He’s flown under the radar off the field this year, but when it comes to dominating on the pitch for the Canterbury Wizards, all-rounder Rob Nicol was an obvious choice for BLACKCAPS selection.
Nicol, who moved south this season after eight years with the Auckland Aces, stepped up to the mark during the HRV Cup, scoring over 200 runs and taking eight wickets in the shortest format. Blackcaps.co.nz was the first to talk with the talented 26 year old about his rise to the international scene.
Moving up the cricketing ladder
The BLACKCAPS squad is winging its way to the West Indies for the World Cup in the next few weeks. Rob Nicol secured his spot in the squad as a result of his dedication with the bat in the top order, and his useful spin bowling.
We have his Mum and Dad to thank regarding Nicol’s natural talent. Their family home was next to Cornwall Park in Auckland and one season Nicol’s parents decided to sign him up for cricket, even though it was not a sport either of them played. “Mum was driving past the ground on enrolment day and thought I’d like to give it a whirl. It was pretty random,” Nicol reflects.
He was only 18 when he made his First Class debut against the Central Stags in the 2001/02 season for the Auckland Aces and made his Twenty20 debut in 2005/06. In the shortest format he’s scored 599 runs and taken 20 wickets.
His right arm-off break bowling has become his secret weapon, especially this season when he took a personal best 5-22 against the Northern Knights in the HRV Cup at QEII Park in Christchurch. “Everyone can role their arm over, but for me it gave me more opportunities. Rick Jones in Auckland had a lot of confidence in me and it really went from there,” he said. "The opportunity to bowl, especially in four-dayers, is quite intense.”
Nicol had a reputation as being a blocker with the willow back when he first started and had a chuckle reflecting on seasons gone by. “If you’d asked my mates five years ago whether I’d be picked for a Twenty20 side they would have said ‘na, he’s a dunny door’! But now I have no fear and you can express yourself in the shortest format.
“You get surprised at what you can do – without fear you are unlimited.”
He said he isn’t too keen to give the ramp shot a go. “I’m going to leave those shots to the other guys. I’m not keen on going to see a dentist!” he laughed. “I always think straight when I bat.”
Nicol led the Wizards at the top of the batting order during the season and he said he feels comfortable in that position. “The opportunity to open the batting is great. You can set off and hit some runs at the start. I’m not really a stats man but I try to do my best and enjoy it, that’s the main thing.”
The fresh southern air
At the start of the 2009/10 season Nicol made the move from the Auckland association to the Garden City. He puts a lot of his success down to the fresh start in a new place and loves the new surroundings. “I really enjoy it in Christchurch. I even found some fantastic surfing spots,” he said. “It’s a cool place that suits me down to the ground because it’s so low key.”
The adjustment to the climate was the biggest thing for him to overcome, but he is pleased to have made the leap across the Cook Strait. “The heat is a lot different down here, it’s freezing in winter. I was wearing lots of clothes! But when it’s a beautiful day you can’t beat it.”
Looking toward the World Cup
Nicol has travelled before with the New Zealand A side however this is his first trip to the Caribbean. It can be a daunting task facing tough competition in an unfamiliar surrounding; but Nicol is chomping at the bit to get involved with the action.
“I’m amping to get in there and immerse myself especially in the cultural side of things,” he said, reflecting on both the BLACKCAPS culture, and the rich history and way of life the West Indies offer.
Rob Nicol Facts
- He describes himself as chilled, happy and relaxed
- Growing up he either wanted to be a footballer or work in the aeronautics industry
- His cricket influences include Stephen Fleming and Chris Cairns, who he has played along side and against on a number of occasions during his career
- His favourite midnight snack is a Picnic
- His motto in life is: “here and now”.