In the end we did really well, another bonus point victory.
Unfortunately that's where my own trophy journey ends. I managed to hit a ball into my foot. Fracturing it!! I limped over to A&E across the road and got the X-rays done as we were playing. Not sure how much longer it'll take to heal.
I've been sitting on the porch following the guys on the internet. It's very exciting that we are in the final. Michael has done a great job as skipper. Colin Maiden 11am Sunday – get down and support the guys.
Disappointing is the tone I can now use after a bit of distance from the CD Plunket Shield fixture.
We lacked substance in most areas and were out played in every facet. Retrospectively looking at it now, the holiday period couldn't have come at a better time for us. It was perfect for some of the guys to catch up and recharge with family and friends. The weather too started to take a turn for the better.
Like I said to the guys, two from three at the end of that stanza of shield cricket would have been a result we'd have taken at the beginning of the season, if not the last fixture. Whites were quickly again put in the bucket with napisan and swapped for blue. Trophy this time. I personally was really looking forward to it.
Getting back into the one day format at this time of year, it was taking me back to when I was a little guy coming down to Eden Park number two. As a player early on in my career I remember the crowds growing in numbers depending on the success of the side. Some very special memories of some bumper crowds there. The cricket played over our home period would have impressed the people that turned up no doubt.
It feels like every time I write this blog I'm saying how good a bat Martin [Guptill] is. But it is true. He played immense cricket while with us again. The thing that strikes me the most now though about Martin is that he is offering his wisdom and experience around the group which in turn I think corresponds to the output he produces for us. What a way to start to start the trophy off with a total of 385! Juxtaposition if ever I've seen one!!
That started off a nice little run across the three home games. Another solid contributor was Mitch. World class really, and such a luxury. It's set us up nicely for our rural tour of NZ.
Blog 4 - The busy season
Hectic is the word to describe the last couple of weeks for the Mondiale Aces.
Although with it being the festive season I'm sure everyone is in the same boat. The finals weekend was a big thrill! It was disappointing to trip up at the last hurdle but I personally was super proud of the guys and how they represented Auckland through the Georgie Pie Super Smash. Throughout the competition we stayed true to the style we talked about playing and had real buy in from the whole squad. Champions League would have been so amazing to go to but it wasn't to be this year. I wish the Wellington Firebirds all the very best in representing not only Wellington but NZ.
The sun comes up the next day. This current NZ domestic season easily reminds you of this as we found out, within three days we were in Wellington playing Plunket Shield cricket. It was a perfect chance to respond to the finals weekend and having some fresh new faces from the squad helped immeasurably. I roomed with Jeet Raval and I think we are still finding our way as roommates. I was having him on about the night markets he was talking up and wanting me to go to, when next thing we find out it's not open on that particular night!
Cricket-wise we showed great character and professionalism changing formats with so little time. But as I said to the squad this is something that is the norm in international cricket these days. We turned out a quality victory! It was a great game for us to get the win in such a tight time frame with some inclement weather about. I was particularly impressed with our bowling group turning up and getting stuck in.
I'd like to wish everyone a very merry Xmas and a happy new year.
Blog 3 - The business end.
It's now the business end of the Georgie Pie Super Smash and we are in a favourable position to make finals weekend.
We have managed to play some reasonable cricket while at the same time not really stringing any consistency together. But we have a great chance with three matches to go and will give it everything.
The home triple header we had didn't go as planned which was a shame considering the great home support we received. Hopefully the home crowd enjoyed the concept and got to see some of NZ's first class and international players in full swing. Brad Hodge was particularly impressive against us. Unfortunately.
In Wellington I managed to bump into him in the lobby and had a chat about the composure he showed while we piled the pressure on him. He explained how he thought through his innings and felt that tens were easily gettable at Eden park. He also talked about his training methods and playing for other franchises - very interesting stuff.
Wellington again wasn't how we would have liked things to run, but one very big positive was our change in squad and how we responded to some of the things thrown at us. Both Luke Wright and Craig Cachopa have slotted in perfectly and I know both Carl and Lockie aren't far off from producing a matching winning performance for the team.
We as a team and myself as an individual are learning and hopefully we can get to the finals weekend!!
Blog 2 - Two down, four to go
Writing again after our first two weeks of the Georgie pie super smash. It's been a strange start to the comp for us playing only two fixtures in Hamilton against the same opposition at the same time of day.
In terms of where we are at after those two fixtures we can't ask for anything more. Sitting with some of the guys and partners after Saturday's second win it was very nice to share it with them.
It's been a disjointed couple of weeks with the weather hampering some of our preparation. We had planned a couple of internal games of 20/20 but that was curtailed by some inclement weather that soaked the Te Atatu pitch. Instead we honed out "Nash" ball skills in a couple of fitness sessions. Great game that has been around when I had just started for Auckland.
Apart from that, the two weeks have raced by with trying to find a pro and what that entails with staff and discussions and talking through the balance of the sides we want, especially after poor old Mitch lost his big toe nail at training and was touch and go for Saturday night. This triple header weekend is at the fore front of everyone's mind! We are wondering what sort of crowd we will get over the course of the weekend.
I encourage anyone to come along and experience some of what is on offer. It's a big weekend for the group as we move forward in the comp and it's a challenge that we are all up for. Eden park is a special place to play and I'm personally looking forward to getting back out on it in blue and experiencing some of Blairs wickets once more!!
The start of another season
With the first game under our belt I thought it timely to start my blog. Its been an extremely busy time getting to know all the staff and players.
We had a pre-season camp in the Mount where we played Afghanistan and a Northern Districts side before doubling up to face ND in our season opener on October 23.
The side got plenty of cricket on the turf under our belts in the Mount and took to the turf again for bowls and barbecue, on a night off organised by Carl Cachopa, which brought out competitiveness and some banter. There were some pretty handy bowls players around who might don different whites in the future.
After a stint at home we travelled to Whangarei. We nabbed a win and 17 points - and enjoyed Whangarei's local seafood from Killer Prawn. Colin de Grandhomme got into the swing of things and ordered the signature dish which meant he had to wear their famous bib.
Cricket wise it was nice to see some of our processes coming together out on the park. We had six individual fifties which is a good confidence boost leading into the Georgie Pie Super Smash.
Now it's time to switch formats and get into planning and training this week leading into our first fixture versus the Volts on Saturday.