Outsiders moving forward in Twose (23 May 1999)

23 May 1999

Outsiders moving forward in Twose

Sir Richard Hadlee

No one epitomises the attitude and spirit of a New Zealand team who are emerging as World Cup dark horses more than Roger Twose. A player who has experienced more cricketing ups and downs than most enjoyed, perhaps, his greatest moment last week.

The former Warwickshire player's defiant, match-winning 80 not out against Australia on Thursday, which earned his team their second win in two matches, was crucial to a success that gives them a fighting chance of reaching the Super Six stage. Victory against the West Indies at Southampton tomorrow would be another huge step forward.

When Nathan Astle broke a bone in his hand against India last December, Twose was quickly brought back into the team after his self-imposed exile. He has not looked back since.

He had just scored 99 against India for Wellington at the Basin Reserve and then made the most of his opportunity by hitting an important and valuable 87 in the Test at Hamilton.

Perhaps it was his professional upbringing at Edgbaston and coolness that allowed him to dig deep and regain the form that got him into the national team during the mid-Nineties. When Twose decided to declare his allegiance to New Zealand in the 1995-6 season, and forget about aspirations of trying to play for England, I welcomed his style and approach to the game. All too often the New Zealand top and middle order batting was too brittle and needed more backbone and spirit. Twose provided both.

Yet only a couple of years ago it appeared that Twose's international career was over before it had really started. He had a loss of form in the West Indies and had little success in Australia. Twose was thrust into the opening role during the West Indies tour, but he did not look comfortable against Walsh, Ambrose and company. He announced his unavailability for further international duties in 1997, apparently for personal reasons and disillusionment with the management.

He has recently indicated that he was stale and needed to reassess his direction in life. Although Twose decided to pursue business activities instead of playing for his adopted country, he was still involved with cricket at first-class level and captained Wellington with distinction. He was also the captain of the New Zealand Max Blacks team in a new shortened version of the game developed by Martin Crowe. Many may have considered it as a waste of his talent, particularly as Twose had displayed such ambition in throwing in his lot with New Zealand.

But I have always believed that unless a player wants to play for the right reasons and feels comfortable in the environment in which he is placed, as well as believing in and following the team ideals, he is better doing something else. He appears refreshed after the break.

Twose, who has now played 38 one-day matches and 11 Tests for New Zealand, is a valuable asset to his adopted country, yet there was no guarantee of a permanent place for him in the team during this World Cup, especially with the return to fitness of Astle, McMillan, Fleming and Cairns. A timely 56 against Sussex in a pre-tournament friendly and a good 30 not out against Bangladesh in New Zealand's first cup match in a low scoring game on a difficult pitch helped his cause.

He has now secured a permanent place after his gallant performance against the Australians. Twose had to battle through the early intimidation of Glenn McGrath at Cardiff and, after he had been caught off a no-ball, he dominated all the bowlers, including Shane Warne.

Twose is by no means a flamboyant left-hander like Brian Lara, or an elegant or pretty one to watch like David Gower. All batsmen like to think that they can make batting look simple, but there are times when Twose makes batting look quite difficult, especially with the pull shot off the faster bowlers.

He is a battler with admirable powers of concentration like those we saw in Geoffrey Boycott. He is gritty, determined and gutsy as he nudges and deflects the ball around the field, interspersed with some powerful back and front foots shots, reminiscent of Allan Border.

In New Zealand, batsmen stride to the wicket in one-day cricket to the sound of their chosen music. Twose, who wears his specially made upper body protector under his shirt that commentators refer to as a 'full metal jacket', appears to the theme from Braveheart.

That choice typifies the spirit of Twose, an external confidence and an 'I am ready to take you on' approach. If confidence breeds success then Twose deserves to fulfil his ambitions.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)