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Max O’Dowd: Wielding the Willow and Spinning Discs
The Dutch opener talks about preparing for the ODI Super League series in New Zealand and his experience playing for Auckland and Otago's 'A' teams
Albion CC captain Josh Tasman-Jones is one lucky person. He’s had the best seat in the house watching Max O’Dowd rack up a bucket load of runs for the club.
When the Otago cricketer found out about O’Dowd’s move from Auckland to Dunedin to get more game time under his belt, he was excited at the prospect of welcoming an international cricketer to the club. In fact, Tasman-Jones, two years O’Dowd’s senior, knew the Dutch opener from high school with both of them having attended Westlake Boys, but it wasn’t until the 2019-20 club season that their paths crossed “in a cricket sense.”
“He needed a haircut!” quips Tasman-Jones. “Max fitted in like a glove, immediately becoming a part of the group as if he’d been playing with us for years,” he continued.
Being a top-order batter himself, Tasman-Jones shared many partnerships with O’Dowd for Albion and later Otago ‘A’ but he recalls a specific game against Taieri at Brooklands Park fondly.
“Max was having one of those days, middling everything. We were only chasing 120 from memory. I think I went at a run-a-ball for 40 which felt quite pedestrian. Max hit the first two balls for six in one over. We met in the middle as they chased it down the street and I said, ‘surely you go for all six here mate.’ He said ‘absolutely’. He gave it a good crack. Unfortunately, he didn’t hit all six out of the park but he got three sixes and a four.”
A hundred in a T20 club game soon followed before O’Dowd scored heaps of runs for Otago ‘A’ but a first XI opportunity continued to elude him.
“It was special to play with him last season. I observed a man who took care of his craft, could adjust his game to suit different conditions and match situations, and most of all always played for the team. He’s the teammate you dream of. He's a winner, he has fun and plays the game the right way,” added Tasman-Jones.
When he moved to Dunedin, O’Dowd had 36 T20 Internationals under his belt and a couple of ODIs against Zimbabwe, where he averaged 145 across the two games. The world, however, was yet to see the best of him.
He announced himself to the world during a T20I tri-series tour to Nepal in April 2021, where he scored a whirlwind 133 not out against Malaysia. Only Canadian opener Rayyan Pathan scored more runs in 2021 — 312 in six games compared to O’Dowd’s 295 in seven games. An 82 against Scotland followed in the Netherlands’ first ODI on home soil in nearly two years before knocks of 51 and 70 against Ireland and Namibia at the T20 World Cup in October provided a ray of hope in an otherwise dismal campaign in which the Dutch failed to make the Super 12s.
Yet, statistics mean little in the backdrop of gloomy defeats. In their last World Cup fixture, the Netherlands were shot out for 44 batting first.
“I want to win games for the Netherlands which I think is the most important thing,” O’Dowd tells All Over Cricket.
“The more games we win, the more opportunities we get, the more we get out on the main stage, which for us is invaluable. Those runs at the World Cup were great but we lost three games so it was pretty pointless.”
A historic ODI tour to South Africa in late 2021 had to be abandoned after the first match due to border restrictions enforced by the Omicron variant. Stricter border restrictions in New Zealand meant O’Dowd was forced to miss the subsequent tour to Qatar to take on Afghanistan, where the Dutch were blanked 0-3. Instead, he spent some time with his partner after being on the road for ten months and playing for Auckland ‘A’.
Refreshed, he is now playing in a Super League series of three ODIs against New Zealand, the country of his birth.
“Living here for a large portion of my life has helped and I understand what it is like. The wickets tend to get flatter as we go on. For me, it’s about communicating with the guys who haven’t played here as much what the wicket might be doing and how we would go about things.”
New Zealand, who are missing several first-choice players such as Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, and Tim Southee due to IPL commitments, are ranked No. 1 in One-Day Internationals. O’Dowd, who grew up playing against Kyle Jamieson in Auckland, is also familiar with the likes of Blair Tickner and Doug Bracewell.
In the run-up to the series, the Netherlands played two warm-up one-day matches against an New Zealand XI at McLean Park in Napier, the scene of the washed out T20 International. Although rain also impacted the warm-ups, they had a good look at Michael Bracewell, who scored 127 not out and 81 before making his Blackcaps debut in the first ODI.
“There’s not as much pace or bounce as there was in South Africa but certainly more movement. The ball swings for longer. As a bowling unit, we are looking to be more aggressive and look to make the batters play and leave outside their eyeline. As a batting side, it comes back down to the basics.
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“Guys are going to challenge outside our off-stump and it comes solely down to our decision-making. Having that high intent and making the right decisions at the right time will be the most important part. New Zealand have some fantastic bowlers who would bang the same lengths ball after ball and won’t make things easy for us.”
“All I’m thinking about is looking to play as straight as possible throughout the early stages of my innings. When I get a bit of width, I feel that’s my strength. I have got a feeling that guys are going to attack my stumps so for me it’s about trying to stay simple and see off the new ball.”
Away from cricket, O’Dowd enjoys DJing — “spinning the discs” — and making house music sets. His hobby makes sense given his family pedigree: his uncle is an Opera singer and his grandmother played the piano.
“It’s a hobby I’ve loved pretty much my whole life. My mum and dad used to play all the old school deep house tracks when we used to drive around. I have done quite a few gigs in New Zealand when I was a bit younger but I really don’t think it suits my lifestyle now with the late nights. I prefer where I’m at right now, playing cricket and doing it on the sides for friends.”
Being a DJ, he surely must have a pseudonym? “Maxwell. Simple, standard, a little bit cooler. Normally works.” Although, he admits his music may not be for everyone.
“I’m not going to be diplomatic here. I think it’s not great!” says Dutch skipper Pieter Seelaar as he lets out a hearty laugh. “But then again my music is not everyone’s cup of tea. As good a batter he is, I don’t think he’s as good a DJ.”
It may not be the glowing endorsement O’Dowd would have liked but it’s hardly a deterrent. He recently put out a new album and plans to put out more next week.
“I recently did a liquid drum and bass down at Takapuna. It’s up on my YouTube channel. My partner is going to join me in Tauranga so I’m going to try and get her to bring my discs across and then I might just do a sunset session outside the infinity pool over the water. Keep your eyes peeled for that one!”
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