New Zealand news July 20, 2010

Butler 'unluckiest' to miss out on contract

Cricinfo staff

Mark Greatbatch, the New Zealand coach, has singled out fast bowler Ian Butler as the "unluckiest player to miss out" on a central contract for the upcoming term. Butler was among five players who were on the list of contracted cricketers last year but missed out this time.

"If I have to say who was the unluckiest, it would be Ian," Greatbatch told the Dominion Post. "He has put in some world-class performances for us over the last 12 months, but he's been a bit inconsistent with it and that's hurt him."

Butler has had some impressive performances in the recent past, with rich hauls in the Champions Trophy last year as well as a match-winning spell against Pakistan at the World Twenty20 in May. However, New Zealand placed much more emphasis on results in Tests, a format Butler hasn't featured in for almost six years. According to the new system of ranking the top 25 cricketers in the country, the selectors reportedly assigned two points for Test performances, and one each for ODIs and T20 internationals; last year Tests were worth 1.25 points, and ODIs one.

New Zealand play seven Tests and up to 25 ODIs, including the World Cup, and fewer T20s in the coming year, and that could have affected Butler's chances.

"Another area that's hurt him is the fact he doesn't play Test cricket," Greatbatch said. "With the system we use, he's handicapped there. He's missed out, not by very much, and you've got to feel for him. He hasn't been available for Test cricket because there was the feeling his body wouldn't cope with all three [formats]. He is playing first-class cricket this summer, which we feel is a very positive step."

Another player to miss out was allrounder James Franklin. "James is unlucky but he had the opportunity over a certain amount of games to nail it and he didn't," Greatbatch said.

Andy McKay, the left-arm fast bowler, is one of the newer players to be handed a central contract and he told the Dominion Post he was itching to make his Test debut. He is currently preparing for the tri-series in Sri Lanka next month and Tests against Bangladesh and India. "I've been hearing some pretty scary stories from the other quicks. I haven't had the luxury of playing there [subcontinent] yet," McKay said. "To get my first Test cap would be a dream come true. I've played more domestic cricket in the longer version so I'm looking forward to that."

McKay has played three ODIs and two Twenty20s for New Zealand. He represented Auckland for five seasons before making a switch to Wellington during the 2009-10 season. McKay impressed captain Daniel Vettori with his pace during his debut ODI series against Bangladesh earlier in the year, but missed the Tests against Australia due to an injury.

"I haven't been radared since the Bangladesh series but for me it's just a timing thing. It's feeling good at the moment, the more I bowl the better it gets," McKay said. "That's my niche, that's what the selectors have told me, to bowl with pace and try to run in and take wickets and just be aggressive.

The tours to the subcontinent, McKay admitted, would be challenging in terms of keeping fit. "It's been a really big push. We had a big chat in Miami [after the World Twenty20] about the importance of fitness levels, considering we're playing a lot in the subcontinent. You have to be a lot fitter in that heat to compete and we really want to start competing over 100 overs rather than 80."