Nathan Smith could not have asked for a better summer.
While his North Otago buddies were lamenting the miserable weather, the rising fast bowler was having a breakthrough campaign with the Otago Volts.
Smith (18) expected this to be a season of learning – loitering around the Otago squad like a sort of apprentice – given he was barely out of high school.
“I just wanted to develop as much as possible,” he told the Oamaru Mail
“I got told at the start of the Plunket Shield campaign, back in October, by the coach that I’d be 12th man, and he wanted to keep me around the squad to pick up as much information as I can.
“At that stage, all I wanted was to learn as much as possible.”
Things changed around the turn of the year, and Smith was catapulted from the fringes to the centre of attention.
He ended up becoming an integral part of the Volts’ bowling attack, playing two twenty20 games, four one-day games (taking seven wickets at 26.28) and six Plunket Shield games.
In first-class cricket, he claimed 13 wickets at 32.76 with a best bowling of five for 56, and averaged 24.90 with the bat with a top score of 59.
“I pretty much played every game for Otago from January right through to April, which was cool,” Smith said.
“If you’d offered that at the start of the season, I absolutely would have taken it.
“At the end of the season, the boys were pretty cooked. I’ve never played that much cricket. I was bowling up to 30 overs every game.”
Smith was only slightly below the average age in a very green Otago bowling attack.
He has always had confidence in his ability – though he remains a humble and understated young man – but there was one major lesson he gained from the campaign as the Volts finished last in all three competitions.
“To know I’m not a world-beater – I’m still learning my role.
“I’m sort of in that containing role, bowling as many maidens as possible and letting others attack from the other end. I want to nail that and get more consistent.
“It wasn’t a great feeling to lose so many games. We felt we played most of the cricket in our games but key moments hurt us. One session a game, basically, made the difference.
“That’s what we need to work on for next season – winning those key sessions.”
Smith had the thrill of scoring a debut half-century for the Volts against Wellington.
He has also been talked up by coach Rob Walter as a potential all-rounder, and is eager to ensure his batting develops as much as his bowling.
“I love batting, and that’s a good start. If I can build on my average and spend some time in the middle, that will be really helpful.”
Smith will be part of the New Zealand Cricket training programme over the winter, attending five week-long camps with other elite young players in Christchurch, and plans to spend some time in the gym to muscle up.
He is doing three commerce papers at the University of Otago and enjoying living at Arana Hall.
Smith’s brother, Jeremy, is also set for a busy winter. He left Oamaru last week for another season with the Long Marston club in England.
Jeremy has been made captain of the club, a reflection of his growing maturity and talent.