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Nurturing talent, the Maori way

india Updated: Mar 26, 2009 23:56 IST

Hindustan Times
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Martin Crowe is one of New Zealand's greatest cricketers and an inspiration to players of Maori and Pacific Island origin, even if not quite in the manner he would like it.

As he sat in the commentary box on Thursday and watched Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder share a record 271-run 4th-wicket stand, he must have been reminded of a certain column he wrote for the Wisden website in 2003.

“Daryl Tuffey is a Maori and traditionally not many Maoris make good cricketers,” Crowe wrote then. “They don't have the patience or the temperament to play through a whole day, let alone over a Test match.” A furore erupted and Crowe subsequently said he "sincerely apologised" for any offence he might have caused and NZC were quick to distance itself from Crowe's words.

Ryder (unbeaten on 137) was the epitome of patience while Taylor has been New Zealand's best Test batsman by some distance in the recent past. Perhaps then it's not a matter of patience at all?

“There are many barriers at the grass-root level. There's the high cost of gear and registration. Players have to travel distances for club games,” explains Kieran McMillan a development officer at Auckland who oversees programmes specially targetted at Maori and Pacific Islanders.

“But most of all, in New Zealand, cricket is not seen as a money spinner. If you want to make it big then rugby is the sport.”

It's unclear just how many Maori and Islanders take part in active cricket but even generous estimates put the figure at 5% of the 100,000 or so involved with the game at various levels.

There are clubs that field teams mostly made up of cricketers from a certain country, the Mount Wellington Club has mostly people of Tongan origin, for example.

There is the Country of Origin T20 event in Auckland every year in Feb where Pacific Islands teams take part.

The ICC also has an involvement in developing cricket in the Pacific Islands and to this end each state association in New Zealand is assigned one of the Islands to work with. Samoa, that work with Auckland, have set the T20 World Cup in 2020 as a realistic target.

“Now that we have an officer working full-time on the job, it makes a difference,” said McMillan.

The efforts of development officers may take years to pay off, but at least young Maoris now have idols in Taylor and Ryder. What is more, they're also pretty keen to prove Crowe wrong.