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October 10, 2000
Dion Nash has become such a crucial element in New Zealand's cricket equation he cannot afford to be lost at such an early stage of his career if back problems are likely to persist for him.
Already identified as a "special" member of the CLEAR Black Caps line-up by New Zealand Cricket chief executive Christopher Doig, Nash, 28, could not be blamed for wondering whether it is worth it to put himself through more frustration only to be knocked back when next he tries to bowl.
There's no doubt that inside his capable frame there is a fast bowler dying to get out.
His competitiveness is probably his greatest weakness. While Doig said that Nash was not supposed to bowl more than 15 overs a day in Zimbabwe, inevitably the competitor in him won out and he bowled more.
No-one would blame Nash if he shelved his bowling aspirations.
But those same people would be upset if his attitude was lost to cricket.
Nash has a positive effect on those around him and his effort in lifting the New Zealand side when he returned to Australia in 1998 for the second half of the Carlton and United limited overs programme was memorable.
Bowling hard and fast, fielding superbly, and almost pulling off the match-winning hit against South Africa in that first game back at Brisbane, he demonstrated what he means to the side.
He has led the side in Stephen Fleming's absence - a clear demonstration of what officialdom thinks of his leadership capabilities.
It has been a long, hard road for Nash and lesser players would have long given up the ghost. If bowling to the level he would like is ruled out in the future, there are other aspects of his game worth developing.
In the mental rehabilitation he is undoubtedly undertaking since coming home injured from Zimbabwe there might be some room for Nash to ponder playing solely as a batsman in future.
Whether he makes it back to Test status as a batsman is open to conjecture.
However, the elements are there in both his make-up and his technical ability. At times during his career his batting average has got as high as 34. In his last 17 Test matches he has scored his runs at 29.25, including three 50s.
Batsmen have survived for long periods with a lesser average throughout New Zealand's cricket history.
His 89 not out against India at the Basin Reserve two summers ago, much of it in a record 138-run eighth-wicket partnership with Daniel Vettori, was enough to give New Zealand its winning chance in the match.
Later that summer he performed one of the most stunning blows of any New Zealand batsman, Chris Cairns included, when despatching South African fast man Allan Donald back over his head and out of the ground at Carisbrook.
It was a shot that spoke volumes for Nash's skill, his determination, his application and his love of a good cricketing scrap - the very qualities that have endeared him to New Zealand cricket fans.
In his most recent outing in New Zealand's second victory on tour over Zimbabwe, in a game when he wasn't even supposed to have been considered, he scored a handy 62 to help New Zealand's tail wag significantly.
Having Dion Nash around the first-class traps directing his energy into batting could be an interesting proposition. And if he was to do especially well, New Zealand's selectors might have the rare problem of having to choose which batsmen they want to place in either their Test or one-day line-ups instead the lack of competition they face at the moment.
Ideally, everyone wants to see Nash competing with both bat and ball. But, realistically, every time he breaks down it must become harder to come back in the way he wants.
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