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Cole McConchie set to live his childhood dream for New Zealand

He's a readymade fit for Mitchell Santner's role and brings leadership experience too

Deivarayan Muthu
Cole McConchie provides depth with the bat, control with the ball, and a lively presence on the field, Canterbury Kings vs Northern Knights, Super Smash 2020-21, Christchurch, January 15, 2021

Cole McConchie provides depth with the bat, control with the ball, and a lively presence on the field  •  Getty Images

In 2012, allrounder Cole McConchie received his maiden Plunket Shield cap from then Canterbury coach Gary Stead. Nine years later, in the midst of a pandemic, McConchie received the news of his maiden international call-up, for the upcoming tours to Bangladesh and Pakistan, from Stead, who is now New Zealand's head coach.
"I was actually on the golf course and Gary's number came up and thought it was going to be some good or bad news," McConchie said. "[It was] a real privilege to get the call from Steady and some really great news for myself and my family.
"I gave my wife Sarah a call straightaway, followed by my parents. It was really special getting that phone call; a childhood dream and for that to come true, it was a pretty special moment."
The 29-year old initially started out as an offspinner who could bat a bit, but has expanded his all-round game in recent times. Throw in his reflexes in the field and you get an impressive package, which is why New Zealand are leaning towards him in the absence of Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi for the T20Is in Bangladesh and the ODI Super league in Pakistan.
In the 2020-21 20-over Super Smash, McConchie emerged as the fifth-highest scorer, with 298 runs in 11 innings at a strike rate of 120.16, in Canterbury's run to the final, where they lost to Wellington. McConchie was also thrifty with his offspin; his economy rate of 7.40 was the third best among bowlers who had bowled more than 25 overs in the tournament. Only Otago left-arm wristspinner Michael Rippon and Canterbury team-mate Todd Astle had a better economy rate than McConchie under this condition.
Stead said that McConchie has been drafted in to play the role Santner usually does for New Zealand in T20Is: finish the innings with the bat and provide control with the ball.
"It's exciting for Cole," Stead said. "When you rule Santner and Sodhi out of the early stages, and Astle not going initially as well, you start looking around for who are the next options on the table. Guys like Cole have been consistent for Canterbury and the thing we liked as well is he's got some batting depth to him. We certainly look at him for filling a role that's something similar to Santner's - in terms of a finishing type role with the bat and being able to bowl at different stages of an innings."
McConchie also brings with him New Zealand A experience and the experience of being Canterbury's captain. Under his leadership, Canterbury won the Plunket Shield and Ford Trophy titles in the last domestic summer.
"It has been really special playing for New Zealand A against quality international sides and guys with a lot of international experience," McConchie said. "So, when you succeed at that level, it fills you with some optimism that you could succeed at international cricket. So, those have been great opportunities to test your skills at a further level up and [I'm] really grateful for those opportunities.
"Yeah, I think I've really enjoyed the leadership role and I know certainly from a playing point of view, I feel a bit more ownership in terms of my game and really try to push the team ahead. Always want to lead from the front in that regard."
McConchie also reckoned that bouncing ideas off Canterbury internationals Tom Latham, Matt Henry and Henry Nicholls will hold him in good stead in the lead-up to his potential international debut.
"Really fortunate to have grown up with the likes of Tom Latham, Matt Henry and Henry Nicholls - three really good friends of mine - and I think leaning on their international experience, talking to them [about] what it's like at the next level," he said. "What you need to do to be successful. Those three have been great sounding boards for myself and they've passed on a lot of experience and that has helped my game immensely. "
McConchie has never toured Bangladesh before and the hosts are in scorching form, having dispatched Australia 4-1, but this is his chance to showcase his all-round skills at the top level.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo