It is time to celebrate one of the great innings in North Otago sport. Duncan Drew is retiring from representative cricket after 89 games, 2725 runs, two centuries and 119 catches for the province. Hayden Meikle puts his old schoolmate in the spotlight one final time.
Q Why now, Dunc? Why is it time to go?
Probably a couple of reasons. We’ve had two weekends with warm-up games and I’ve woken up on the Sunday and been quite glad, when I’ve slowly got out of bed, that I didn’t have to rush out the door to play cricket. The boys know how much strapping tape it takes to keep these hands together. So there are a few warning signs there.
Q And the other reason?
You start talking about the changing of the guard, and realise I know the umpires, the scorers and the coaches better than some of the guys I’m playing against. So I do feel a bit old. Then I read a story about Craig Smith retiring, and I remember playing him when he was a little third-former at St Kevin’s.
Q In recent seasons, as you’ve been a selector, have you been cautious about justifying your place in the team as a batsman?
It’s been tricky at times. Everybody struggles sometimes to score runs in this zone. You always want to do better – I’d hoped to do better. But sometimes I’ve just sort of slotted in when we’ve been short. I’ve batted everywhere. Maybe I’ve held in for a couple more years because we haven’t had the younger guys coming through.
Q What has it meant to you to play for North Otago over 24 years?
Like a lot of people, you think back on how many good mates you made, and the places you saw, and the experiences you had. It’s more about that than chasing stats. Playing good cricket has been fun.
Q You made your debut in 1994. What do you remember?
I was sitting at home with Mum and Dad, and there was a knock on the door. It was a Friday night, and there’s the team van outside with everyone asking what I was doing. I said, “we’re leaving at 6 o’clock in the morning, aren’t we?’ Being a young fellow, you never used to travel away the night before a game. Missing the bus by 12 hours wasn’t a good start.
Q Where was that opening game?
It was over in Alexandra. That was a big experience. I remember fielding on the first day and it was about 30degC. We fielded for 100-plus overs, and then I had to open the batting with half an hour in the day to go.
Q What is your main memory of 2010, when North Otago won the Hawke Cup for the first time?
It was a great group of guys. We always catch up and swap some good yarns about that game. It’s still a wee bit surreal, because it was a bit of the David and Goliath scenario, and we really weren’t expected to beat Manawatu.
Q You scored 102 in the first innings, and put on a crucial 93 for the 10th wicket with your old mate David Sewell. Best innings you’ve ever played?
I’m so old I can’t remember many others. Yeah, I guess it was pretty important. It was just a case of scraping together as many runs as we could. We’d had a previous challenge in Hamilton and it was basically all over in the first day. We were determined to make it a game.
Q Six years later, North Otago went over to Buller and won the Hawke Cup for a second time. Did that feel different?
It was a bit weird. We sort of had a bit of pressure on us because people expected us to beat Buller. Playing on an artificial deck was a bit different too. But it was great. You’d never say no to that sort of experience.
Q You got to play four first-class games for Otago around the turn of the century. How did you enjoy that?
Positives and negatives. One of those games was against England in Queenstown, so I found myself playing against Andy Caddick and Nasser Hussain and a young Andrew Flintoff. I’d gone straight from Oamaru club cricket to playing England. Another game was up in Hamilton. I dropped Scott Styris, and he went on to score 250-odd.
Q What involvement will you still have in cricket?
I can’t get off the North Otago board. Pete Cameron has locked me into a 100-year contract. I’ll still organise the Hawke Cup stuff for a while, and play for Union. And my son, Jonty, is 6 and is starting to play a bit of cricket. So I might just become a follower of him for a while.