by Darryl Budge
Former NZ Black Caps middle-order player Dean Brownlie has a solid case for a national recall as last season's star batsmen for NZ first-class side Northern Districts Knights, compiling 1204 runs including the first triple century in the team's history.
His 334 runs against the Central Stags on February 16 is the fifth highest by any New Zealander in first-class cricket and just four runs short of the third-best set by Roger Blunt.
The triple-century places him near two records by Kiwi hero Bert Sutcliffe, who holds the top two scores of 385 and 355. The pair also share with John Reid the exclusive milestone of making half centuries in their first three tests.
Despite a wrist injury in March, Dean immediately impressed for NZ A in their recent series victory over Sri Lanka, crafting 68 and 113 on his home turf.
"I haven't played a game in seven months due to the injury so it was good to get some time in the middle and make some runs," he told Challenge.
The former New Zealand number five and leading run scorer in the Black Caps' 2011 test series against Australia is humble about his triple-century.
"I guess you go out there every game hoping to make a contribution to the team. When it comes off it's always a good feeling," says Dean, who gladly recalls it was also the day of his brother's wedding back in Western Australia.
The 31-year-old sincerely hopes for a Black Caps return while working hard to achieve his best, as demonstrated by his 11 centuries and 26 half-tons from 66 first-class matches.
“I hope to motivate others to accomplish their dreams”"I'd love to play more for the Black Caps," he states. "It's a great team to be part of with a great group of guys but my only goal is to keep improving.
"If that's playing for the Black Caps or domestic cricket, I am pretty happy."
Enjoyment of the game and downtime close to nature have been keys to his success, says Dean.
He recently moved to Mount Maunganui where the beach lifestyle and surf allows him to "get away and not be consumed by the game."
"Enjoy your cricket and have fun," he advises aspiring cricketers. "There are a few sacrifices along the way, but I think it's all worth it."
From his experience as an international sportsman Dean says that maintaining his relationship with Jesus has also kept him away from the anxiety that troubles many high-profile sport stars.
"Having a relationship with Jesus allows me to play cricket for the game it is, a game. To me it is a game that allows me to share with people who don't know Jesus yet.
"The anxiety and negativity are gone because I know God wants me playing cricket right now."
The Perth-born former West Perth footballer admits that back in 2008 he had mistakenly put sport first in his life before a church sermon challenged him.
He was raised in a Christian family and honestly recalls, "I was cruising through life and struggled in giving my heart to God."
As a preacher spoke about doing great things for God, Dean was struck by a verse from Isaiah chapter six: "I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here I am! Send me.'"
"It was then I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ and submitted to Him as King over my life and Saviour from my sins.
"It wasn't until I understood that God was my priority and sport was something He could use through me to honour Him that my cricket really flourished."
Then aged 24, Dean says he felt God directing him to pursue his career in New Zealand but initially struggled due to illness.
As he spent time with God in prayer and Bible reading, one morning, Dean sensed God's confirmation as he read, "Go from your country and family... to the land I will show you... I will bless you... so that you will be a blessing' (Genesis 12:1-2)
"After reading this I knew I was meant to stay and was truly blessed," he says.
Now as he looks back on his time with Canterbury Wizards and Northern Districts Knights, he says he will always place his confidence in Jesus.
In those highs and lows, Dean says, "Jesus is my joy and salvation. I know from experience He will always be there for me."
After his first "good break" in six years last winter, Dean says his looks forward to opening for the Knights in their one day and test sides, and as number three for T20s. •