Ben Sears wants to go as fast as possible – but knows his hoped-for rise to the top won’t come instantly.
Sears will be part of the Black Caps squad to contest the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series against Australia next week in Cairns, but the 24-year-old believes he’s not yet ready to force his way past the established stars.
The gangly Wellington pace bowler sits in the pecking order behind established stars Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry as New Zealand prepare for three one-day internationals against the hosts.
“I’m a wee way off yet,” Sears said this week. “There’s some pretty outstanding cricketers in front of me.”
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Black Caps bowling coach Shane Jurgensen agrees, while being excited about the future for Sears, who is also studying for a law degree.
“He’s one of the very few cricket players I’ve seen reading a book on the bus,” Jurgensen laughed.
“The opportunities will certainly be there in the future for him.
“There’s no rush – but he’s presented himself well with the winter tours when he’s had the opportunity to play.”
Sears said he was able to learn from the established quick bowlers when an injury replacement for Henry in the white-ball squad which recently defeated the West Indies.
“How clear they all are in their processes – how simple it is for them, that’s what I picked up most.
“For me I think it’s consistency really … hammering a length for longer, that’s what you see with Boult and Southee and Ferguson is just how consistent they are with their skills. So they’re able to stay in the competition long enough to get a wicket. “
Sears has played six T20 internationals for New Zealand, with his debut an unmemorable one in a defeat to Bangladesh in September 2021 with a second-string Black Caps side in which he bowled just one over and conceded 11 runs.
He’s still a relative rookie domestically too – the son of former Wellington seamer Mike Sears has played just 14 first-class games, but already has taken 46 wickets at 25.71.
He’s proved a handful in the Super Smash T20 competition, capturing 34 wickets at 19.38, with a strike-rate of 15.35 and an economy-rate of 7.57.
Wellington Firebirds team-mate and Black Caps top-order star Devon Conway made cricket fans aware of Sears’ quickness at the start of last year when he described him as one of the scariest bowlers he’d faced – “probably the quickest bowler in New Zealand and potentially one of the quickest in the world ”- while then Wellington coach Glenn Pocknall felt Sears was as quick as Ferguson when at his best.
“I’ve always wanted to bowl quickly,” said Sears, who played in Hutt Valley teams as a teen with promising New Zealand batter and spin bowler Rachin Ravindra, with them graduating at the same time to the national under-19 squad.
“I certainly try to [bowl fast]. You’ve got to bowl to your strengths and get as much out of it as you can. That’s my focus.
“Last year was probably the first season I got through without being injured. It’s just stacking bowling – trying to get as many overs under my belt as possible and get my body used to bowling.
“I’ve had some troubles with my ankles in the past but I’ve been pretty lucky with my back.”
Jurgensen said he’s been really impressed with Sears’ skills.
Since has debut in Bangladesh, Sears has taken six T20 wickets for the Black Caps at 22.66, with a strike-rate of 19 against world cricket’s lesser-lights. His best showing di lui was 3-22 off four overs versus the Netherlands in August at The Hague, with two of his scalps coming via quick bouncers.
“Against the Netherlands and Scotland, I was really impressed with his variations and change-ups … slower ball, slower ball bouncer, yorker,” Jurgensen said.
“All those things you need to have in the white-ball format. Also his calmness of him under pressure was impressive. “
Jurgensen said Sears was still growing into his body.
”He’ll continue to work hard to get stronger and to cope with the demands of international cricket, which is probably one of the more important things.
“Guys like Tim and Trent, Neil Wagner, they’ve been doing it for a long time for New Zealand, being physically really fit and strong and being able to cope with the consistent demands of international cricket. That’s certainly an area he’ll look to improve. “
Sears can look like a tangle of long limbs when delivering his thunderbolts, accompanied by an energetic and sometimes tumbling follow-through.
“He has bit of a unique style but also has a good core bowling action, and long levers. He has a point of difference, ”Jurgensen said.
”It’s about making sure he’s strong and keeps that lean build. You look at the bowling group that we’ve got now – they’re quite lean, wiry builds. Injuries have kept him out of the game for long periods but in the last 12-18 months he’s been playing a lot more cricket for Wellington. The benefits from being on the park to build that resilience he needs to have a career in international cricket. “
Sears is hopeful to build that resilience during the domestic Plunket Shield season, with a spot in the Black Caps test side among his goals.
“Red ball is where you learn to bowl – you get lots of overs under your belt.
“I’m trying to work out how to swing it more – I’d love to be able to move it, and I’m trying to do it more consistently.”
Jurgensen said one thing is certain: “He wants to bowl fast”.
”I’m certainly not going to get in the way of that. He’ll always have that fire in the belly to bowl fast, and it’s just a matter of having the cricket smarts and the experience and that’ll come.
“With his extra pace, he can offer that point of difference in test cricket which most teams need.”