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The life of an 'amateur professional' cricketer

Sam Coughlan
Cricketers Raunaq Kapur and Rhys Mariu  Sydenham Cricket / ICC

Raunaq Kapur and Rhys Mariu are not paid to play cricket - but they hope that'll change.

The life of a professional cricketer can be glamorous: the riches of the Indian Premier League, the traditional allure of first-class cricket and the honour of representing your country.

But for those outside the upper echelon, there’s a lot of toil that just goes into moving up in the semi-professional ranks.

Rhys Mariu is one of the latest youngsters to be offered a chance at the top level. The 21-year-old made his debut for Canterbury last month and grasped it with both hands, scoring three fifties and a century in his first four games.

He’s aiming to secure one of 16 domestic contracts next season – meaning he would be paid by New Zealand Cricket to play the game over the summer.

Mariu, a former Canterbury and NZ under-19 captain, says that’s his next goal.

“I want to become a staple in the Canterbury set-up and establish myself as a top player… It’d be nice to grab one of those.”

Rhys Mariu
Rhys Mariu in training Canterbury Country Cricket

He’ll be training over the winter with the wider Canterbury squad starting in May but focus right now is on staying fit and continuing his studies at the University of Canterbury, where he does law and commerce.

For 19-year-old Raunaq Kapur, a lot of opportunities have been thrown at him quickly.

The teenager has already played internationally for Hong Kong, where he grew up, and trains with touring countries when they play in Christchurch.

He’s been with India, Sri Lanka, and most recently a second-string Australian side which included players his age.

“It was nice to have a chat about the different access and resources they have.

“There’s definitely a learning curve but it’s cool to be able to test your skills against people from different environments who have grown up in different conditions.”

Kapur has struggled with injuries in recent years which have limited his ability to train over the winter, but this year is looking to get his body right.

“We do some strength and conditioning, some gym work.

“Mid to late offseason I link up with Canterbury A or under-19, New Zealand under-19, we’ll have some camps leading into the season.”

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Raunaq Kapur bowls for Sydenham Sydenham Cricket

Kapur has been tipped for big things and is in regular contact with selectors but is behind a whole host of spinners in the Canterbury setup, including Blackcap Ish Sodhi.

He says Sodhi has been a great role model for him.

“I’ve spent time with Ish and we’ve grown quite close.

“He’s a great man and a great cricketer, and he helps me understand how to be the best cricketer I can be.

“That’s the goal really.”

But for now, all Kapur and Mariu can do is keep training well and continuing to impress.

Mariu says he is just trying to train hard.

“If I get as many games as I can, train hard and put together some good performances, it’s just about going from there.”