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Summer game . . . North Otago cricket captain Jeremiah Shields (left) fields in the slips alongside Lachie Kingan. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

Jeremiah Shields is a big man, and he is happy to put himself in the firing line as an opener for the North Otago cricket team. He is also relishing the experience of captaining the Hawke Cup squad, which this weekend heads to Invercargill to play Southland. Shields talks to Hayden Meikle.

Q How old are you, mate?
I’m 31.

Q How are you finding your first season as North Otago cricket captain?
I’ve captained Union for a few years, so I’ve had some experience. But this is a different level. There’s a bit more experience around me, so maybe it should be easier, but I guess that’s only the case when you’re winning. If you’re on the back foot, it’s a bit tougher. You’ve got to rally the troops. We don’t have everybody at our disposal that we could have thanks to retirements and younger guys making a name for themselves and getting higher honours.

Q You’re off to play Southland in Invercargill. Prepared for a tough weekend?
It’s a massive challenge. We’re going to be missing some of our young stars who are away with Otago under-19 and under-17. Llewy Johnson, Mason James, Tom Dempster – so we lose quite a bit. We’re in a bit of a rebuilding phase anyway, so it’s a chance for some guys to step up into Hawke Cup cricket and have a crack.

Q You’ve played 34 games for North Otago over seven seasons. Your record is quite modest – you’re averaging about 12 with the bat, according to Scott Cameron’s stats. Does that sort of illustrate the challenging gap between club cricket and the Hawke Cup?
Yeah, it’s not the flashest. But for me, two-day cricket has never been about scoring big runs. It’s about blunting the attack for the likes of Jeremy Smith and Francois Mostert to come in and make the most of an old ball. So basically I’ve gone away from my natural game. I like to hit the ball and to score runs freely. But at this level, as an opener, it’s actually quite tough. I don’t think you see many openers getting hundreds at this level. It’s a team game, and my job is to try to blunt the attack for a bit and hopefully they get a bit tired.

Q Has it been a frustrating season with all this rain?
Personally, I haven’t found it too bad, because I’ve just come off a season in England. But it does get frustrating not being able to train. In our game against South Canterbury, you could tell we lacked bowling fitness and time with the bat.

Shields playing rugby for the Olney club in England.

Q Run me through what you’ve experienced overseas with both cricket and rugby.
I first went over to England to the Olney rugby club, which is where my brother Thomas also played. My younger brother Isaac also went over, so I did two seasons at Olney with him. We came close to getting all three brothers on the park, but Tommo was either in Portugal or back in New Zealand. And in between I did a cricket season with Olney Town. It’s a different sort of standard, but it was good to play on some surfaces that allowed for shot-making. I scored a few runs, which was good.

Q Do you like this trend of young North Otago people heading overseas through sport?
Yeah, I probably could have embraced that opportunity a bit earlier in my career. But I wouldn’t change anything. The two years I spent in England were among the best times of my life. I got around Europe for a bit of a look, and went on a tour with the Ambassadors XV rugby team to the Czech Republic. That was an eye-opener.

Q What’s the plan now? Stay in Oamaru and keep playing cricket and rugby?
Definitely planning to stay here now. But I might scale back on rugby a bit. I’ve taken a few head knocks and I’ve probably been a typically stubborn front-rower about them. I’m hoping to get into some coaching at Waitaki Boys’. I’ve offered to get involved in some way. It would be nice to go back to where it all began.

Q What do you do for a crust?
I work in the freezers at Pukeuri. Carver and handler.