Photo Credit: BCCI
One of Canterbury’s most capped and accomplished leg-spinning allrounders gently announced his retirement this season, putting a full stop on his cricket career after the 2022/23 Dream11 Super Smash competition concluded.
Like many players nowadays, it was a staggered professional retirement for Todd Astle.
The 36-year-old former Test and white-ball BLACKCAP had already stepped away from red-ball cricket in 2020, making himself unavailable for a New Zealand A series, but keen to continue to play white-ball for Canterbury.
He had been frank as he explained that he was just finding it harder to give red-ball the full commitment and time it required, now that he was starting a family and moving on into other preoccupations.
A stalwart of the Canterbury Plunket Shield squad for the best part of 15 seasons, everyone has known “Toddy” as a thoughtful character who took an intelligent, almost intellectual approach to the art of spin bowling.
Part of that bent runs in the family.
His father, Alec Astle played two first-class matches for the Central Stags, and among other things holds a PhD, is a cricket historian and author, and was a national development manager for NZC who contributed a lot of thoughtful work for the game behind the scenes.
It’s no surprise that Todd is also interested in mental skills coaching, and has developed his own coaching services in this area over the past 18 months. His business, Innerspin, recently launched his first ‘Peak Performance Mental Skills’ online course, applying insights from his professional cricketing career as well as those of other sportspeople.
Todd isn’t the only talented cricketing son in the family, but he was the one that stood out early as a sharp prospect.
He represented New Zealand Under 19 at the 2006 Under 19 World Cup as a specialist opening batsman, did very well at the tournament – and had already made his Plunket Shield debut for Canterbury as a teenager in 2005.
The allrounder tag came later on, after a patchy start to his early Plunket Shield career meant he had to find more strings to his bow to hold his place in the squad.
The rest is history, as they say. Six years later, Astle would make his Test debut in Sri Lanka in 2012, and it was primarily for his leg-spinning ability with his batting an added bonus – a highly useful one, as it proved, as he shared a century stand on debut.
Astle played just five Tests for New Zealand between 2012/13 and 2019/20, and savoured every one of them. His Test best 3-39 came against England at Eden Park. He got to play all three formats for the BLACKCAPS, making his ODI debut in 2017, for nine appearances that spanned a couple of seasons – narrowly missing out on an ODI half century.
Astle played 310 games for Canterbury across all formats, for a combined total of 6,619 runs and 510 wickets for the red and black (an occasionally, purple).
He is the first Canterbury player to have taken 300 first-class wickets, finishing with 303 Plunket Shield victims.
It’s a Canterbury record that will take some beating, having surpassed the eminent Sir Richard Hadlee (285) and doughty spinner Mark Priest (290) on the all-time list. Astle’s 44 wickets in the 2014/15 season was a standout.
In the T20 format, Astle also finishes as one of Canterbury’s top three wicket-takers with 67, behind Ed Nuttall (73*) and Andrew Ellis (125); and was still representing the BLACKCAPS in the shortest version until November 2021 in India.
With 89 caps, he is Canterbury’s third most capped player in the shortest format, while the only player to have played more Plunket Shield matches for Canterbury was his coach Peter Fulton, with 121 to Astle’s 105.
A career played to the fullest.