Mirror Magazine


Sunny days and short haircuts

Marisa de Silva & Ishani Ranasinghe catch up with some of the Kiwi cricketers now touring Sri Lanka

The sun is scorching, the batsmen are practising their batting in the nets, the bowlers are trying out the pitch, tired players are sprawled all over the grounds and wicket keeper Robert Hart's in a foul mood due to an unsatisfactory performance at practice (so claims Jeff Crowe, Manager of the team, laughing).

Yes, the Kiwis are here! All geared up for a full month's cricket, (two Tests and an electrifying triangular series with current Sharjah Cup Champions, Pakistan, and of course our home team).

After being mistaken for fans in search of autographs (there were plenty of them dogging the Black Caps) walking to and fro from the nets at SSC to the grounds at NCC selecting players to speak to and catching glimpses of them hard at work… we finally got the opportunity to speak to some of the New Zealanders.

First up was soft spoken, sunburnt, Robert Hart (29), the Kiwi wicket keeper, evidently more satisfied with himself now, than when we first saw him. Starting his test career with a boom (literally) in Lahore, Pakistan last year, when a bomb went off outside their hotel, this is his first tour to Sri Lanka.

Cricket definitely seems to be close to the 'Harts' because his big brother Mathew, a spinner, also represented New Zealand. Coming from a cricket loving family, Robert seems to enjoy both his job behind the wickets as well as batting.

Having captained the Northern District Club team, (a well-reputed team back home), he has a good foundation to his cricketing career prior to joining the national team. Looking forward to some good games ahead, Robert intends to put his 'heart' and soul into every game he plays in this series.

Next to join us was newcomer Bruce Martin (23), who loves the heat of Colombo and claimed that the conditions here are brilliant and beautiful. In Sri Lanka for the first time, he is here to watch the game and learn. Coming from a cricket loving family, his three brothers and sister all love the game and they used to play together all the time, he said.

Starting off as a fast bowler, injury forced him to shift to spin. "At that time my father felt it was a good idea. I am loving it as it is not so tiring as fast bowling," he adds smilingly. Having yet a lot to learn about the game he says that he's been watching 'Murali' at work perfecting his technique to try and take in a few pointers.

The weather here is quite nice, I thought it would be hotter," says Richard Jones (29), as he sat down beside us on the grass. Here in Sri Lanka for the first time, he made his debut in the first Test played at the P. Sara Stadium. Coming from a country whose national sport is rugby, what really got him to play cricket, we wondered? "Well, cricket is as big as rugby back in New Zealand, it's a very popular summer sport," he said. Commenting on the local pitches, he said it was quite evident that a lot of hard work has gone into maintenance and upkeep.

The 'Baywatch Boy' and baby of the team, Ian Butler (21), was next on the hot seat and you could say he was… hmm a bit different. (To say the least)! I guess you might be wondering why he's fondly referred to as that huh? Well, we were initially tipped off about the nickname, yet again by their manager Crowe, (quite a mischief maker, you could say) and specifically asked to question him about his hair, which was a bright yellow!!!

Solely on the basis of heeding Crowe's instructions and maybe a wee bit out of curiosity, oh all right bursting with curiosity we asked him how it came about. His explanation was quite short and simple actually.

"Bondy (Shane Bond) and I came down here looking sort of like him (pointing to a team mate with longish hair) but, we just couldn't stand the heat so, the hair had to go. So we both went to get our hair cut and then one thing lead to another and things kinda got out of control," he chuckled. "Bondy's hair's coloured too, you know," he added defensively. (Bond's hair colour however, seemed to be a tad more discreet somehow). So, that's the story of how Butler became the 'Baywatch Boy'.

On a more serious note, his professional career is one to be proud of, for sure. Although he made his debut only last year, on their England tour, he's been Bond's partner in crime from thereon in the fast bowling department. Butler gives his bowling partner all the support he can possibly muster.

Although it's his first time here, as a member of the national squad, he was here on tour in 2000, with the Kiwi under-19 cricket team. Passionate about the game, he's been playing since he was 12-years-old.

Next up, also sporting the bleached look was speedster Shane Bond (27). A man of few words, he seems more a man of action; he has a reputation for knocking batsmen over, like Sanath Jayasuriya in the first test. In Sri Lanka for the second time, Bond made his debut against Australia in 2001. "Steve Waugh was his first wicket," interrupted Butler helpfully.

"Bowling is a lot of hard work here mainly because of the climate," says Bond while admitting that the conditions here in Sri Lanka are quite good. Commenting on the pitches here he says that they are trying to get pitches of this sort back in New Zealand.

Although nobody in his family was really interested in cricket, he's been at it since he was just six. A talented young bowler with a bright future, he's certainly one to watch.

Last but by far not the least interesting was Lou Vincent (25), a seasoned batsman for the Kiwis who we discovered to be a 'barrel of laughs'. He fondly recalled one of his most treasured memories, meeting cricket's most legendary figure, Sir Donald Bradman, when he was just 14. He still remembers Sir Donald's reply to his question of how to avoid getting caught out all the time, a huge crisis for young Vincent back then. Sir Donald simply looked him in the eye and said, "Don't put the ball up in the air!" Lou adds with a laugh, "Although many people had given me similar advice, when he said it, it really stuck in my head."

Due to his unsatisfactory performance during the recently concluded World Cup Series, he very matter-of-factly told us how he's been made professional 'water boy' for the team during this tour, as punishment. He also has to clean up the dressing room after his teammates and bring them bananas and other goodies at their request, he added, still with a straight face. Lou proved to be quite a character and left us in fits of laughter.

Due to his previous tours of Sri Lanka with the Kiwis, Lou claims to know his way around the city quite well and even insisted that he owned a plot of land just outside Colombo, as he considered Sri Lanka his second home. Therefore, eventually due to his persistence we bought his story only to be told "I was just kidding"!!!

His opinion on cricket though, is one of true sportsmanship and discipline. Cricket, as he sees it, is mostly a mental game. You should be able to overcome any type of weather conditions, no matter how difficult, and concentrate on your game, says Lou. A specialist batsman, Lou hopes to change his luck during this series and get his game back on track.

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