New Zealand named their 2021 World T20 squad this week, and while the Black Caps will field a strong side, there is one glaring omission: Colin Munro isn’t in the team.
There are three New Zealand players with over 7000 T20 career runs: Brendon McCullum has more than 9000 runs, Martin Guptill has 7826 and Munro sits on 7356 in the shortest format. Among the trio Munro is the only player to have an average over 30 and score at a strike rate over 140 in T20 cricket.
If you move to T20 internationals, very few New Zealand players have had the impact Munro has had. In 62 innings for New Zealand Munro has scored over 1700 runs at an average of 31.34 and a strike rate of 156.44, the highest strike rate among New Zealand cricketers with more than 350 T20 runs in internationals.
Despite all this, the T20 superstar will not be playing for his country in the 2021 World T20.
Munro expressed his disappointment from being excluded on his Instagram story shortly after the squad was named
“Extremely gutted to miss out on this, was definitely a goal of mine that I wanted to tick off,” he said, “Looks like I [may] have played my last game for [the Black Caps] not by choice.”
Coming into the 2020 home summer for the Black Caps, Munro made himself unavailable for their home T20 series against West Indies and Pakistan to play in the Big Bash League. While there had always been a franchise vs country debate, I saw nothing wrong with it. Munro does not play first-class cricket for Auckland anymore after getting only one Test for New Zealand despite averaging over 51 in first-class cricket.
As Munro plays only T20s for New Zealand, franchise leagues are his only source of income, which he is in his right to chase as an athlete with a limited number of years to play professional sport. And then there’s the fact the games he was playing in Australia before the 2022 T20 World Cup were in hindsight was one of the best ways to prepare for the tournament in Australian conditions for a T20 cricketer.
This is not the first time New Zealand have discarded one of their own after they decided to chase the cash in T20 leagues. Mitchell McClenaghan opted to play in T20 leagues over a New Zealand contract in 2017 after not playing for New Zealand following the conclusion of the 2016 World T20. However, it is unfair to discard these cricketers completely because they want to maximise their earnings in a professional sport.
For New Zealand selectors to single out Munro like this is quite hypocritical considering all the New Zealand cricketers who bagged an IPL contract this year are allowed to skip international duty to play in both legs of IPL 2021 – and they are in their right to do so. Munro has been one of the most influential T20 cricketers from New Zealand. Barring an unsuccessful stint in the IPL, Munro has had success in the Caribbean, English, Pakistani and Australian T20 leagues alongside his outstanding international T20 record.
In the UAE leg of PSL 2021 Munro scored 285 runs at an average of 57 in seven matches, scoring at a strike rate just shy of 170. Despite his run-scoring spree in the UAE, Munro is somehow not in New Zealand’s best 15 to travel to the UAE for a World T20.
While players do deserve to be rewarded for their loyalty towards international cricket, there needs to be realism when understanding the situation of a T20 cricketer in their mid-30s entering the twilight of their career. Gary Stead has shot himself in the foot massively by not choosing one of the best T20 batsmen of all time in New Zealand just because he chased the cash.
Should New Zealand fail to make the final or win the tournament, a lot of questions will be aimed at Stead for omitting Munro.