Ollie Ritchie: Blackcaps batsman Henry Nicholls proves he's the real deal

The 26-year-old has proven his doubters (myself included) wrong, writes Ollie Ritchie.
The 26-year-old has proven his doubters (myself included) wrong, writes Ollie Ritchie. Photo credit: Photosport

OPINION: For one of the genuine nice guys in the Blackcaps camp, Henry Nicholls has his fair share of people ready to rub his name from every team sheet Mike Hesson and Kane Williamson come up with.

And in all fairness, I wasn't exactly sold on the idea of Nicholls as our number five or six in both the One Day and Test formats through the early stages of his international career.

But this summer, the 26-year-old has proven his doubters (myself included) wrong, repaid the faith Hesson and the New Zealand selectors have shown in him, and solidified his spot in this side.

Remember, Tom Latham's shift down the order to five in ODIs has meant Nicholls, in turn, also had to move down a spot. It doesn't seem like much, but coming in that much later in an inning changes the way you go about playing.

For Nicholls, he's had to learn to play a lot more aggressively, a lot quicker. It's something he's done remarkably, and something he deserves to be praised for.

Sitting on the bank for the final ODI at the Basin Reserve when the Blackcaps lost a flurry of wickets in a short space of time, one punter was heard saying, "It's okay lads, Nicholls is in next." Just last season it would have sounded a lot more like, "Oh sh*t."

Henry Nicholls.
Henry Nicholls. Photo credit: Getty Images

While Nicholls missed out that game (remember the situation he came into), throughout both the Pakistan and West Indies series he's continued to prove himself.

Before this home summer got underway, I interviewed Nicholls down at the Basin. He told me he felt like he'd taken his game to a different level. He's certainly proved that was more than just talk.

This summer he's averaged 55 in the ODIs against both the West Indies and Pakistan, and 28 in the Test series against the West Indies.

While he hasn't converted those 50s into any big hundreds, valuable contributions aren't always centuries. Often it's the 30s, 40s and half centuries that truly help the team get to a defendable total. That has been Nicholls to a tee this summer.

You may recall how Nicholls helped push the total above 250 when it looked like they'd fall well short of 200, or boosted them into the 300s to leave their opposition with a mountain of work to do.

Undoubtedly his best this summer was his unbeaten 83 against the West Indies in Christchurch. The knock was critical in enabling the Blackcaps to post a competitive total after they'd been teetering on the verge of collapse.

As we revel in the success of our Blackcaps this summer, few individuals stand out for more for me than Nicholls.

Ollie Ritchie is a Newshub sports reporter.