The Nikheil Bhana interview

We sat down with Nikheil after he signed on as Grafton's full-time Junior Coach, hit him with a few questions.

When did you first play for Grafton?

I started at Grafton in my first year of primary school in 2002.

What is your fondest junior cricketing memory?

Winning our Tamaki Cup game in Year 5, after getting out on the first ball of the game, I did get the final wicket, a run out off my own bowling with only a few runs to spare. We had an awesome team of all my mates which made it so special.

Who was your sporting hero growing up, whose poster was on your wall?

Benji Marshall, Kiwis '08 World Cup

At what age did you decide that cricket was "your sport"?

I played league for 9 years, but always knew I would finish up after school. I've always loved cricket and was lucky to have a pretty good understanding of the game from a young age. I had a pretty good idea I would pursue cricket when we were playing nonstop cricket at Westmere Primary, and captaining and winning the Innercity tournament.

You went to Western Springs College, how'd you get on at secondary school?

I had the best time at WSC, didn't play a lot of cricket in my last couple of years as I was playing for Gton, we had a pretty good run one year, losing out in the semifinals of the Gillette Cup. I played 1st XIII rugby league as the number 6 or 9, where we were the only team to beat the eventual Auckland and National Champs, Kelston. I was heavily involved with sports the whole time, playing a variety of different sports as well as being the sports leader in my last year.

Can you remember your first Premier game? And how'd you get on?

My first game was a 2dayer against Eden Roskill in 2014/15, we won the first innings and then lost the reverse outright by something like 10 runs. I had a dropped catch of my bowling and scored 6 with the bat (all gracefully guided through the slips...) Definitely an experience and to play against a couple of ex first-class players was awesome.

You played cricket in England, who for and how'd it go?

Thornaby CC up in Middlesbrough in the North Yorkshire, South Durham league. I Scored 147* in my first game while wearing about 7 layers. We came 2nd in my first season (2016), and then we won the League on my 20th Birthday in my 2nd season (2017) over there, which is something I will always remember.

Senior cricketing highlights?

Probably a lot of first times for me personally, reserves debut, premier debut, first wicket (took a while) and more recently; scoring my first premier 100, playing 100 premier games and captaining the team for the last 4 games of this season. Other highlights include winning the Tom Hellaby Trophy in 2016/17 and 2019/20, being at the other end for a lot of milestones for the other boys; Mike Ruffell's first Prem 100 at home and 200 at Waitak, Nathan Fletchers two 100s, and Alex Edwards bringing up 100 in the last game of the season. I've had the absolute pleasure to play with a lot of great people and now have some very close friends through playing for Grafton.

Have you played against any famous players?

Playing against and facing Lockie Ferguson for Parnell last season was a pretty cool experience, it was his comeback game with all the news cameras and reporters there. Also, in one of my first couple of premier games I came up against a Howick side with a couple of names you may recognise; Colin Munro, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell McClenaghan, Donavan Grobbelaar, Glen Phillips, and Shawn Hicks. That was definitely a day to forget, I see it as "character building". See the team list on Facebook.

Lastly, having signed on at Grafton, what are the three things you are looking to achieve in your first 90 days!

    1. Player Development: Winter and pre-season training to learn not just cricket skills, but athletic and motor skills to help build confidence and also an understanding of the game. This will enable all our young athletes to compete to the best of their ability, 
    2. Transformation: Formulate and introduce an improved and exciting new training model for our Cubs (Year 0-1) and softball grades (Year 2-4). Our aim is to make it fun and interactive through a variety of skill-based games and club challenges.
    3. Relationships: Spreading our Grafton Pride throughout existing schools, and building new and on our current fantastic relationships with teachers, parents, our young Lions and Lionesses, as well as with other clubs and coaches