Africa is always a very special place to tour

Mike's African Diary: a special time for us

Kia ora koutou katoa i Harare, Zimbabwe. Ko Mikaera tōku ingoa. Nō Otepoti ahau. Ko Kapukataumahaka te maunga. Ko Ōwheo toku awa. Ko Ngati Pākehā te iwi.  Ko kirikiti te hākinakina. Ko BLACKCAPS te tīma. He kaimahi ahau mō Aotearoa Kirikiti. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Hello everyone from Harare, Zimbabwe. My name is Michael. I am from Dunedin. Mount Cargill is my mountain. Water of Leith is my river. Ngati Pakeha is my tribe. Cricket is my sport and the BLACKCAPS are my team. I work for New Zealand Cricket. Therefore, greetings. Greetings to you all.

It is a special time for our team this week as for the first time in our sport’s history we will wear ‘Aotearoa’ on our shirts when we play the opening ODI against Zimbabwe tomorrow in Harare.

It is a small gesture from our team and NZC to embrace Maori Language Week and to show that cricket is the game of all New Zealanders. We can’t wait and we are hoping to put on a performance that does the occasion justice. 

There is a good mood in the BLACKCAPS’ camp as we complete our final preparations for the One-Day International Series. The team enjoyed a good build-up to this limited overs tour with a camp in Potchefstroom in South Africa.The facility was just what we needed and all of the boys enjoyed being able to run and hit the gym in the morning and then train in the afternoon to build on their fitness and conditioning in a short time.

The guys trained hard and found it a good challenge in the thin air of the high veld. It was always entertaining watching them have their eight-minute ice baths in the outdoor swimming pool after training and see them writhing in the cold water! There was A LOT of complaining. It was much colder than we expected in Potchefstroom, with most nights getting down to single figures and the grounds frosting over in the morning. It is winter, after all.

We had two warm-up games at ‘Potch' against the North West Dragons ahead of this Series which were useful in getting familiar with the conditions over here.

It is a big adjustment coming from the wickets we experienced on the England tour to the surfaces which we expect in Harare, which will be much slower and take turn. With all due respect, the quality of the opposition in the Dragons wasn’t near the standard we will soon face, but I was very pleased with our guys setting their own standards throughout both matches.

There was a number of notable performances and pleasing aspects in the T20 and the 35-over game. It has been great to see Jimmy Neesham back in our side and batting with his trademark power. Jimmy is a larger-than-life character who adds a lot to this team both on and off the field. It is early days, but we were pleased with his contribution with the bat (54 not out from only 29 balls) and the ball (2-22) in that T20, and I am sure he will build in confidence throughout the tour.

In the same vein, Adam Milne has had a frustrating period with a heel injury and it was a great sight to see him back to full pace. Adam has not played any cricket since the ICC Cricket World Cup quarterfinal and it is great to have his pace back in our side.

There are a few guys relatively new to the BLACKCAPS environment like Ben Wheeler and George Worker and this tour is a good opportunity for them at international level.

And, this tour will be another chance for Kane Williamson to continue to work on his captaincy and leadership. Kane showed real ability last year on the tour of UAE when he led a young side to an ODI series win over Pakistan, and is the sort of guy who likes to lead by example.

There are a number of senior players who will help him along the way. Grant Elliott, who hit 54 from 33 balls in the 35-over game, and Luke Ronchi (33 from 19 balls) both showed their power hitting the other day in Potch, and they continue to add a huge amount to this group.

We welcomed Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill and Nathan McCullum into the group overnight who will all further add to that experience.

We know that Zimbabwe will be a difficult opposition at home. They showed that recently when they almost won the first ODI against India and then went on to win their final T20 game. They will come into this Series with some confidence and it will be a great test for our young side.

Africa is a special place to tour. There are things here that are unlike anywhere else in the world, and there is never a shortage of red meat at dinner time. After a good build-up, we can’t wait for the first ODI to begin this Sunday (2 August, 7pm NZT).

E noho rā ... Ngā mihi mō tō manaakitanga mai.  
Goodbye for now. Thanks for your kindness and support.


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