Northamptonshire have given Doug Bracewell a further opportunity to rehabilitate his cricketing career after a troubled year that included a third drink-driving offence and identified him as one of cricket’s most untamed characters.
Bracewell’s career is on the up again after he was restored to the New Zealand side for an ODI against West Indies in Whangarei in December, seeking to put behind him a period in which he suffered a serious knee injury and undertook 100 hours of community service after he was found guilty of driving more than three times over the legal limit.
Bracewell told Hastings Crown Court last March that he had driven home from a function when his girlfriend called him in distress after their cockatoo had been killed by dogs she was looking after for a friend.
At 27, he still has the opportunity to resurrect his career and will join Northamptonshire in time for the start of the Championship season, stepping in for the veteran South African Rory Kleinveldt who will arrive in time for the start of the Steelbacks’ Royal London One Day Cup campaign in mid-May.
Bracewell’s strong-willed, seam bowling style should be perfectly suited to an English spring and Northamptonshire, who have a good track record in unearthing value signings, will gamble that his gratitude for an opportunity will show through on and off the field and help them mount a second division promotion campaign.
He has appeared in 27 Tests, taking 72 wickets with best figures of 9 for 60 in Hobart, leading New Zealand to their first Test win in Australia in 26 years. He also has a handy record with the bat, making 2914 runs in 82 games with a high score of 105.
Head Coach David Ripley said: “Doug is highly skilled and vastly experienced, with plenty of international experience under his belt, and he will give us the additional firepower we need alongside an already high quality attacking unit. We’re delighted to be getting him over.”
Bracewell responded: “It’s a great opportunity to challenge myself in different conditions and I am hoping to improve as a player but also make a difference at the club while I’m there.”
Northants will be well aware that Jesse Ryder, another Kiwi with a tarnished reputation, made a great impact at Essex, contributing to the promotion of a side that then went on to win the Championship in his absence last summer.
Early in his career, Bracewell twice suffered penalties after drinking incidents with Ryder. He was also ruled out of the Dunedin Test against England in 2013 when he stepped on glass while cleaning up after a house party and gashed his foot.
But by going where some counties would definitely fear to tread, Northants, who have recruited shrewdly in recent years on a tight budget, have given themselves a chance of a strong start to the season.
As yet there is no suggestion that Ben Duckett, who has also attracted a headline or two recently, has been appointed Bracewell’s minder. But with Northants you never can tell.