Saturday, December 19, 2009

One more shot for Lou

Lou Vincent is giving cricket in New Zealand one last chance. The 31-year-old has been living mainly in Britain since moving on from the failed Indian Cricket League. He can potentially qualify to play for England in less than two years.

"I'm still classified as an overseas player there until I get my residency and passport," Vincent says. "That means I could play as a local on the county scene. That's an option but I'm going to test myself in New Zealand first.

"Cricket's been back on my mind in recent months. I want to get back to the top level. It's time to give it one more crack. I wanted to come back and play rather than have a holiday. I can't guarantee a place with Auckland this summer but I'm going to be training every day to prove my worth."

Vincent played for Takapuna yesterday having taken his wife Elly and daughters Molly and Bessie back to their Kaukapakapa property on Friday. He hopes to join the Auckland squad next week and could play for them in the one-day competition before the domestic Twenty20 showpiece next month.

Former Auckland and now New Zealand assistant coach Mark O'Donnell says the province is lucky to have Vincent.

"Auckland's fallen on its feet with Lou turning up. He can definitely play. Provided he's motivated, he's a huge asset; a pleasure to coach."

That hasn't always been the case. Vincent has dealt with - and continues to deal with - depression, which he monitors through medication.

"It's going to be an ongoing battle. Looking back, I was surprised to see how much I'd spiralled into a hole. You can tend to search for things to snap you out of it but in the end it's taken a lot of work and patience from my family.

"I needed to break from the cycle of cricket. You blame things to justify why life's not going great but eventually I realised my attitude wasn't right either. I needed to rebuild it from rock bottom and hopefully become a better person. It's not nice when you lose direction in life.

"You've got to re-train the brain to tackle those nasty little voices. When the monkey on the shoulder is talking, you've got to stand up to him, but it takes time. It's so easy to slip back into what's comfortable."

O'Donnell says it's also a tough thing to coach around.

"Luckily we had a really good guy involved to monitor the situation called Dr Ian Lambie. Lou was also open and honest, as Lou is. He'd say 'I can do today, I can't do today, I need a couple of weeks or I'm fine'. You just had to play it by ear, for want of a more technical term."

The demise of the ICL didn't help Vincent's state of mind.

"It was up and down for me, having just fought the demons of playing in New Zealand. I came straight into a new environment but didn't have the hunger for cricket and my performances were poor. They [the organisers] ended up lying to us quite a bit too about the whole payment thing and it's cost a lot of guys money.

"It's sad when you enter any agreement and get let down like that. It was stressful. But in terms of the cricket progression it didn't really faze me. When it fell over I was like 'oh well, I'm not that interested'. I've rebuilt my attitude now. Unfortunately it takes massive setbacks in life to grow up.

"I then signed for Lancashire, which went well. [Former Australian batsman] Stuart Law got me involved on a short term contract which ended up being until the end of the season. I got a hundred in the Twenty20, which gave me a lot of confidence."

However, Vincent scored just 272 runs at 24.72 in 12 first-class innings for Lancashire and was released.

"The second season of ICL went even worse for me," says Vincent. "That's when I decided to get away from professional cricket and concentrate on my health and family."

At this stage, Vincent will return for the UK summer to play with Nantwich in the minor county league of Cheshire.

Can he make it again at international level? Vincent's been a dynamic batsman in all forms of the game.

He's also come home when New Zealand has a battle shoring up the test middle order.

Vincent played 23 tests for three centuries and nine fifties with an average of 34.15.

He fell out of favour under the John Bracewell regime leading into the summer of 2005-06 when he stated a preference for batting down the order rather than opening - after averaging 56.66 in his previous nine innings. Vincent only played one test after that, in South Africa in late 2007.

"He would obviously have to perform and do damned well at domestic level," says O'Donnell. "You'd be remiss if you didn't consider him, though."

Says Vincent: "The thought of playing for New Zealand has been on my mind, but at what stage I don't know. I was born to play cricket. It's been sad to lose that ambition but to have it back is enlightening. I'm just amping to get stuck in.

"I'd like to think I'm more in tune. It's going to be interesting to see if I'm as good as I was ... or better.

"I've spent time trying to be a good husband and father, picking up the odd bit of work here and there off the field. I kept busy but for me, it was more about getting away from cricket."

In fact it made Vincent into a jack-of-some-trades. He did cabinetmaking and bricklaying, adding to his skills as a home handyman.

His DIY showpiece is arguably the golf deck and green he has built at Kaukapakapa. When he hasn't got the pads on, that's where he'll be this summer.

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