New Zealand in South Africa 2012-13

The making of Mitchell McClenaghan

Mitchell McClenaghan, who has impressed so far on the tour of South Africa, has the speed, the skills and the experience to be a long-term member of New Zealand's pace attack

Firdose Moonda

December 31, 2012

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Mitchell McClenaghan picked up three wickets, South Africa A v New Zealanders, Tour match, Pietermaritzburg, December 18, 2012
Mitchell McClenaghan's five years of experience at the first-class level could help him immensely on the international stage © Gallo Images
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Players/Officials: Mitchell McClenaghan

Every step Mitchell McCleneghan took when he ran shredded cartilage on his hips. The extra bits of bone he had in that area served as blades and sliced through his connective tissue.

McClenaghan's condition is genetic, so he could not avoid corrective procedures forever even though surgery would interrupt his fledgling cricket career.

Over the course of two years, doctors fractured McClenaghan's hip sockets, screwed the cartilage back into place and let the wound bleed until it healed. He remembered it simply as being "so painful" but did not delve into any further detail. Instead, he now talks about it with a smile that can only suggest he is thankful it's over.

It helps that in the last ten days, McClenaghan went from being nothing more than one of the five rookies in New Zealand's Twenty20 squad to being selected across all three formats for the ongoing tour of South Africa. Of all the promising players on the current circuit, he is the most exciting. McClenaghan is quick; upper 140kphs quick. He is also accurate. An attack that has often lacked a front man who can combine speed with skill could have a future leader.

For New Zealand cricket, that possibility alone is highly noteworthy. Add to that the fact that McClenaghan has some experience, which includes the growing pains of failing and having to start again, and you'll probably be excited all the way from Auckland to Napier: the two places that made McClenaghan.

At Central Districts, where McClenaghan made his first-class debut, he was just another hopeful. He spent three seasons taking wickets at an average of over 40 and being side-tracked by injury. Then he moved to Auckland, where the environment suited him better. "That was the start of things clicking. Under Gareth Hopkins, there were really clear roles for me. We thought about the game the same way and he just backed me no matter what," he said.

McClenaghan also had another mentor, the ageless Chris Martin. The 38-year old has never suffered from a serious injury and McClenaghan was inspired by his problem-free run. "I got a lot of tips from him while I was recovering. He is the ultimate professional and he is always doing the right thing, whether it's in preparation, during the game or in recovery," he said.

Inspired by Martin, McClenaghan also incorporated major lifestyle changes into his routine. This season, he gave up bread, pasta and most sugars to focus on a diet which includes a large amount of broccoli. It's not exactly the same as Australian quick Peter Siddle's conversion to vegetarianism but it may be an even more eye-catching choice.

McClenaghan has abolished most carbohydrates, the substance required for fuel for the body, but he has not suffered at all. McClenaghan believes he understands himself more because of the changes. "I know my body a lot better now, I know how to train and I know how to look after myself," he said.

In terms of results, he has been proved right. McClenaghan was the standout performer as Auckland bowled Otago out for 63 last season. His 8 for 23 came after four five-wicket hauls for the team, and had McClenaghan thinking his chance would come in the longer format first. "With the way things had gone, I thought I would get more of a chance to play Test cricket, so it was a bit of a shock to get the Twenty20 call-up," he admitted.

He had only played nine T20 matches before being included in the touring party but his potential had been recognised. His tenth, against the South Africa A side, was where he picked up his best haul in the format to date: 3 for 18. "The only pressure I had was the pressure I put on myself. I wasn't getting any pressure from Mike Hesson or any of the coaching staff, and definitely not from Brendon McCullum. I was just able to get out there and as soon as I got over that first ball, it was just a dream," he said.

Although it looked easy, McClenaghan found the gulf between domestic and international cricket wider than he expected. "I was just gassed afterwards," he said. "There's a lot more adrenaline involved in playing for your country, so you definitely tire out a lot quicker. Also, you have to put everything into every ball, mentally and physically, so you get drained quicker. But if you don't, you're going to get hit to the boundary, that's just the truth of it."

He played in all three matches of the series and regards it as good preparation for the ODIs later on. "I feel confident in the short form of the game now," he said. Before that, New Zealand will face their toughest examination in the Tests, where McClenaghan is willing to wait for his turn.

"The guys have come off a great Test win with pretty much the same attack so I can't imagine there will be too many changes," he said. Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult were part of the pace group that achieved success in Sri Lanka, but with Tim Southee out injured, McClenaghan and Martin may be in direct competition.

If they opt for Martin, New Zealand will have certainty and safety in the knowledge that his record against South Africa has been impressive. If they choose McClenaghan, they would take a risk but on South African surfaces, it could be worth it. Although McClenaghan has not been told how strong his chances of playing are, he has a plan if he does get the opportunity.

 
 
"I see my role as someone who can come in and just go flat out for five or six overs and try to make something happen, whether it's at my end by taking wickets or by creating a bit of pressure." Mitchell McClenaghan
 
"I see my role as someone who can come in and just go flat out for five or six overs and try to make something happen, whether it's at my end by taking wickets or by creating a bit of pressure," he said. "You don't have to be quick all the time in Test cricket. You just need to know when the right time is, when the team needs you to come and bowl a really quick spell. Even if you don't take wickets, it can turn the match, especially when you haven't taken wickets for a little while. It just gets everyone behind you and gets some energy going."

One of the best executors of that is Dale Steyn, who is known to get charged up when a little extra is needed. Steyn's spells at The Oval and in Perth in 2012 are examples of that, and now McClenaghan will get to see him in action first-hand.

Although the South African battery are regarded as much more potent than their opposing attack, McClenaghan said the reputations don't bother New Zealand. They just want to see how they match up. "They are the best bowling attack going around in world cricket at the moment. This is a massive test for us. It's going to be a really good chance for us as New Zealand bowlers to really test ourselves against them. Rather than looking at it as us against their batsmen, it's our attack against their attack: let's see where we are and let's try and push them," he said.

When current South African bowling coach Allan Donald worked in the same position in New Zealand, he noted that the major area New Zealand lacked was in intent. McClenghan promised that had changed. "When Allan Donald was the coach, the aggressive mentality started coming and with Shane Bond, it's the same. He is really driving to be aggressive, even if it's aggressive dot balls and just to be at the batsman all the time."

In saying that, the fighting talk has begun. McClenaghan said if he plays, "the whole South African top seven are the men I am after" and did not isolate any scalp he would prize even though South African captain Graeme Smith has a weakness against left-arm bowlers. "There's no point saving yourself for one person. We're going after them all."

To those who see this series as the least anticipated on the South African calendar, statements like the one above may be brushed off as nothing to take too much notice of. New Zealand are without their best batsman, Ross Taylor, their best bowler, Southee, and have had internal problems coming into the contest. They are expected to be worked over.

For the New Zealand young players, that pre-series prediction could result in negativity and demotivation ahead of the tour. But it hasn't. McClenaghan sees South Africa as a place to make a mark. "We haven't got all the results that we've wanted to get but it's really exciting times for New Zealand cricket," he said. "You might have to bear with us for a few series but hopefully it will pay off."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by t20-2007 on (January 2, 2013, 10:49 GMT)

From an India fan...pls lend us some bowlers..you guys can take some batters from us..teach them to play in NZ wicket and they ll do great

Posted by Patchmaster on (January 1, 2013, 23:43 GMT)

As an NZ fan, I honesty think that if we had a half decent management team, we'd be starting to rebuild and become a potential giant killer again. At first I wasn;t sure about McCullum, but I can live with it now. How on earth Taylor and Jesse Ryder were allowed to get into the state they now are, is just disgusting. Ryder should have had a mentor / older colleague to guide him, and Taylor just needs to stop being a baby, and get on and play (like Ponting did). Great to see young players coming through, that's encouraging.

Posted by TheRisingTeam on (January 1, 2013, 9:47 GMT)

He's overrated! fact is that New Zealand is declining the Cricketing World is changing!

Posted by   on (January 1, 2013, 4:19 GMT)

Could he be the next Bond that NZ is desperately looking for? Boult, Southee, Bracewell and now McClenaghan - not bad. Suddenly you see a bunch of youngsters coming up in the rank. H. Rutherford should also be making his debut in the immediate future. NZ will definitely be a force to reckon with.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2013, 3:26 GMT)

NZ cricket is always good at "potential".

Posted by kiwicricketnut on (December 31, 2012, 22:35 GMT)

Agree with Glen10 about the selectors being weak and not having the guts to pick the best bowling attack i made the same comment about them in the sub continent, then they finally picked the leg spinner and won even though he didn't exactly excel it was the best balanced attack and it got the result. If they want to win again the same bravery is needed, the bowling attack should be- bracewell, wagner, boult, mcclenaghan with williamson as the spinner, he's better than patel anyway but i know this wont happen they don't have the foresight.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 19:56 GMT)

NZ Best team is Mccullum, Guptill, Williamson, Taylor ,Ryder, Cachopa ,Ronchi, Vettori, Southee, Bracewell, McClenahan and Boult.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 18:27 GMT)

I always believe that NZ can make things difficult for SA batters.it's a shame that NZ have lost their key no:4 Taylor and inform Southee.This's the series NZ batters have to serve their best.If they can,i think they can tackle with SA batsmen with two good left arm pacers and a high class fielding side.first they need to sharpen their batting technique against the SA balling .I would prefer to see BJ watling open up with Guptill rather than Mccullum.

Posted by xylo on (December 31, 2012, 17:27 GMT)

Wow... up until now, we were seeing articles about how someone is "the future" based on one performance. It looks like we have gone a step further now. agreed that this guy has gone through a lot of pain, but to be anointed as the future of the kiwi bowling attack sounds absurd to me.

Posted by gothetaniwha on (December 31, 2012, 16:52 GMT)

I would have thought Wagner is next in line to replace Southee as he would know the conditions as an ex Saffer , can't see Martin playing anymore , wouldn't be surprised if we went with 3 left arm quick attack Boult ,Mc Clenaghan and Wagner plus Franklin ( he must be on last chance ) and Bracewell , no spinner required thanks , use Williamson .ITS not the bowling which is the problem ,its the Batting . Ronchi becomes available this month some time .

Posted by Cricket_archive on (December 31, 2012, 16:50 GMT)

Mcceanahagen is not as good as Bond.Bond was a special bowler who could destroy the best batting line ups with great pace and accuracy.

Posted by shillingsworth on (December 31, 2012, 16:41 GMT)

@Will Allen - according to an article on this site, Ronchi isn't qualified for NZ until 13 January (4 years after he last represented Australia). Presumably they didn't want to pick him for the SA tour as he wouldn't have been available for all the matches.

Posted by Jaffa79 on (December 31, 2012, 15:54 GMT)

The finest team in Australasia v the finest team in Africa.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 15:42 GMT)

Does anyone know why Luke Ronchi isn't in the NZ side? is he elligable to play for NZ ? the guys a gun and a very dangerous lower order player.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 15:39 GMT)

in my opinion The protean batting order is just 2 strong in comparison to the kiwi's for their bowlers to win them a test. in an makeup scenario mayb a sub 30 amalgamation of the bottom 3 in tests would be put up more of a challenge though with Powell, Bravo, Ramdin, Roach from windies, tamim & Shakib from Bangladesh Guptill, Williamson, Bolt, Southee & Bracewell

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 14:57 GMT)

BlackCaps have a very good bowling unit. if their batting clicks then south africa willl have some head ache in their world number 1

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (December 31, 2012, 13:28 GMT)

Yes!!!! Got 2 days off work to watch this, can't wait. Smith you better bat first if you win the toss.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 12:18 GMT)

Earnest as they are, Black Caps are toast. Genuinely surprised if any test match is longer than 3 days

Posted by   on (December 31, 2012, 12:16 GMT)

Well lets hope NZCC looks after this guy better than it looked after Bond, ending his international career because he choose to play in a non-BCCI sanctioned 20/20 competition (funny, I dont remember the BCCI ever formally being confirmed as one of New Zealands selectors???).

Posted by SurlyCynic on (December 31, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

Bowlers also need to be able to hold a bit these days, so hopefully Chris Martin has passed on some of his legendary batting skills too.

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