CD Stags V Otago Volts
PRIDE, a sense of satisfaction and a hint of regret punctuate the phone interview with Alan Hunt as he finds himself in transition in Auckland yesterday.
But a steely resolve also kicks in for good measure when the outgoing Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags coach is asked if he has any takes on fans suggesting he had a bias towards Aucklanders during his reign here.
"I can categorically say I haven't approached any players from Auckland to come to CD," says Hunt before the limited-over Ford Trophy match against the Otago Volts at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, tomorrow.
Instead, he stresses players often gravitated to the CD region to sound out their worthiness when the coaching stable tweaked its matrix for the season.
Fundamentally, Hunt believes there are no gimmes at domestic level with players needing to earn the right to play for the Stags.
"Cricket is a business and our judgement comes down to performance," he says, adding the ongoing development of young talent offers its own challenges.
Hunt took the Stags to the HRV Cup Twenty20 final in his first summer at the helm before coaching them to victory in the Ford Trophy competition last summer at Pukekura Park before working his magic with assistant coach Lance Hamilton and captain Kieran Noema-Barnett to lift the four-day Plunket Shield at Saxton Oval, Nelson, last month.
Finishing dead last this summer is, without doubt, one of the disappointments in the abbreviated 20-over format he considers to be a "work in progress".
No doubt, he is indebted to CD chief executive Hugh Henderson and the board for giving him the opportunity to build a career in first-class coaching when he put his feelers out from Auckland.
"It was the last two offers for other jobs ... so it was a good outcome and I'm grateful for the opportunity," he says, sticking with the same line-up that beat Northern Districts Knights by 19 runs in a high-scoring affair with veteran batsman Jamie How smashing a few records with fellow opener Jeet Raval at Seddon Park, Hamilton, this week.
Dutifully he feels there's still unfinished business as he tries to help steer his troops to a solid end to the season.
"I could have gone a bit longer especially with the development of the young because we're not a complete team and don't do everything right."
Hunt has confirmed he will not seek an extension to his term at the end of the season after coaching the Stags for three seasons, starting in 2010 when he took the side to the Champions League in South Africa.
Since then the Stags have won the Plunket Shield in 2012-13, the Ford Trophy 2011-12 and made the final of the HRV Cup in 2010-11.
Hunt reiterates the timing as the main reason for his decision to step down.
"After giving it a lot of thought I have decided not to seek an extension due to the future needs of CD cricket," he says.
"I looked at what I have achieved in my time and think that it is the right time to pass the baton on to someone else and explore other opportunities."
No doubt he will miss the fantastic team spirit in a predominantly youthful side and hopes the work to rebuild the major association's stocks will continue with whoever takes the reins from him.
He regrets opening batman George Worker left CD for the Canterbury Wizards last summer but understands he had to do that if he was going to get some valuable game time.
" I can understand why people would feel aggrieved but I was surprised to see Worker go," he reveals, accepting that How opening with retired Peter Ingram, of Taranaki, at the time meant the budding talent had to put his feelers out.
Hunt remains optimistic the Manawatu left-hander, who New Zealand selectors had an eye on last summer, will return to roost with the Stags once again.
Taranaki batsman Dean Robinson he believes was also young and unluky but Raval had done the job with aplomb.
"It was difficult for Dean but Jeet didn't let anyone down," Hunt explains, adding the former Auckland Aces opener's Plunket Shield and Ford Trophy averages this summer are a testimony to his claims.
Spinner Ajaz Patel, of Auckland, and Andrew Lamb, of Wellington, have also added value to the Stags' campaign.
Hunt is keeping his options open for next summer mindful Auckland Aces coach Paul Strang will quit at the end of the season and ND coach Grant Bradburn has indicated he'll step down in September when his contract expires.
Otago coach Vaughn Johnson's contract also expires but he suspects he'll stay on for the Champions Club League campaign later this year after winning the HRV Cup.
Ideally, Hunt accepts nailing the Aces job would be on his agenda.
"There are no guarantees, You have to earn the right to get the job," he says, adding he has no interest in a national coaching stint right now.
Henderson spoke positively of Hunt's contribution in three seasons with the association.
"Alan has made an excellent contribution to CD Cricket, as his results reflect," Henderson said.
"Not only have we had success on the field, but we have also seen the development of a number of our younger players which augers well for the future.
"We are in the process of finalising a new CD-wide cricket plan and want the Stags head coach to be a constant for the next two to three seasons to implement that part of the plan.
"In talking this through with Alan we agreed that this would be too long in the role for him to commit to, and that it was better to make the change now."
The role will be advertised soon.
Hunt is resting Black Cap seamer Adam Milne tomorrow with a decision pending on pitch inspection whether 12th man Andrew Mathieson will come into the equation.
The 400-plus total in Hamilton in the last round, he feel is taking the batting in the 50-over competition in the right direction but the closeness of the victory still makes him nervous.
"ND had a good go at it [the total] and damn near won it with what would have been a fantasitc run chase if they had."
Everyone's nerves were jangled in the last four overs on a wicket that provided boundaries with the help of a fast outfield and a four-fielder setting to contain the onslaught.
He expects Pukekura Park to provide a similar platform for adrenaline junkies tomorrow.
CD STAGS: Jamie How, Jeet Raval, Carl Cachopa, Mathew Sinclair, Kieran Noema-Barnett, Kruger van Wyk, Tarun Nethula, Bevan Small, Marty Kain, Ben Wheeler, Andrew Mathieson.
Coach: Alan Hunt.
Assistant coach: Lance Hamilton.
OTAGO VOLTS: J Neesham, DC de Boorder (c, wk), IA Robertson, JA Duffy, SR Wells, NL McCullum, MG Bracewell, AJ Redmond, NB Beard, JM McMillan, NT Broom, SG Blakely.
Coach: Vaughn Johnson.