Cricket: Lessons of the mellow maverick

Parore survives a decade on the rollercoaster to set an example to England's new boy
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The Independent Online
FOR A mischievous moment or two Adam Parore considered the proposition that he might fall into the well-stocked category of chirpy wicketkeepers. He smiled, seemed to warm to the idea but then realised it was no good. "Chirpy," he mused, briefly imagining the frequent but jolly exchanges with batsmen that this description conjured up. "No, I would say I'm more like abrasive and rude."

Parore is not a man to beat about the bush, or at least not until he has driven a juggernaut through it. Watching him play and listening to him talk are both experiences which bear repeating and render as nonsense the perception that the New Zealand cricket team is bland going on tedious. He has been in, around and occasionally out of it throughout this decade.

The First Test at Edgbaston, whose loss and the ultimately wretched performance which caused it he was still pondering on Wednesday, was his 50th. Parore is only 28 and if he retains fitness could easily surpass Sir Richard Hadlee's appearance record of 86, number 51 being due at Lord's in the Second Test on 22 July.

"I'd like to keep going for a while now," he said. "I love it, love the feeling of batting, the adrenalin rush that you get from it when you're dealing with a bowler. There's nothing like it. Wicketkeeping is just as good even if it's a different rush. You're out there, part of the team but doing your own job. There's a feeling of serenity."

From confessions of rudeness and abrasiveness to poetic reflection about the nature of the job is some leap but it somehow encapsulates Parore. He is not known as Maverick for nothing. From the time he won his first cap on the Kiwis' tour to England in 1990, and probably before, he has been a singular individual. He knew that he was destined to play for New Zealand since, as he recalled: "I'd been in all the sides on the way up and there didn't seem to be that much competition, so it was a matter of time."

But he seems to loathe those early international days with the reflective passion of a Hollywood ingenue taken advantage of by studio moguls. "It had been a successful team but that didn't necessarily make it a happy one," he said. "Most of them in it were much older than me. I didn't drink and I just sat wide-eyed and wondered what was going on. I really didn't know.

"My reaction was to become too self-absorbed, to worry about my own game and not make enough contribution to the team's cause," he said. "You desperately want their approval and really I ended up just trying to cope. I was playing international cricket but I wasn't an international cricketer."

He learnt how to become one but this did not make his path much smoother. Parore has sometimes appeared to be not so much courting controversy as being determinedly married to it. His wicketkeeping made huge advances thanks to the influence of the former Middlesex and Sussex stumper Ian Gould, but it did nothing to diminish his capacity for rubbing up the New Zealand authorities the wrong way.

The lowest point came in 1995. Unfortunately, it lasted for nearly two years. On 6 February that year, Waitangi Day, the anniversary of the signing of the treaty between Maori chieftains and the British crown which established New Zealand, Parore, batting at seven, scored his maiden Test hundred. It was resonant stuff: he was the first Maori to do so, his great grandfather had been one of the signatories of the document.

Six months later he was replaced as wicketkeeper and told to be a specialist batsman at number three or four. "I must have been the worst Test number three there has ever been," he said. "I resented it, because I thought I was the best man for the role I'd been filling."

The new strategy was put in place by a new coach, Glenn Turner, with a new wicketkeeper, Lee Germon, who also assumed the captaincy. Parore's world was in turmoil. He was on the verge of quitting after a tour of West Indies. Turner, whose man management skills he disparages, was eventually removed from office, Germon followed not long afterwards.

Parore, having been denied a contract with the Board for 1996-97 for comments he had made about the coach, found his career resurrected. John Graham, a former All Blacks rugby international, was installed as team manager and Steve Rixon, a former Australian Test cricketer, was appointed coach. "These are two men that I have complete respect for," said Parore. "They are honest and they are helpful. My game under Steve has certainly come on because he was a wicketkeeper and it's been like having your own personal coach." Not that even under this pair has Parore had unbroken success. It is not the nature of the fellow, never could be. As recently as last winter he was in desperately poor form with the bat and his keeping was suffering. "One thing affects the other. I swear to God over Christmas I never thought I would score another run. I tried everything, I'd run out of ideas. Before a one-day against India, John Graham came down to see me and I told him I was running on empty. He said I should just go and play, enjoy it. I got a few, 30 or 40, and that turned things."

The World Cup showed how much. He flayed the attacks of Australia and India with some joyous late-order pinch hitting and in the Edgbaston Test he stood almost alone in New Zealand's first innings, assembling a beautifully crafted 73. The keeping matched it. But he is a man of more parts than that. Who among other modern Test cricketers would come on a major tour, study for and sit a key exam as part of his law degree? Graham invigilated shortly after New Zealand were defeated in the World Cup semi-final. Parore is pretty sure he passed. "I'm enjoying it in this team. We're close. But I don't want to be remembered as world-class wicketkeeper batsman, you know. I want actually to be a world-class wicketkeeper batsman for three or four years."

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