September 19, 2000

Fit Allott looks to take career all the way

Geoff Allott might have shared the honours with Shane Warne as the best bowlers of the 1999 World Cup but it's been a long haul for Allott to get himself back into the fitness frame to pick up his career.

He missed all of last summer with his back injury and only returned for the three-nation tournament in Singapore last month.

From there it was back to New Zealand to freshen up and prepare himself for duty in the limited overs action in Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa over the next six weeks.

Allott, 28, deserves plaudits for the way in which he has kept coming back from the sort of injuries that have tested many other bowlers who have taken the retirement option.

Not Allott. He's been working out three times a week at the New Zealand Cricket High Performance Centre at Lincoln, working out in a gym daily and getting his fitness levels right up.

Technical matters have also been on the agenda as he endeavours to minimise the risks to which his back is exposed.

"It is mainly a case of keeping my left arm in tight, in fact, keeping what they call all the levers in tight to minimise the chance of injury.

"It has been a combination of work load and faults that have caused the problems in the past," he said.

Each time he has had a break, Allott has come back a better bowler. Before the World Cup last year, he sat out the last Test against South Africa and studied video film of his action and made adjustments that sharpened his action in time for the Cup.

The result was an impressive tournament where he took 20 wickets at 16.25.

Throughout his career Allott has been a highly effective one-day bowler and he now has 46 wickets at 18.84 and a strike rate of 25.2.

That compares to a Test record of 19 wickets at 58.47.

He's not worried about becoming labelled a one-day specialist. First of all he wants to be playing consistently at the highest level.

Getting back to international level was a progressive thing and the first step he faces is performing well in Zimbabwe.

"I want to remain injury free and then push again for Test matches. I'm more than happy to play any sort of cricket," he said.

Allott said he would never think of pulling out of cricket in frustration with the injury problems.

"Halfway through this year it was questionable that I would play again but I have kept working," he said.

Allott said he thinks he has retained his speed, one of the elements that made him such an effective bowler during the World Cup, and the amount of movement he has been able to achieve has also been encouraging.

That could be a point of concern for Zimbabwe's batsmen, as they watch Allott's recovery in three one-dayers at home, and a fourth in their International Cricket Council Knockout match in Kenya.

Allott has been a sponge for ideas, taking in advice from all quarters and then squeezing out that which he doesn't want. He's also watched a lot of video footage and is keen to get movement in the air, which he sees as being of paramount importance.

He's able to get the ball to reverse when bowling and that is an extra weapon.

"I'm pleased with my bowling at the death," he said.

Allott certainly has the temperament. In only the third One-Day International of his career, against England, at Napier's McLean Park he bowled New Zealand to a series-saving tie with a superb final over.

New Zealand's bowling resources have taken another knock with injury to left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori, while there is still a question mark over medium-fast bowler Dion Nash.

But there is no doubt that with Vettori and Nash in the side, along with a fully fit Chris Cairns and a restored Geoff Allott, New Zealand can be a one-day side capable of competing with the best.

The hope has to be that Allott can start the momentum rolling towards that goal this summer.