New Zealand named their squad to play the season-ending T20I series against Bangladesh and as was widely tipped, it will see a potential debut for explosive Wellington opener Finn Allen.
The right-hander was at home in Auckland with extended family who gathered to say goodbye before he prepared to leave for the Indian Premier League, when he saw he had a call from Black Caps selector-coach Gary Stead. He left the room to take the call.
"I came out with a pretty big grin on my face," he said. "It's awesome to get that opportunity. I mean, who doesn't want to play for their country?"
It caps a meteoric rise for the 21-year-old who a year ago was languishing on the fringes of the Auckland squad. Since then he has signed for Wellington, set records in the Super Smash, was called up as injury cover for Martin Guptill in the Black Caps, earned an IPL contract and now has a chance to prove himself at international level ahead of the World T20 in India this year.
"I'm so grateful to Cricket Wellington for giving me the opportunities," he said.
The gratitude would be mutual.
Allen was a pivotal part of Wellington's successful Super Smash side, scoring a competition-best 512 runs at an average of 56.9 and an eye-popping strike rate of 193.9.
His approach is based on aggression, so he likes to call it "intent" and putting the new-ball bowlers under the cosh from ball one.
"For me [the key] is the simplicity of what I'm trying to do when I'm out there," he said. "Keeping my head as clear I can and literally just focusing on watching the ball and trying to hit it as hard as I can."
His numbers paint a very modern picture. While Allen averages a touch over 48 in T20s, he hovers around 25 in List A cricket and under 20 in limited first-class opportunities since making his debut in 2018. This month he was signed by Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore as a replacement for Australia's Josh Philippe. At a shade under $40,000 his contract will not put him in the millionaire's club but it was still a stunning opportunity for a player yet to wear national colours at senior level.
Adam Milne will be more familiar to fans, having played 61 times for his country across the white ball formats.
Milne, 28, made his debut for the Black Caps in 2010 as a teenage tearaway but the rigours of flat-out fast bowling on a slight frame have meant that injury has been a constant companion.
Of late Milne has become a specialist T20 bowler, turning in consistent performances for the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash. He has a $670,000 contract with the Mumbai Indians for the upcoming IPL and has been training with Central Districts since leaving managed isolation.
Six regulars, including Kane Williamson are missing. He is joined on the sidelines for this series by Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Jimmy Neesham, Tim Seifert and Trent Boult.
Devon Conway will have the added responsibility of taking the gloves, while Will Young has been included as a top order option.
Speedster Lockie Ferguson has recovered from a stress fracture and returns.
"It's certainly been a season like no other and once again we've had to be pragmatic in our approach," selector Gavin Larsen said.
"The six guys who will miss this series are incumbents in our T20 side and the decision to give them some time at home with family before they embark on a long stint in India was principally made with their welfare in mind.
"We're also very aware of the need to give others opportunities in a World Cup year."
NZ squad to face Bangladesh: Tim Southee (c), Martin Guptill, Finn Allen, Devon Conway, Will Young, Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Daryl Mitchell, Adam Milne, Lockie Ferguson, Ish Sodhi, Todd Astle, Hamish Bennett.
text by Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald