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Turner second to none – Cumming

He may not have been the favourite among some New Zealand cricketers, but former Black Caps and Otago coach Glenn Turner certainly struck a chord with outgoing Otago veteran Craig Cumming.

Cumming, who ended his stellar 19-year first-class career in March this year – 12 of which were with Otago – was glowing in his praise of the hard-nosed Turner when he spoke to Third Man Cricket.

“Glenn was one of the reasons I moved south,” Cumming said of his move from Canterbury to Otago in the late 1990s.

“His skills as a batting coach were second to none.

“At times, Glenn has been criticised but I found him great. He challenged you to improve in all areas and I really enjoyed his consistency in everything.

“I think, at times, players wanted to be cuddled but that is not the way Glenn operated.

“You’re picked to do the job and his expectations were that you should perform that role. However, if you had any problems, he would help you as much as anybody.”

Cumming also attributed much of the Otago team’s turnaround in the late 2000s to Turner, who laid the groundwork for incoming coach Mike Hesson.

Hesson’s side became the first Otago team in twenty years to win a national title when it won the one-day competition in 2007-08. It followed that up with a twenty20 title the following year, and with it a place in the Champions Trophy tournament in India.

The successes ended a decade of woe for Otago fans in which its side was a perennial easy-beat and didn’t come close to snatching a title.

“The major changes to the team started with Glenn,” Cumming said.

“He changed our philosophies in the three formats and realised that we needed to look at recruiting some players, as we did not have the depth in all departments in the squad.

“Glenn also took over when player contracts came into our game and instilled an expectation of professionalism that hadn’t been demanded before.

“Mike took over the team and basically took us to the next level.

“His management and people skills added to the skills the players had developed under Glenn.

“Also, Mike was very proactive in planning and started what was a new scheme by importing a professional to the province, adding to our depth.”

Cumming says he never questioned his decision to move to Dunedin, even though the side was in the doldrums. “Not once did I ever regret the move,” he said.

“If anything, every day I became more thankful.

“It was certainly tough for a few years as we had to change a lot of things on and off the park but, after hitting an all-time low as a team in my second year, things started to change, which made it exciting.”

For Otago fans, it’s just as well he did stay, as he went on to become one of the province’s most successful cricketers in its history. The blue-and-gold stalwart left the game as Otago Cricket’s all-time run-scorer with 6381 runs and leading century-maker with 17.

It is something Cumming looks back on with a great sense of satisfaction.

“It is certainly something I am very proud of, maybe more so because I never had any thoughts or beliefs that that would happen,” he said.

“I have always been a strong student of the game and its history and when your name is mentioned alongside the likes of Turner and Bert Sutcliffe, in terms of domestic achievements, you feel very humbled.

“For me, my motivation has always been about the team and wanting the team to win so hopefully along the way the runs that I scored made a difference.”

His dominant form for Otago led to his call-up to the national side in 2005, where he scored 74 on test debut against Australia in Christchurch.

His runs most certainly did make a difference but, just as important to Otago as his flowing cover drives and crunching pull shots were his intelligence and nouce as a captain of a talented but developing squad.

It was fitting he was in the middle as Brendon McCullum launched the Volts to its 2007-08 one-day title with a bludgeoning 170 in the final against Auckland. Otago chased down 310 in just 42 overs that day, the captain rating his part in the victory as one of his career highlights.

“It’s always tough to compare innings but I certainly enjoyed the 83 not out in the State Shield final. “To hit the winning runs was very special, but also to be at the opposite end to Brendon and having the best seat in the house as he smashed his way to 170 was brilliant.

“In first-class cricket, all hundreds are special, but it took until number 13 or 14 until we won a game when I scored a hundred against Auckland.”

As he leaves his beloved Otago side, Cumming is more than comfortable with where the province is at and has high hopes for the team after a disappointing 2011-12.

“When I started, we were not very competitive in any forms of the game and really struggled with player depth whereas, now, we believe if we play to our potential we can win any game in any form.

“Also, we now have to leave competent players out of the playing 11 or squad of 12.

“I actually believe the group there now has more potential than any team I was involved in, and am excited about watching this group progress in the next couple of years.”

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