Minority report: Rise of the Kiwi-Croathttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/minority-report-rise-of-the-kiwicroat/

Minority report: Rise of the Kiwi-Croat

Had Anton not been in India as part of the Kiwi squad,he would have been in the Cook Islands.

It’s not like Anton Devcich,a second generation Croat and a part of the New Zealand A side in India,wasn’t aware of his roots. He had after all spent his youth rooting for Goran Ivanisevic whenever Wimbledon was on,or for the likes of Davor Suker and Darijo Srna during the football World Cups. But it was as far as it got.

So it was with amazement that he listened to call from long-time Northern Districts’ teammate and friend Joseph Yovich,he too of Croatian origin,a few months back. “I was quite amazed when he told me that he and a couple of other Kiwis were planning to start a rather unique outfit called the New Zealand Croatia (NZC) team. Previously I had only heard of the likes of John Vujnovich and a couple more who would play for their national team,” Devcich tells The Indian Express.

Had the 27-year-old not been in Visakhapatnam as part of the Kiwi squad,he would have been in the Cook Islands,representing a singular bunch in Rarotonga. The NZC’s grand plan is to eventually tour Croatia and try their best to make people aware of the sport that has existed in the war-torn nation for 200 years. But for now,starting with Rarotunga,Yovich & Co plan to tour England later this year before embarking on their ambitious project.

“Obviously being here as a part of the New Zealand A team takes precedence. But I do plan to be an integral part of NZC. They played four T20s in Roratunga and I heard it was a blast. Our overall aim is to give Croatian cricket more exposure. Despite a long history,they haven’t had the players to raise their game and no money with most of our ancestors having moved to New Zealand due to civil war,” explains Devcich,who scored his maiden first-class ton at the ACA-VDCA Stadium earlier this week. While he didn’t come across too many who shared his heritage growing up,Devcich has been surprised by the increasing number of Croatians living in New Zealand.

Advertising

“Every town has its own settlement of Croatians and I have been surprised over the last five or six years how many there are in New Zealand and Australia. Four,including Joseph,Dusan Hakaraia and me are playing first-class cricket back home,and across the Tasman there were Simon Katich and Michael Kasprowicz,” he says.

Late bloomer

Devcich is somewhat a late bloomer in cricket,and it’s only recently that he’s taken his game to a level where the potential of winning a Black Cap is looking brighter. In the off-season,he plays club cricket in Holland and it was during one of his Dutch stints that he decided to pay a visit to his ancestral home.

“I went over when I had a couple of weeks off. Drove from Holland along the coast. It’s very different. New Zealand is green and beautiful and peaceful. Croatia has breathtaking beaches and mountains on one side and dilapidated buildings carrying remnants of bomb-blasts and the war on the other. There is a lot of hostility still,” adds Devcich.

Though Croatia remains close to his heart,he is quick to insist that he is an out-and-out Kiwi,though his profile picture on Facebook carries a flag of his origins. He still laments how many of his compatriots struggle to pronounce his surname,a reason why he prefers to be called ‘Dev’. “It’s two syllables,Dev and Cich (s-i-c-h),” he stresses,“But there was a radio commentator who kept pronouncing it wrong over and over again which was annoying.”

An attacking left-handed batsman,who showed his wares here,Devcich also doubles up as a handy left-arm spinner with a bowling action very reminiscent of one Daniel Vettori,his Northern Districts teammate. He admit to have revered the former New Zealand skipper as his role model. Says Devcich,“Daniel’s of Italian origin and I often tell him that we’re divided only by the Adriatic Sea (which runs between Italy and Croatia). And probably in another world,we might have been playing against each other in the FIFA World Cup.”