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Interview

Shirin Sadikot in Johannesburg

We’re focused, confident and we believe: Martin

Aces’ pace spearhead is determined to make New Zealand proud at CLT20

Auckland Aces captain Gareth Hopkins said of Chris Martin: “He has a calming effect on the bowlers and the unit.” A few minutes’ chat with Martin left us with no doubt. In his interview with clt20.com, the Phantom was philosophical yet realistic in his assessment of the Aces’ second shot at the CLT20.

The Kiwi spearhead spoke of the pressures that players put on themselves while performing on a big stage. He talked about the simple game of cricket that we often tend to complicate in our minds. Martin urged the cricketers to enjoy the moment without having the fear of defeat.

He admitted the Aces “were a bit naive and probably underrated our own abilities” in CLT20 2011, where they failed to qualify for the main competition. However, Martin assured that this time they are confident and well prepared to be the first team from New Zealand to achieve success in the CLT20.

And above all, Chris Martin spoke of the man who has played a big role in inculcating this belief in the team... Heath Streak.

The team has been preparing thoroughly for this tournament. How is confidence in the camp?

I think giving yourself enough time to acclimatise to the conditions, the altitude and pitches helps you in the main tournament. Last year we didn’t have too many practice games going into the tournament, which affected us a little. We’ve definitely changed that this year.

What has Heath Streak, the team’s new bowling consultant, brought to the table?

He’s just brought a very common sense attitude towards T20 bowling – to be very clear and precise in your mind about what type of ball you’re going to bowl the moment you’re on top of your mark and executing it without any fear. When you’ve got a straight forward mentality like that, T20 can seem a very simple game. It’s just a matter of keeping that philosophy strong in the heat of the moment. Heath has helped us develop that in the last couple of weeks.

Has he worked with players on an individual basis?

He hasn’t kept it very player-specific. He asks them what they’re trying to do and gives little pieces of advice to help them achieve that. But he’s not going to make too many changes; he just gets the guys thinking on their feet and to have enough variety in their bowling to challenge the best batsmen.

Do we complicate the simple game in our minds?

I think the pressure of playing at the world stage and obviously the huge prize money involved, these things play on the player’s mind and he can’t perform. I believe with a certain amount of confidence and preparation you can minimise that to a point where you can just go out there, express yourself and enjoy the moment instead of fearing it.

What does CLT20 mean to the Auckland Aces?

It means a lot to the Auckland Aces but in a way it also means a lot to New Zealand cricket on the whole. This is a team that represents us on the world stage as a country. We haven’t yet had a team from New Zealand go into the main tournament in the CLT20. So, that’s something we want to prove to the world and to ourselves that we can do. Last year we came so close in some games. Perhaps, we were a bit naive and probably underrated our own abilities. But this year we’re here with a bit more focus, confidence and belief.

Being a fast bowler, are you pleased that you’re going to bowl on South African tracks and not on Indian ones?

I think so. Last year we had some slow and low tracks. Here, there’s at least some bounce, which of course favours batsmen as well. It will definitely be a challenge either way. Also, our first two games will be on a very high-scoring ground. So, being a bowler in T20 in general is very tough work.

What is the Auckland Aces’ USP?

I think we have had a pretty settled line-up for the last couple of years and we’ve fostered a good team culture. We all play for each other, trust each other to do the job and we’ve had a lot of success at home. That kind of environment means that as an outfit we’re quite strong. With some internationally experienced players like Azhar Mahmood and others, I think we become quite a strong side. It will boil down to how we turn on the day. But any team that will look us up on paper will be very fearful.

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