Douglas benefits from cricket payment change

Lynn McConnell

August 31, 2000

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Mark Douglas has been one of the permanent fixtures on the New Zealand first-class scene, a link between the old era of the game here, and the bright, new regime.

The left-hand batsman, who played six One-Day Internationals for New Zealand, made his first-class debut in 1987/88 for Central Districts (CD) and had two summers with Wellington in 1993/94-1994/95, has been awarded a benefit season by CD.

His programme is underway with a dinner held last week in Nelson. Another is planned for April in Palmerston North while golf matches are scheduled around CD throughout the season. The first will be in Napier in October, in New Plymouth in December, in Palmerston North in November, and in Nelson in April.

Douglas, like Northern Districts all-rounder Grant Bradburn, represents a small, but hopefully growing, element of the game in New Zealand. They are players still involved although over 30 years of age.

Douglas turns 32 on October 20 and has no intention of diminishing his role in cricket.

The changed pay structure instituted by New Zealand Cricket (NZC) in recent seasons has lengthened the career of players like Douglas.

Instead of having to retire from the game as his family grew and work commitments became more demanding, Douglas found he could concentrate on cricket throughout the summer without having to worry where the next dollar was coming from.

"There is no doubt the better pay has allowed me to play for longer. Living on $40 a day as we did previously meant it ended up costing you money to play.

"When you got home between games you had to go back to work.

"But now, you can play without having to worry about feeding your family, paying the mortgage and the bills.

"When you come home between games you are earning enough from cricket so that you don't have to go to work. You can get up in the morning, go to the gym or to practice. You can concentrate on your cricket because you still have to put in the work," he said.

Enjoyment has come with the involvement of former New Zealand off-spinner Dipak Patel as coach of CD.

"He has an expectation of perfection from the guys. I suppose that comes from being a perfectionist himself. He's a hard taskmaster and he expects you to do the hard yards.

"He's brought a professionalism that CD probably hasn't really had," he said.

As part of that process CD claimed the Shell Trophy two seasons ago and performed well without taking out the trophy last summer. But it still struggles to play as well in the Shell Cup one-day series.

"It comes down to individual preparation and not being consistent as a team. We need to find what we need to be consistent and what to do to get better.

"We have gone from strength to strength, but we do need to believe in ourselves more and to be able to believe in ourselves when it gets tough out on the park. Our young guys are starting to front up, we have some good young talent," Douglas said.

Looking back on his career, Douglas can reflect on the delight of being chosen to play for New Zealand, but he also acknowledges that he hasn't made the most of his chances.

"I was disappointed not to perform. I was nervous and not able to express myself. It takes more than six games.

"In one game I got to 30 but was run out. I had just started to taste success but was then frustrated. I had my chances, didn't take them and was dropped.

"I wish I could have done better and cemented my place in the side," he said.

There was also a frustration that he wasn't given the number of chances that other players had.

However, being part of a team that won the Shell Trophy twice in his time has eased some of those negatives. The first in 1991/92 was shared with Northern Districts, but two seasons ago CD had it all to itself.

"It is quite special to be part of a winning team. The enjoyment of all the guys on the night we won was great," he said.

Scoring centuries obviously rates high for any batsmen, and Douglas has scored seven at first-class level. But the most memorable innings was a 99 he scored at Wanganui's Victoria Park.

"We were playing Auckland and earlier in the morning session Paddy [Mark Greatbatch] got out for a hundred. But I went on to 99 before getting out. Every shot in that innings hit the middle of the bat, it was a special feeling.

"I hit three centuries against Canterbury. Scorings runs against the red and blacks was always a good feeling. My highest score was a 140-odd at Pukekura Park [New Plymouth] and it was scored when CD was in strife. That sort of innings is always a little more special.

"All runs matter, but when you have to do it is always better."

Douglas admits there was nothing worse than getting out at crucial times. The feeling of letting his teammates down was one of the tough pressures of the game.

"I am an attacking batsman and I suppose I am still getting out in the same way as in my first season."

You get the feeling that if Douglas had his time again he might concentrate more on developing the intuitive feeling of when to attack and when to just accumulate runs.

The fact that he kept giving bowlers a chance probably didn't help his international aspirations but it has never stopped him enjoying his batting.

In his earliest days, he was often able to enjoy batting with Martin Crowe during his highly profitable stint with CD. Crowe played only five seasons of his career for CD but rewrote the record books in that time. His 3299 runs at 68.72 rank him eighth on the all-time CD batting list.

"I saw quite a bit of him from the other end. I also saw a lot of his batting when I was in England playing for the Somerset 2nd XI. Some of his innings at first-class and international level were unbelievable. I never saw Glenn Turner or Bert Sutcliffe bat but to see a guy like Martin in action was tremendous.

"I remember one innings when we were playing for Wellington against Canterbury and we needed to score 475 in the fourth innings to win. Cairnsy [Chris Cairns] was bouncing him. He had fieldsmen at fine leg, square leg and mid-wicket. Martin was bisecting them perfectly all the time.

"He was actually deciding where he was going to hit each ball. And if he couldn't play the shot he wanted, he would just pull out of it. It was great to watch."

In that innings Crowe finished 193 not out and Wellington reached 475 for the loss of four wickets. That match resulted in 1945 runs being scored, a New Zealand record and only three matches in the world had produced more.

Batting with Crowe was also instructive.

"He would talk to you all the time. Telling you to play straight, look for the good options, to accumulate and concentrate. He was so good at running between the wickets that you relied on him. If he felt there was a run, you went."

Of the bowlers he faced Douglas rated Danny Morrison highly. Morrison had a penchant for bowling to left-handers.

"He was always bringing the ball back into you. He bowled it a little fuller and kept it up at you.

"Allan Donald was another. I faced him in his early days in England when I was playing in Somerset. He was more erratic than accurate then, but he was quick. He has much more control now.

"Cairnsy could bowl some pretty quick spells while Nashy [Dion Nash] can be a tough competitor."

Among the better sledgers he encountered he rated the off-spinners John Bracewell and Dipak Patel.

"They would chip at you in different ways. South African offie Pat Symcox was good at it to. They would try and act like your best mate. They were trying to break your concentration.

"But, really, there is not a hell of a lot of sledging that goes on in first-class cricket now."

The other factor in Douglas' game was his fielding in the cover point area. He put his high quality there down to the practices he had early in his career with the talent-laden Nelson Hawke Cup team.

"Nelson had a lot of first-class cricketers then and the standard at practice was very high. We trained very hard. One player set the standard and you were expected to match it. It made you concentrate and work harder. And if you didn't you tended to have to run a few laps.

"Even at my age now I like to sneak in from point and try to get these young teenagers out. I actually don't separate them by age. You're competing with them and that is what matters."

That's what Douglas will be doing again this summer. Competing hard. If some of his attitudes brush off on that young CD talent, then the future has a bright hue to it.

Mark Douglas in cricket:

First-class         Mat    I  NO  Runs   HS     Ave 100  50   Ct
All games            84  144  21  4225  144   34.34   7  28   74
Central Districts    66  126  18  3517  144   32.76   5  23   63
Wellington           12   18   3   708  106   47.20   2   5    7

Limited Overs Mat I NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 Ct New Zealand 6 6 0 55 30 9.16 - - 2 Central Districts 59 58 3 1318 121 23.96 2 3 30 Wellington 24 24 3 716 100 34.09 1 4 5

A Central Districts comparison:

First-class         Mat    I  NO  Runs   HS     Ave 100
Mike Shrimpton       97  171  15  4551  150   29.17   5
Tony Blain           83  145  15  4547  161   34.97   7
Mark Greatbatch      61  107   8  4365  202*  44.09  14
Scott Briasco        81  146  16  4301  157   33.08   6
Jock Edwards         67  122   5  3709  177*  31.70   5
Mark Douglas         66  120  18  3517  144   34.34   5

Limited Overs Mat I NO Runs HS Ave 100 Mark Greatbatch 58 58 6 1720 84 33.08 - Mark Douglas 59 58 3 1318 121 23.96 2 Tony Blain 62 57 11 1181 70 25.67 -

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