Former NZ opener in Indian shores for a different role

Gary Stead, who played five Tests for the Black Caps, including one in Ahmedabad, is back in the country to help his students at the Canterbury Cricket Club play spin.

Gary Stead (left) at the coaching camp at Thoraipakkam in Chennai.   -  Shayan Acharya

A gentleman laughed out loudly even before he could complete his sentence. All this while he was trying to explain why the tour to Chennai is set to be a learning experience for his students at New Zealand's Canterbury Cricket Club.

But the expression changed as Gary Stead — a former Kiwi batsman — was told about his envious feat. In all the five Tests that he played for the Black Caps, Stead was never dismissed in single figures. “It’s good to know that people know about it. That’s good reporting,” Stead told Sportstar with a smile.

Read: The Canterbury tales of Thoraipakkam

In his international career, he played five Tests in nine months in 1999, but Stead failed to bring in the required steadiness. But then, over the years, he has made it a point to ensure that the youngsters don’t go through a similar phase. As a coach with Canterbury, Stead believes in thriving for success. “Coming to India is about thrusting yourself as to how you play spin and that’s what we are trying to get with our guys,” he said.

‘Different’

As the conversation went on, Stead’s respect for India was hard to miss. By his own admission, this is a country where he loves coming. “It helps you learn. It is so different from the conditions back home,” he said.

As he spoke, it brought back memories for the former opener. This is his fourth visit to the country, but he still remembers the first time he was in India with the New Zealand U-23 side. “Rahul Dravid was leading the Indian team. We played a good series against them,” Stead said.

The second visit was even more memorable. In 1999, Stead was in Ahmedabad to play a Test match against India. After being dismissed by Anil Kumble for 17 in the first innings, Stead managed to pull one back in the second innings, scoring 78. That innings eventually helped his side salvage a draw. That, however, was not enough to please the selectors as he was soon dumped from the national side.

 

‘Fearsome’ cricketers

Years later, Stead has no regrets. He feels, the change in the format of the game has made the players fearsome. “The game is played at a faster rate now. The game has moved on. The T20 leagues like the IPL and other things have made it faster. Players are fearsome these days,” he said.

After calling it quits as a cricketer, Stead joined the White Ferns as coach, and later took charge at Canterbury. He believes those stints helped him improve as a coach.

Stead has made it a point to follow New Zealand cricket closely. He feels that the side got back the winning confidence because of its former skipper Brendon McCullum. “He brought a lot of thrust in the side and in the game plan. The way he played was quite infectious and that gave confidence to the team. That’s how New Zealand has an impact as they got back the confidence,” Stead said.

‘Right place’

The new-found spirit has been successfully followed by the existing players, and Stead feels that’s a good thing. “Vettori and McCullum are very good players, they can’t just be replaced. The players like Ross Taylor are doing very well, and Kane Williamson has had a fantastic career. He is one of the best players in the world, who can bat in all formats. He has a lot of pressure for captaincy, but he has put the team at the right place,” the former opener opined.

With Canterbury’s camp continuing till the end of the month, Stead will have more opportunities to explore the Indian conditions. He would perhaps try to get his wards used to playing in the conditions, which looked alien once upon a time.

But with experience, Stead now surely knows what it takes to steady the ship.