By Matt Richens*
Even the grumpiest cricket fans are starting to agree that Colin Munro deserves another crack at the Test squad, writes Matt Richens.
The drums have been beating for Colin Munro to be allowed to add to his solitary Test appearance for some time but, like a New Year’s rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, even the grumps are joining in.
For a long time Munro’s first-class record – especially his average and strike-rate – have been thrown forward as reasons to give the world’s top T20 batsmen a test crack, but it was the intangibles holding him back.
Cricket’s numbers make it easy to argue a case for or against someone, but there is so much more to picking players than numbers.
Despite cricket effectively being an individual sport played in a team setting, if someone isn’t a good fit for the team, doesn’t put the team first, or those with the power think they could have an unhealthy effect on the side, they’re normally overlooked.
Munro is far from a saint – his tongue has been as brutal with some as his bat has been.
In my old gig as a day-to-day cricket reporter, I heard Munro first hand. He was vicious. I’ve also heard from multiple sources about him crossing lines at a national club tournament.
In his defence, those stories were from his early to mid 20s and the more recent oil is that he’s tried to be a better human on the park, though his mouth did earn him a spell on the sidelines last year and just last month he had plenty to say to controversial English allrounder Ben Stokes.
But none of that seems to worry Black Caps coach Mike Hesson, because Munro is one of the first names penned onto the team sheet for T20s and ODIs.
So it’s not his attitude or behavior, but it’s not his first-class numbers either.
His first-class average for Auckland is 57.33 and yes, that is on usually good batting decks, mostly against teams missing their international bowlers, but that is a big, big number.
To put it into perspective, Kane Williamson averages 56.20 for Northern Districts and Ross Taylor 39.20 for CD.
So all that leaves is the way he bats.
He’s been guilty of throwing his wicket away and playing too freely when it’s not in the best interest of his team at first-class level. His best form of defence, even in bowling friendly conditions with his team in trouble, was attack.
But that’s changed, too. His defence is improved and he’s far better at picking the balls to attack.
It’s the same slight changes that boosted Brendon McCullum from good Test batsman to world beater. By the end of his test career, it was his strong defence which he based his attacking game on. Bowlers didn’t know where to bowl to him.
He was destructive, formidable and a match-winner. McCullum was 32 when his Test career took off, so there’s still plenty of time for 30-year-old Munro to build a test career.
And in the form he’s in, he could do some real damage to an already beaten and near broken English side, here for two Tests at the end of the summer.
But where would he fit in the Test side? His bowling probably isn’t good enough to be considered a genuine allrounder and with Hesson and co being keen on five bowlers, Munro would need to knock out one of the five batsmen – Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Williamson, Taylor and Henry Nicholls.
It’s the toughest it’s been in a long time to break into the Black Caps Test squad. While that’s a great problem for the selectors to have, some players are just too good to not squeeze in somehow.
Surely a player with his abilities is worth a punt.
* Matt Richens has been a sports journalist for more than 12 years. His father Steve still gives him grief over the fact he got a club century and Matt never did.