Thursday, May 9th, 2024

Smith looking to achieve second goal by shining for with Worcestershire

Nathan Smith has already achieved one of his aims by playing county cricket for Worcestershire and hopes his performances this summer will help complete another of his goals by being selected by New Zealand.

The all-rounder has already made a big impact with Worcestershire in the opening three matches in the Vitality County Championship, a competition he took a big interest in as a youngster.

Smith has scored 152 runs at an average of 50.66 with two fifties and is the leading wicket-taker with 13 at an average of 19.38 as well as being the most economical front-line bowler.

It will only help his ambitions to play for the Black Caps if he continues in the same vein throughout the summer.

Smith said: “I had two goals growing up. One was to play for New Zealand, the other was to play county cricket.

“I was a purist of the game, I’ve always been fascinated by the history of county cricket. I was really exciting when the opportunity came across my desk.

“All the greats have played in teams over here as overseas players. There is such a great history in county cricket.

“I’m also a purist of the game, I love the long format. That is probably where the interest has come from.

“It’s such a good opportunity to develop my cricket.”

He added: “For sure. It is only going to help me regarding New Zealand if I do well. New Zealand Cricket are really happy with this opportunity for me. They think it is going to be great for my cricket.

“It is only going to be positive, for sure. There are some Test and one-day teams being named later in the year so hopefully I will find myself in some of those.

“But, at the moment it’s about making the most of this opportunity and have a good crack at it and doing well for Worcestershire.

Smith had already previously visited New Road during that 2019 season.

He said: “I’d played cricket with Hamish Rutherford back home, came and watched a game at New Road, watched him play for Worcestershire.

“I have followed Worcestershire ever since and then that winter Ben Cox came and played for Otago Volts in the Super Smash so there was a connection there.”

Smith looks full of runs and wickets but has not set any personal targets for this summer.

He said: “Personally I’m not much of a goal-setter to be fair and I don’t like to get too far ahead of myself.

“The way I play my cricket is to try and be as in the present as possible and give every single bit of myself to each ball, run in hard, or try and occupy the crease.

“That’s how I like to try and play my cricket and hopefully just contribute along the way.”

Smith is the latest in a long line of New Zealanders to have played for Worcestershire including Colin Munro, Martin Guptill, Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner, Hamish Rutherford, Logan van Beek, Michael Bracewell and Hamish Rutherford in recent years.

He said: “I spoke to a lot of the guys who had played here before and no-one had a bad word to say about the club at all which was great.

“They only had positive words to say about Worcestershire – the likes of Sants, Logan, Bracers, Ruds as well.”

Although yet to break into the senior side, Smith was part of the New Zealand squad for the 2016 Under-19 World Cup and in 2018 played for a New Zealand X1 and dismissed Alastair Cook, Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone when part of an England X1.

He was also part of the New Zealand A side against the West Indies in 2020.

Smith said: “In that Under-19 World Cup side I played alongside Finn Allen, Rachin, Ravindra, Glenn Phillips, Josh Clarkson. It was a really good team and we seriously underperformed.

“The A team played West Indies, India, Pakistan A. I got a little bit unlucky. It was 2019-20 and 2020-2021 and then there was no A cricket for about 18 months and through that time, at the very back of that I got a couple of stress fractures and missed a few A tours.

“I’ve come back stronger which is nice. Had back surgery and come back stronger and I think that is really going to put me in good stead along with this stint to push for higher honours.

Smith is optimistic that his best years lie ahead.

He said: “At the moment, I’m playing the best cricket I’ve ever played. That is just a product of being fit and healthy.

“When I was younger, like most fast bowlers you pick up niggles and they keep me out for a month or two at a time through the season.

“It stunts your momentum through the season but at the moment I feel like I can play really good cricket.

I’m stronger, I’ve got overs and games under the belt now which have served me well in recent experiences. Best years hopefully to come.”

Smith arrived at New Road as the leading wicket-taker in the Plunket Shield after helping Wellington to trophy glory.

He said: “Again I think that’s on the back of having the back surgery last March and had six months where I spent more time in the gym than at home.

“That is the sort of stuff that is paying me back now. Still fighting fit, running in hard.

“Just the gym, commitment and discipline through the winter put me in good stead to be here.”

Smith made his debut as a 17-year-old in the Plunkett Shield eight years ago and it was a challenging experience.

He said: “Looking back on it now, I knew absolutely nothing about cricket at all. I literally just knew how to run in and bowl and out swinger and I was so raw.

“It was amazing to think I was playing against DJ Watling and Dean Brownlie and Daniel Flynn, all guys who had played a lot of international cricket.

“It was a great experience though. I remember bowling quite well and got three wickets on my debut.

“I got out Brownlie, Daryl Mitchell and AP Devcich, all internationals.”

So how did Smith first start playing cricket?

He said: “I’ve got a brother who is three years older than me. Naturally you do everything your older brother does and I shadowed him when I was growing up which helped me a lot.

“I played in all of the teams he played in. The only way I could keep up with those guys was by going as hard as I possibly could

“I was running in hard, a little tearaway fast bowler, playing with guys older than me.

“When I was five, they were eight and when they were Under-17s I was just in High School. When you are playing against older boys, it bring the best out of you.

“My brother Jeremy plays for North Otago.”

And his cricketing heroes? He said: “Jimmy Anderson and Tim Southee were the two guys I looked up to.

“It was pretty cool the first time I played Tim Southee and then against Jimmy Anderson in a tour game a few years ago.

“The first time you face Tim Southee and Trent Boult you are almost starstruck. It takes a while for that to settle down before you start watching the ball!”