Persistence pays off for determined Butler

Shane Watson and Sachin Tendulkar are poles apart as international batsmen -- and there is also a considerable gulf between them in Ian Butler's cricketing career.

When Butler had the Australian allrounder caught behind by Brendon McCullum under the roof at Melbourne's Docklands Stadium in December 2004, he never imagined there would be a hiatus of over four years before the New Zealand wicketkeeper helped provide the reconstituted seam bowler with his next one-day international wicket.

The moment arrived in Napier on Tuesday when the Indian batting prodigy-turned-legend edged to McCullum's gloves four balls into Butler's second coming as a ODI cricketer.

Tendulkar's dismissal for 20 also fired the imagination -- Butler scarcely believed he would ever bowl to the world's record setting test and one-day rungetter.

Their paths had crossed once before in Mohali six years ago when Butler toiled hard for figures of one for 116 on a flat track that previously enabled four New Zealand batsmen to record hundreds.

Since Butler's first run-in with the "Little Master" their careers took contrasting paths.

Tendulkar carried on tormenting pace bowler's of Butler's ilk while the injury-plagued right armer sought to reinvent himself as a batsman after his back could no longer sustain those long spells.

Four years ago a scan of his lumbar region revealed a degenerative disc and two others bulging, a diagnosis that could have proved career-ending.

Instead, after a two year break he expanded his batting repertoire and learned how to manage his fragile frame by qualifying as a personal trainer.

After a couple of domestic seasons as a specialist batsman for Northern Districts B and occasionally the top side, Butler relocated to Otago last year, where he was coaxed to roll the arm over.

By applying the brakes on his speed in favour of perfecting control and disguising variations, Butler eventually made a remarkable return to the international stage in Sydney on February 15.

Picked for the one-off Twenty20 match against Australia at the SCG on the strength of his provincial form in the shorter versions of the game, Butler resurrection then extended to the ODI team.

His numbers justified selection.

Part way through the domestic one-day competition he has 19 wickets at 21.00 while in the Twenty20 league his 14 scalps at 16.57 helped Otago take the championship.

His economy rates, despite bowling at the death, also stand up to scrutiny.

Butler has been less successful in the four-dayers -- seven wickets at 43.42 -- but the fact he is able to bowl longish spells is a success story in itself.

His workload is regulated to 16 or so overs a day, a touch below a standard fast bowler's output, but so far so good.

"It's been a long season, since January I've played 27 games. You just have to pick your moments," he said when asked how he has generated an extra yard of pace since his call-up.

Butler's return may have caught some by surprise but the 27-year-old never gave up hope.

"I never considered giving it up completely.

"That's why I played a couple of seasons just as a batter. Then my body allowed me to come back and bowl a bit.

"You know if you perform you're going to get a chance eventually."

Butler took one for 42 against the Indians and included a maiden in his eight over spell.

"The rhythm feels pretty good at the moment, I'm hitting the crease well but I bowled four loose balls -- and they all went to the boundary."

Tendulkar's scalp also gave Butler a sense of belonging.

"I said to Dan (Vettori) I wouldn't have imagined that three months ago when I was running in bowling as many overs as I could in the four-dayers."

Butler played eight tests for New Zealand, taking 24 wickets at 36.83, but doubted his resurgence would include a ninth cap.

"I'm not unavailable but I wouldn't have thought I'd be in the top five test bowlers."

He also suspected his body may struggle: "I've worked out how I can manage it in one-day and Twenty20 cricket which is only 10 and four overs.

"You also get a day off the next day, which is huge. There's not many days off in a test."

NZPA

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