As the Otago Volts arrived at Auckland's Kennards Hire Outer Oval late last month and headed up to the away dressing room, there were a couple of players for whom this was no ordinary morning.
It was the last one. Last Ford Trophy match of the season for the Volts, last time they put on the blue and gold pyjamas of white-ball cricket and went out to do Otago proud. Last time this tight team would be all together.
Neil Broom had already signalled his impending retirement and now the word was out publically: fellow senior Volts contributor Anaru Kitchen was also bowing out in this last game of the campaign. After 59 Ford Trophy games, 68 T20s and 41 first-class caps for the Volts.
Perhaps the strippling of silver at the temples was a sign of inevitability: at 38, Kitchen was the oldest player on the NZ Domestic scene, pipping Ross Taylor and Greg Hay. But it was almost inconceivable to imagine that the blue and golds would be walking out without Kitchen or Broom, the pair of so many puns, the commentator's goldmine, together again.
Kitchen has been a regular performer in NZ Domestic cricket since 2008 and started his career in Auckland. He played 51 first-class matches, 64 T20s and 57 one-dayers for the city of sails, in a career of two halves.
The popular competitor amassed more than 10,000 runs in all Domestic cricket across teams and formats, more than 130 wickets and represented the BLACKCAPS in T20 Internationals on five occasions in 2017/18.
“Cricket started for me the same as it does for most New Zealand kids, with plenty of backyard cricket and beach cricket on family holidays,” recalls Kitchen.
“Once I got a hold of the game, I remember the old man making me bat with a stump instead of a bat which was a good challenge."
Those backyard matches held Kitchen in good stead as he rose through the cricketing ranks - initially at Auckland Grammar School, followed by Waitakere Cricket Club and then for Auckland A.
In December 2008 Kitchen announced his arrival on the NZC Domestic scene with a half-century on debut for Auckland against Canterbury in the State Shield, nowadays known as The Ford Trophy.
Playing against the likes of Shane Bond and Chris Harris on Eden Park's main ground, Kitchen remembers the match well.
“I was batting four or five, walking out to bat when Auckland captain Richard Jones walked past me and said, ‘It is hooping out there, mate. Good luck!’"
"I thought to myself, this is Shane Bond, one of New Zealand’s best fast bowlers… let’s see how this goes. I was lucky to bat with someone who is now a great mate, Reece Young who guided me through the innings, and from there I managed to top-score with 69 runs."
Kitchen went on to be part of Auckland's Plunket Shield champion side in 2008/09, winning The Ford Trophy in 2010/11 and 2012/13, and the Dream11 Super Smash (HRV Cup) back to back in 2010/11 and 2011/12 through a golden period for the dark blues.
However, Auckland's riches when it comes to its wider player pool and talent pushing through saw Kitchen eventually head south to Otago for greater playing opportunities. It was a smart move - one that ultimately led to the dream of representing New Zealand at full international level.
Kitchen has been an integral member of the Otago Volts since the beginning of the 2015/16 season, debuting with a quickfire 47 runs off 33 balls and a wicket against Central Districts in the T20 format.
Across all formats, the off-spinning allrounder amassed just short of 5,000 runs and took more than 100 wickets for Otago. He scored 23 half-centuries and 10 centuries for Otago including a record 207 runs in Dunedin in the 2016/17 Plunket Shield.
In his own words, the big shift south was an opportunity to revitalise his career, and push for national honours.
In December 2017, Kitchen realised his life goal of representing his country, after having been named in the BLACKCAPS' T20 International side to play the West Indies and debuting a few days after Christmas that year.
Kitchen gave credit to several influences in cricket for helping support his career.
“Reece Young, Richard Jones, Gareth Hopkins and Rob Walter are mentors who have given me all the advice and guidance I could ask for,” said Kitchen.
“I have also had brilliant support from the players and staff at Otago Cricket who welcomed me with open arms and gave me a home.”
Otago Cricket CEO Mike Coggan reflected on Kitchen’s time with Otago Cricket.
“It was a pleasure to have Anaru at Otago. He was an important signing back in 2015/16, a great team man and a consistent performer with bat and ball ever since his arrival from Auckland.
“I will not forget the memorable double century 'Annas' scored at home versus ND back in 2017.
"At his best, he was one the cleanest strikers of a cricket ball in Domestic cricket. Otago Cricket wishes Anaru all the very best in retirement.
Simon Forde, Otago's high performance manager, echoed those sentiments.
“Anaru is a great man, and has had a significant impact as a player during his time in Otago. He’s a natural talent, the type of player that coaches get excited about working with,” said Forde.
“It was a genuine pleasure to watch Anaru make his debut for the BLACKCAPS, and contribute across all three formats for the Volts.”
Kitchen will now take a break from the game to spend time with his two boys and partner, before returning to work as an electrician for Aotea Electric.
From New Zealand Cricket, thank you to Anaru for sharing a wonderful and enduring career with our cricketing aficionados throughout New Zealand, and all the very best with your future beyond the picket fence.
ANARU KITCHEN • First-class career
ANARU KITCHEN • List A One-Day career
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ANARU KITCHEN • T20 career