Sometimes we really wonder what would have happened had we got to see the complete career of bowlers who could not do so because of recurring injuries. There are many players in the past and present that showed enough talent to go on and make a name for themselves but recurrent injuries prevented them from achieving full potential. Every team has a fair share of such players but New Zealand seems to top that list - to name a few, Geoff Allot, Dion Nash, Simon Doull, Shane Bond and Jacob Oram - with players either ending their career prematurely or not continuing it the manner they would have liked. Mark Gillespie, the 33-year-old pace bowler from Wellington, falls in the latter category. With a five-for on Test debut against South Africa in 2007-08, Gillespie looked like a good prospect for the Black Caps.
He backed up his maiden performance with six wickets against England in March the next year. One more outing against West Indies later that year before a back injury cut short his run, keeping him out of the international scene for three years. Gillespie, who is touring India with the New Zealand A side at present, believes his career could have been much different had he not suffered frequent injuries.
"I missed two-and-half years through injuries; a large chunk of my playing career went there. Then there were other players who did well," Gillespie told Cricketnext from Visakhapatnam. "I tried to make the best of every opportunity that I got, taking five wickets on debut and four and two in the next match. But unfortunately because of injuries I couldn't play as much as I could have. I should have played more but at the end of the day it is what it is. There is no point dwelling about now the Tests that I missed due to injuries."
After being in oblivion in what could have been the prime of his career, Gillespie recovered and played first-class cricket, taking 30 wickets in six matches in the 2011-12 season and earned a Test call up for the South Africa series at home. He took 5 for 59 and 6 for 113 in back-to-back Tests, finishing as the leading wicket-taker in the series. But then an ankle injury ruled him out of the tours of the West Indies and Sri Lanka. He then got a call-up as a replacement for the South Africa tour but missed out again as he picked up a side strain. But more wickets (50 at 32.22) in the 2012-13 season kept him in the Test reckoning.
With no international outing for close to one-and-a-years, Gillespie knows the importance of the back-to-back A tours of India and Sri Lanka, especially with the Bangladesh trip coming up in October. "For me this tour is more about preparing for the Bangladesh Tests in October. That's my aim for now. To make sure that I am fit and get plenty of bowling under my belt before the Bangladesh Tests starts," said Gillespie, who was also part of the New Zealand squad for the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy but couldn't get a game.
Talking further about his bowling, Gillespie said the general perception that he is a specialist death bowler in limited-overs cricket is true but bowling with the red ball is his primary strength. "I am very good red-ball bowler as well and not just a death bowler in limited overs. I am not currently in the picture in limited-overs for the Black Caps. I think the red ball and long format are probably my primary strengths. New Zealand cricket is looking to specialised formats at the moment. Some guys focus on Test cricket and some on one-day cricket. I am one of those guys who have been left to focus on Test cricket."
When asked what he thought about the current crop of Indian players whom he bowled to in a three-day game a few days ago, Gillespie said: "it's pretty hard to tell from one day's cricket. [Abhishek] Nayar [who is leading the India A side and scored a century] and young guy on debut Vijay Zol [who too scored a hundred on debut] both batted well. We learned quite a bit about them and will use it when we face them again."