Mitchell Santner- Uncomplicated, Competitive & Compelling: The prototype of a Kiwi Cricketer

image-ldr8zegkSantner lead New Zealand in T20Is versus India (Associated Press)

An extremely focused cricketer committed to the cause of making an already competitive New Zealand side even more competitive, Mitchell Santner turns 31 today. 

But it’s interesting and impressive in equal measure to how far has Santner come in the international ambit of the sport having begun back in 2015. 

Something that can be well ascertained by the fact that the recently completed white ball series in India was Mitchell Santner’s maiden assignment as the Blackcaps captain; the temporary leadership role coming in the wake of regular captain Kane Williamson missing out this time around.  

It’s interesting to reflect on the time during which Mitchell Santner or Hamilton rose to become a New Zealand international. 

Back in 2015, Williamson was just on the heels of the side’s leadership. Nathan McCullum wasn’t getting any younger. Ish Sodhi was barely a year old in the sport. The great Brendon McCullum was on his way out. The likes of Guptill, a bludgeoning batter, were showing signs of patchy form post the men’s ODI World Cup and the multi-faceted Neesham was sort of in and out of the white ball side. 

The side needed a burst of young talents that could add more wind to the flight of the Kiwis. 

Along came Mitchell Santner. 

And it took him less than a year, 10 months to be precise, to show he belonged to the top echelons of the game starring in a famous T20 World Cup win thanks to a brilliant spell of slow left arm orthodox bowling. 

In the thirteenth game of the widely-watched series, Santner first starred with the bat, smoking 18 off just 7 deliveries, doing a bit of Chris Gayle with the bat and later spurred on his New Zealand side to a memorable victory over India. 

In snatching four wickets, all of them big that of Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Suresh Raina and none other than MS Dhoni, Santner spun a web of variable spin and clever deception around a celebrated Indian side. 

His figures of 4 for 11, which to this day happen to be his best spell, enabled the usually understated New Zealand side punch above their weight. 

But it’s not that Mitchell Santner hasn’t bowled more spells with economy as their central highlight in the years hence. 

Just a few days back, his 2 for 11 in the amazing Ranchi T20I proved to be his second most economical spell in the format. 

In a game where Suryakumar Yadav and Washington Sundar didn’t shy away from depositing just about anything into the stands, Santner emerged as the unconquerable challenge in the batters’ path. 

He even bowled a maiden. Though the biggest result of captain Mitchell Santner’s effort was a win, the only earned by the Blackcaps on an otherwise forgettable series. 

While he’s surprisingly not given much of a chance in Tests, where in addition to compiling 766 runs, Santner has already picked 41 scalps from 24 games, he’s made most of the chances afforded in white ball cricket, truly excelling in T20 internationals. 

And it is here where, truth be told, Santner’s real success is exemplified by the large stack of wickets he’s picked against top notched sides. 

Surely, anyone can exhibit power against the out of form West Indies side and tear apart outfits such as Scotland and Afghanistan but it’s always a challenge to excel against the Indians, Australians and the English. 

In snapping 18 T20I wickets versus India, 17 against England and 12 versus the Aussies, Santner’s collected a lions’s share of his victims against some of the best bats in the game, whether one thinks of a Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Steven Smith or Glenn Maxwell. 

Unafraid to toss the ball up, making flighted deliveries a regular fixture, Santner’s acted as a thinking spinner, not one who’s just keen to rush up his spells or just get the job done without giving his cricket much of a thought. 

Perhaps the prime reason that makes him a vital pick in any New Zealand eleven. 

He’s even nearing 1,500 ODI runs having batted in 70 innings thus far, where it could be said an underestimated factor about his game is the ability to emerge unbeaten. 

Perhaps if there’s such a thing as an unsung factor (besides that impressive strike rate of 89 in the format) of the many concerning New Zealand cricket, then it’s Santner emerging not out in 26 of his 70 ODI innings. 

Moreover, he needs but 7 more games to touch a fine landmark, that of representing his bustling side in 100 one dayers. 

But should his credentials warrant more representation at the elite Test level? Probably that’s something that the Kiwi selectors ever vary of player workload management should give a good think about. 

An uncomplicated cricketer who eschews lewd mannerisms or mind games and just focuses on how to offer utility to his side, here’s wishing Mitchell Santner many more years of compelling success. 

Truly, a Kiwi side minus his talent is hard to imagine in any firmament of contemporary cricket.

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