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New Zealand cricket

July 17, 2013

Mathew Sinclair: from riches to rags

Freddie Wilde

New Zealand batsman Mathew Sinclair pulls a delivery from Bangladesh bowler Hasibul Hossain during his first innings of 19 not out. 2nd Test: New Zealand v Bangladesh at Basin Reserve, Wellington, 26-30 Dec 2001 (29 December 2001).
Mathew Sinclair was the first New Zealand cricketer to score a double-century on Test debut Chris Skelton / © Photosport
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In 1999, Mathew Sinclair became the first New Zealand cricketer to score a double-century on Test debut; and he did so against a West Indies bowling attack that included Courtney Walsh. The following year, Sinclair scored 150 against South Africa, this time against Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and co. Then, a year after that, Sinclair notched up his second double-century in just his 12th Test with 204 not out against Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq et al.

If you take these three innings in isolation, and then consider the way that the following decade in the world of cricket panned out, you would struggle to envisage the end to Sinclair's career that has materialised.

On July 17, Sinclair announced his retirement from cricket, saying that he would instead sign on for unemployment benefits to support his wife and two children. "This is the reality. This is what it's like. It has been quite a tough decision to make... It has been very hard to look for some sort of meaningful employment... I had to make a conscious decision to give up the game to make myself more marketable."

Sinclair, who despite his promising start to his international career represented New Zealand only intermittently and played the last of his 33 Tests in 2010, said it was difficult to find work during the off-season with employers knowing he would only be available for six months of the year. This was a decision based on the cold financial realities of cricket in New Zealand, a profession he felt was no longer sustainable.

Sinclair's retirement is a stark reminder of the monetary discrepancy that remains between players from different corners of the globe. While MS Dhoni earns an estimated $50 every minute, there are still some professionals who cannot make a living by playing cricket all year round.

Despite Kerry Packer, Jagmohan Dalmiya, Lalit Modi, and the Indian Premier League, there are pockets of international cricket that remain desperately poor. New Zealand are a nation with a rich cricketing lineage, and while Sinclair's international career fizzled into a domestic one, he continued to display his excellence in this arena, where he scored 36 first-class hundreds, a number which is bettered by only five New Zealand players. And although it is far from a financial haven, New Zealand are one of the eight major nations in world cricket, and it remains staggering that Sinclair was forced to make the decision.

So next time Jesse Ryder is criticised for choosing Delhi Daredevils over New Zealand, or Daniel Vettori for choosing Royal Challengers Bangalore over a Test match, just remember Sinclair's story, and remember how a man who at one point seemingly had the world at his feet ended up retiring from cricket to join the job queue. These players only play cricket for a short while, and they have to maximise their opportunities, especially when you consider the financial black hole that lurks below them in domestic cricket.

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Freddie Wilde is a teenage blogger based in Hampshire who first played cricket at the age of seven. He tweets here

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Posted by Kevin on (July 20, 2013, 2:45 GMT)

I will always remember his double century on debut, not for the quality of the batting so much as the inept bowling. Sinclair had made his first 50 almost entirely using the back foot drive to balls short and wide outside the off stump. I couldn't believe the WI bowlers just kept feeding him there for another 150 odd runs. Have a look at the highlights of the innings, it looks like the same shot 3 out of 4 strokes. Probably the worst bowling I've ever seen in a test match. Sinclair's lack of success to quality bowling backs this up. Faced with straight bowling with a bit of movement, he was generally out quite quickly.

Posted by bharath74 on (July 19, 2013, 7:02 GMT)

It is really sad to see a player of his caliber ending his career without financial security. Gud luck to Mathew Sinclair.

Posted by Ajai on (July 18, 2013, 10:11 GMT)

There was a similar story about the late Graham Dilley, who had to go on the dole. He died of caner soon after.

Posted by Dummy4 on (July 18, 2013, 8:06 GMT)

It does seem to be a problem for NZ. The number of Kiwi cricketers who have given the game away early for business reasons (I can think of two other high profile players off the top of my head in Roger Twose and Adam Parore) is much higher than other nations.

I'm pretty certain that the NZ domestic circuit is semi-pro though unlike many other countries. Guys who play in the Sheffield Shield, County Championship, etc largely all make enough money to be full time but with a population base as small as NZ and the amount of sporting resources poured into Rugby Union it's hard to envision a situation where this changes.

Posted by Sarthak on (July 18, 2013, 6:01 GMT)

It might be a good option to add few teams from NZ into the BBL. Will be financially helpful to at least the better domestic cricketers from NZ.

Posted by Patrick on (July 18, 2013, 5:29 GMT)

Not really surprising that a 37 year old with a family can't make a living playing First Class Cricket in New Zealand. And honestly I don't really think it should be otherwise.

Posted by gurinder on (July 18, 2013, 3:39 GMT)

thats wat ipl is all about. securing futures of todays players. a single season of ipl cud have saved him from joining dole line.

Posted by Umair on (July 17, 2013, 20:29 GMT)

I think this is a bit of an extreme point to make. At 37, he is no spring chicken. Many others have retired younger.

Posted by Prashant on (July 17, 2013, 17:33 GMT)

Its really very disappointing to lose a cricketer of this calibre.I still remember him as one of the best openor along with Nathan Astle.

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