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Jamie How: New Zealand’s promising batsman who didn’t flourish at highest level

Jamie How © Getty Images
Jamie How © Getty Images

New Zealand and Central Districts top-order batsman, Jamie How was born on May 19, 1981. How came across as a fine prospect when he first arrived on the scene. But he has struggled to fulfill his potential since then. Bharath Ramaraj looks back at his career.

Back in 2001, First-Class champions from four countries namely; Australia, India, South Africa and New Zealand fought tooth and nail to lift the Champions Cup Trophy Down Under. Central Districts from New Zealand was one of the teams taking part in the competition.

When the home team, Western Australia (WA) thumped Central Districts at WACA, it didn’t surprise cricket pundits one bit. After all, in Brad Williams, they had someone who charged to the crease like a raging bull and with a piercing glare, unleashed nerve-tingling 90mph missiles. They also had the experienced and strapping-tall pacer, Matthew Nicholson (at that time was playing for Western Australia) to extract awkward bounce on a trampoline wicket. But in the midst of Central Districts batsmen falling like nine pins, the 19 year-old Jamie How stood out.

It was a baptism by fire for How. He though, cajoled and coaxed the ball into gaps. Those fiery pacers from WA didn’t seem to bother him. How only made 39 runs during that innings, but he showcased the tenacity that is required to succeed in international cricket.

Yes, it took him a while to make his mark in the domestic circuit. But 2002-03 onwards, he was in fine form for Central Districts. In fact, during 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05, he was one of the bedrocks of their setup. Those runs helped him to play for New Zealand against Sri Lanka in a One-Day International (ODI) series by the end of 2005. In his debut game itself, he showed equanimity and poise to compile a fine half-century at Queenstown. He followed it up with another well-measured fifty against the touring West Indies team at Wellington in 2006.

How then took the decision of New Zealand selectors to not select him for ICC World Cup 2007 in his stride, and came back into the limelight with a rip-roaring  knock against South Africa at Durban in 2007. Up against a bowling line-up consisting of Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock and Andre Nel, he played with a singular vision to succeed and collected 90 runs. Here was a batsman, who was playing on the up against some fine pacers in their own den; a clear sign that he was in good form.  Unfortunately for New Zealand, they couldn’t hold their nerve, as South Africa won a humdinger of a contest.

Arguably How’s best innings came against England at Napier in 2008. On a batting paradise, England’s batsmen clambered into New Zealand’s bowling and notched up a monstrous total of 340 runs on the board.

Led by How though, New Zealand made a good fist of the chase. How came into bat at No 3 during that innings. He deftly placed the ball into gaps, sprinkled with a dash of bravado and adventurism. He especially, showed a penchant for driving through the covers. It was his century that made it seem like New Zealand would indeed chase down the target. In the end, it turned out to be a pulsating tie.

Those who saw How’s knock wondered whether that century was an epoch-making moment of his career. Unfortunately for him, since that hundred his career has been on a downhill path. The last time he played for New Zealand was during the 2011 World Cup held in the subcontinent. How though, wasn’t impressive during the two games he played in that tournament.

How also has played 19 Tests for New Zealand, but with modest success. When New Zealand upset the apple-cart and beat England at Hamilton, he did shine like a beacon by accruing 92 runs. It was How and Ross Taylor, who helped New Zealand to script a facile win over their fancied opponents.

However since that innings, both Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson were able to get on top of him. They tested his technique outside the off-stump and were successful in tempting him to play at those deliveries.  In his defence, it has to be said though that he did get a few good deliveries. For instance, how can you play the one bowled by Anderson in the first innings to How at Old Trafford in 2008. It pitched on off and then straightened on the line to take How’s edge on the way.

Since notching up a fifty at Old Trafford in 2008, How wasn’t able to score even one half-century. He played his last Test against India at Napier in 2009. How still represents Central Districts in First-Class cricket with diligence. But it seems unlikely that he will again play for his country.

How was a good enough batsman to succeed at the highest level. But again you wonder whether New Zealand’s selectors have been a touch impatient in recent times. There are occasions when you feel that New Zealand’s selectors revolving-door policy has acted as a hurdle in the development of their cricketers.

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)

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