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Ben Sears, the latest New Zealander in the fast lane

The 23-year-old got his maiden call-up to the national side for the tours to Bangladesh and Pakistan

Deivarayan Muthu
Ben Sears can trouble batters with his rapid pace  •  Getty Images

Ben Sears can trouble batters with his rapid pace  •  Getty Images

Lockie Ferguson, Adam Milne, Scott Kuggeleijn… and Ben Sears. Sears, the 23-year-old Wellington fast bowler, is the latest addition to New Zealand's set of quicks who can hit speeds north of 140kph. Sears is only 12 T20s old, but he has already shown enough promise to be called up for the upcoming tours to Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Glenn Pocknall, the Wellington coach who will stand in for head coach Gary Stead in Bangladesh and Pakistan, first saw Sears bowl when he was 13, in a match for Hutt International Boys' School (HIBS), and was immediately impressed with his express pace. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Pocknall recalled that Sears made "batsmen jump towards square leg" in that game apart from hitting the stumps four times in a space of five overs.
Nearly a decade later, Pocknall unleashed Sears on Otago Volts and Canterbury Kings in the Super Smash tournament, and he harried batters with his pace there too. Stepping up in the injury-enforced absence of James Neesham, Sears returned combined figures of 7 for 55 across eight overs for Wellington.
Sears struck in his first over, in the powerplay, having Otago's Hamish Rutherford flapping a weak pull to midwicket. Next ball, he went wide of the crease and got it to burst from the back of a length, snagging Neil Broom's outside edge near the shoulder of the bat. He nearly found Josh Finnie's edge with the hat-trick ball in a burst of rapid pace and bounce at the Basin Reserve. He pressed on to dismiss Finnie and Dale Phillips to come away with 4 for 21 - the best bowling figures in the tournament.
In the next match, at the same venue, against Canterbury, Ken McClure lined Sears up in the powerplay, taking 20 off his first over. Sears, however, struck back after the powerplay, removing Chad Bowes and Canterbury captain Cole McConchie, and finished with 3 for 34.
"Oh yeah, he [Sears] is exciting! Even looking from afar, to see anybody get selected for their first tour is exciting because it brings back the butterflies that you had yourself."
Shane Bond
"It just highlighted how much he has matured as a player," Pocknall said of Sears' bouncebackability. "T20 can be unforgiving, so to be able to handle the ups and downs mentally, then just focus on what he's trying to bowl has helped him a lot. Every opportunity he got at Wellington level, he has taken it and stepped up with some great spells, which is testament to the work he has put in with Natalie Hogg [Wellington's sports psychologist]."
Another key figure in Sears' rise has been Wellington's senior fast bowler Hamish Bennett, who has often been spotted at mid-off or mid-on, passing on inputs to Sears. Like Bennett, Sears has added variations to his repertoire to establish himself as a well-rounded T20 bowler in New Zealand.
"Along with Natalie, Hamish has been very influential in helping Ben become a better cricketer. Having someone of Hamish's experience and knowledge help guide and support him has sped up his development," Pocknall said. "Pace bowling in the short form can be challenging, so this support from both Hamish and Natalie has enabled him to push forward and improve as a cricketer.
"Sears' pace is his main weapon. However, what he has been able to develop over the last 12-18 months is his control and a better ability to execute his change-ups. This development has added a lot more variety to his skills as a bowler."
Shane Bond, who will be part of New Zealand's backroom staff for the T20 World Cup and the subsequent T20Is in India, reckoned that Sears' first tour of the subcontinent could accelerate his growth as a fast bowler. The likes of Kyle Jamieson and Jacob Duffy have been the most recent beneficiaries of New Zealand's pathway system and robust domestic structure, successfully graduating to the international level.
"I think New Zealand have benefitted with an A programme over the last five years," Bond said. "Guys like Kyle Jamieson have had that experience in those [subcontinent] conditions and heat. All of a sudden, he's come into the New Zealand team better prepared and elevated himself into a world-class player.
"For Ben, it's the same thing to get a chance to play in foreign conditions. He's a fit guy, but it will tell a lot about how he handles heat, how he handles being away [from home]. MIQ [Managed Isolation Quarantine] is a part of that life as a professional, so all of those things you can't do it unless you do it. The chance that he gets as a young man, he can build on that experience."
Bond has worked with Sears at the pathway level in the past and is confident that the tearaway will be able to cope with these demands of international cricket.
"Oh yeah, he's exciting!" Bond said. "Even looking from afar, to see anybody get selected for their first tour is exciting because it brings back the butterflies that you had yourself. [I've] had an opportunity to work with Ben over the last couple of months. Seen him on TV, he's had a reputation of being a fast bowler before that. So to see him perform well at the domestic level and then progress onto the national scene... I'm really excited for him and I'm pretty confident he'll do well.
"At 21, it's not a sprint. Guys at that age want to be a finished product, but it takes time. So, it's just [about] coming to practice every day with a purpose, being really clear about your process when you're going to be under pressure. When you step out in that black uniform for the first time and know that everybody at home is going to be watching, you know it's not easy. So, if you're clear about how you take a breath and relax and just enjoy it, that's as much as you can do. You just get better every day and he's in the environment to do that. The 21-year-old Ben Sears is going to look very different to the 27-year-old Ben Sears and hopefully New Zealand will keep the production line going of world-class fast bowlers coming through and he'll be one of those in a few years' time."
Sears, who was at an NZC winter training camp when he received the news of his maiden call-up from Stead, said he didn't expect to be picked at all. The conditions in Bangladesh should be slow and low, not particularly ideal for Sears' strengths. But the great pace has a way of creating an impact, no matter where. And if he gets a chance to have a go there, the young man might leave Bangladesh - and Pakistan - a better bowler than he already is.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo