Wednesday, 10 October 2012

CricketGeek Player Profiles: Colin de Grandhomme

Colin de Grandhomme with 2 young fans. Courtesy @sillymidoff
When I was a child my father had season tickets to watch the Auckland rugby team play. I went along and watched them play almost every weekend of winter. That team was amazing. They won 75 consecutive regular season home matches. They would often be so far ahead at half time that they could try crazy, high-risk plays in the second half. And they were so good that they would often come off. Throughout the time that I watched them, there were two players who, more than any others, got the crowd excited. The first was a butcher from Mangere called John Kirwan. When he got the ball the whole crowd would rise as one, because he was unbelievably good. He was so fast and elusive. Whenever he touched the ball there was electricity. The other player was on the opposite wing, Va'aiga "Inga the Winger" Tuigamala. Inga was a very good player, but was not quite as good as Kirwan. Despite that he was the true crowd favourite because what he did was often more spectacular. He had the power and balance to get through the smallest of gaps. Kirwan scored 35 tries in tests for the All Blacks, Tuigamala scored only 5, and yet was clearly the crowd's favourite.

Likewise, Colin de Grandhomme has not scored nearly as many runs for Auckland as Martin Guptill, but when CdG walks out to the middle, there is a hush of expectation come over the crowd at Colin Maiden Park. Everyone knows that there is a chance that they will see something special from the big man. He is capable of making the largest grounds look ponderously small. When he hits a ball, they certainly stay hit.

I have been fortunate to have been able to see some of the biggest hitters in world cricket. I have seen the likes of Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Chris Cairns, Adam Gilchrist, Viv Richards and Mark Greatbatch; but I'm not sure I've seen anyone hit the ball as cleanly or as regularly as de Grandhomme. I once saw him hit the ball out of Colin Maiden park, over the embankment and trees, across the road, over the fence on the other side and into the university car park. I'm not good at estimating distances, but I would be very surprised if it was less than 120 metres.

His career strike rate for the Auckland in T20 matches is a fairly impressive 170.83. He has hit 42 sixes and 47 fours off only 360 deliveries. That's basically a boundary every 4 balls. He's done all this while averaging a respectable 20.

But he's not just a lucky slogger. It has been in the longer formats where he has really excelled. Last season he averaged over 70 in first class cricket, and 43.8 at a strike rate just over 125 for Auckland in the list A matches. In a lot of ways his List A and First Class numbers show how good a player he actually is.

These numbers led me to write a post about his selection for the New Zealand team pointing out that they had picked him for the wrong format. However, when those two games got to the super over, I was wishing we had CdG in the side.

The fact that he is playing for New Zealand at all is a story in itself. He was born in Harare into a Zimbabwian cricketing dynasty. Both his father and grandfather represented their nation (Bunny for Rhodesia and Laurence for Zimbabwe). He looked set to follow in their footsteps, having played for Zimbabwe under 19's (alongside Brendan Taylor, Elton Chigumbura, Tino Mawoyo, Prosper Utsya, Sean Williams, Graeme Cremer and Ed Rainsford) before going on to play first class cricket for the Zimbabwe A and Zimbabwe under 23.

However he had different ideas. Realising that Zimbabwe was not quite the land of opportunity that it had been, de Grandhomme moved to Auckland in 2006.  It took a while for the move to pay off, but now "dutchie" makes the Auckland crowd move to the edge of their seats whenever he saunters to the middle.  If he gets going in the Champions League T20, I would definitely recommend moving to the edge of your seat also.

If you want a brief introduction to his (rather understated) personality, watch this video.

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