Dubai: When Covid shut down many countries including New Zealand it was unpredictable times. So was the future of Dean Foxcroft when he was stuck in his native South Africa and was unable to return to New Zealand for more than two years.
Today the 25-year-old batting all-rounder is in a much happier place when he finally earned his maiden call-up to the senior New Zealand men’s squad for the three-match T20I series against UAE which gets under way on Thursday in Dubai.
“Definitely, there were times I didn’t know what would happen with Covid. The journey [since Covid] has been filled with a lot of ups and downs, albeit mostly downs,” Dean Foxcroft told Gulf News on the sidelines of a New Zealand’s training session at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
“The two years [2020-22] for me has been pretty weird, but at the same time, the last season with cricket obviously went really well. For me, just to forget about the Covid times and to focus on the now, what’s in front of me is important and enjoy the process. Like I said, the last season I enjoyed my cricket and it’s good to be back and play cricket in New Zealand, and get recognition by Team New Zealand,” he added.
Stranded in South Africa
Foxcroft, who moved to New Zealand in 2016 after completing his schooling, visited South Africa for his university exams and meet family and friends when the pandemic hit in March 2020. This left him stranded and New Zealand closing its borders made matters worse. After two years of agonising wait, Foxcroft finally returned to New Zealand in September last year and returned to cricketing action. “The support of my wife and family has been awesome that helped me through the tough times. It was tough but we got through it in the end. Even though I was lucky to go back to New Zealand, but yes there were times during Covid I thought I wouldn’t be able to get back and felt the dream fading away.
“But I was lucky it didn’t work out like that and got to the end of the tunnel,” said the all-rounder, who was named domestic player of the year at the NZC awards in March.
He was the top run-getter in the Super Smash T20 competition, scoring 424 runs for Otago at an average of 47.11 and a strike rate of 131.26, and also took nine wickets in the tournament with an economy rate of 7.15. He also did well in the Plunket Shield first-class competition, in which he was Otago’s top run-getter with 631 while also picking up seven wickets.
“I am excited to be part of the team. It’s a good opportunity for myself and a lot of the other boys as well to prove a point of belonging to the squad. We looking forward to this opportunity and it’s a great time to be over here in Dubai. It’s obviously winter back home but it’s nice and warm in the UAE. The boys are embracing the challenge in this heat and enjoying it by playing good cricket.”
He said the series gives the boys a good chance to prove themselves keeping the ICC T20 World Cup in mind that is scheduled for next year. “There are a lot of boys who want to prove a point and try and push for selection for the World Cup, and it’s a great opportunity for a lot of us. In terms of preparation for New Zealand Cricket in general, it’s a great opportunity to come to the sub-continent, enjoy the heat and different cultures, but for us it is a long journey as there is a series in the UK in the next stop and then a series in Bangladesh just before the World Cup. So for us it is to just embrace the challenge, enjoy and actually learn from it, and take it forward to the World Cup.”
'Slowly sinking in'
Equally excited was Adithya Ashok who also earned his debut call for the men’s squad. The 20-year-old legspinner, who was part of the New Zealand’s squad at the Under-19 World Cup, had a fruitful year last year making a significant impact in the domestic circuit.
“It still hasn’t quite sunk in. The more are more time I spend with the team it’s slowly sinking in,” Ashok, whose family moved to Auckland from India when he was just four years old.
“It’s a great opportunity to be part of a competitive side, it gives the space to learn and be reflective of the environment. Getting to learn a lot of things from the group,” said Ashok, who was playing cricket with the Colchester and East Essex Cricket Club before he joined the team in Dubai.
August 17: UAE v New Zealand
First T20I, Dubai International Cricket Stadium
August 19: UAE v New Zealand
Second T20I, Dubai International Cricket Stadium
August 20: UAE v New Zealand
Third T20I, Dubai International Cricket Stadium