Ever wondered how cool it would be to rub shoulders with the All Blacks as well as the Black Caps? Ask New Zealand newbie Daryl Mitchell, the son of former All Black John Mitchell, who later coached the rugby side as well. On his first day of training with the New Zealand cricket team Daryl gushed: "It's pretty cool; something you dream of as a little kid. It's like a kid opening up your package on Christmas and getting into it. Stoked."
It must have been equally cool getting to watch the All Blacks train with his father while growing up. Mitchell senior is now with England as their defensive coach, and his son was up early in Hamilton on Sunday to watch England topple pre-tournament favourites Ireland in the Six Nations Championship. Now, with Kane Williamson hinting that New Zealand will use the three-match T20I series against India to test their bench strength, Daryl, who had a stellar season in the Super Smash T20 tournament, is on the brink of an international debut.
"I woke up and watched England get up for the win," Daryl says. "Dad was pretty happy with that performance I'd say. I messaged him, he's excited for me to get this opportunity, and I'm happy for him. Hopefully, they win the Six Nations and put a smile on his face. "
So who is Daryl supporting at the rugby six nations - England or the All Blacks?
"That's a tough one. If England make the final against the All Blacks, but the All Blacks beat them, maybe. Let's go with that."
After breaking into New Zealand's squad, Daryl has had to deal with more questions about his high-profile father than about himself. While he concedes that spending time with the All Blacks has helped him become the professional he is now, he downplays the spotlight on him and his father.
"He's always just been my dad, he's gone to work just like every other dad does," Daryl says."It just happened that he went to rugby training instead of to an office or something.
"It was cool growing up, I got to watch the All Blacks and the Chiefs train and be around professional sport which probably helped me create who I am and how I go about things today. At the end of the day he's just my dad and he's still a pain in the ass sometimes and it's pretty normal for me anyway."
In addition to being well-equipped to deal with pressure, Daryl can bank on his excellent form, especially with the bat, in the Super Smash. In the absence of several New Zealand players and allrounder Anton Devcich, who is playing for the Sydney Thunder across the Tasman Sea, Daryl led the way for table-toppers Northern Knights. He is currently the second-highest run-getter in the competition with 318 runs in nine innings at a strike-rate of 140.08. But the most telling stat is that nobody has struck more sixes this season than his 19.
Daryl is among the cleanest strikers in New Zealand domestic cricket and is particularly strong hitting in the V. He also has an Australian connection, having honed his skills at Scarborough Cricket Club in Western Australia. When he was 14, Daryl moved to Perth for about six years as his father secured a deal with Western Force.
He then returned to Hamilton and made his debut for Northern Districts in 2011-12. Having started his career as batsman, he has developed into an allrounder who can pitch in with handy medium-pace. In this season's Super Smash, after Chris Jordan joined Devcich at the Thunder, Daryl was the Knights' go-to death bowler alongside their South African recruit Kyle Abbott. He impressed with his wide yorkers and cutters, and reckons he's ready to do the job for New Zealand as well.
"My role doesn't change a lot with what I'm doing with ND at the moment," Mitchell says. "I'm happy to do a job with the ball if Kane needs me. Obviously, batting is my main priority. If Kane throws me the ball, I'll do whatever job that needs to be done."
Daryl's also a fantastic fielder to boot. Remember his tag-team effort at the edge of the boundary with Tim Southee to dismiss Asif Raza in the Champions League T20 in 2014? It even made ESPN's Sportcenter's top 10 plays of the day.
When Mitchell Santner was playing county cricket in 2016, he joked to Daryl, his Northern Districts team-mate, that his captain at Worcestershire, the English Daryl Mitchell, was the better Daryl Mitchell. He might revise that opinion, though, when the other one makes his international debut.