Daryl Mitchell, from debuting for New Zealand at 28 became first-choice pick for the World Cup, the allrounder has made himself indispensable to the side.
When New Zealand played England in the 2019 World Cup final, Daryl Mitchell was on the other side of the world. He had won his first three international caps in a T20I series earlier that year but was not in contention for ODI selection. He was 28 years old, eight months into fatherhood, and still had hair on top of his head.
“I remember sitting on the sofa watching it - just like the other five million New Zealanders who were watching it at home,” Mitchell says, speaking for this story in mid-September. "I would get up in the early morning and watch the boys.” It was just after 6.30am in Hamilton when Jos Buttler whipped the bails off with Martin Guptill short of his ground.
On Thursday, the 2023 World Cup launches with a rematch of that epic final. Mitchell, now 32, bald, and a father to two daughters, is among the first names on New Zealand's team sheet. He has represented his country more than 100 times across formats, hitting nine hundred, and will likely walk out in front of over 100,000 people in Ahmedabad next week.
It has been a remarkable rise for a player who admits that, in his mid-20s, he doubted if he would ever fulfil his ambition to represent his country: “Everyone believes they’ll be good enough to get the chance, but there was a time when I thought, 'If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be.” Mitchell is New Zealand's answer to Mike Hussey: a late bloomer who waited nearly a decade for a chance in international cricket that he then seized.
His father, John, played rugby union for Waikato and the All Blacks - though he never officially won a Test cap, having only appeared in six tour matches in England in 1993. He moved into coaching, and his jobs - including two years as New Zealand coach - took the family around the world. “It was part of my upbringing,” Daryl recalls. “Every four years, you'd move to a new spot with dad.”
Spending his teenage years in Perth while his dad was coaching Western Force, Mitchell became an accomplished player of fast bowling. He developed his trademark high-backlift stance, and has characterised himself as an early developer who used his physical advantages to dominate at junior levels.
He developed a close relationship with Neil “Noddy” Holder, the renowned batting mentor, and in grade cricket his Scarborough team-mates included Marcus Harris, Justin Langer and Marcus Stoinis. He completed a sports-science degree, giving himself a back-up plan in case cricket didn't work out, then signed a contract with Northern Districts to play domestic cricket.