Munro 'glad' he chose to stick with New Zealand

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I nearly gave up the game at 24 - Munro (5:04)

New Zealand batsman Colin Munro on his journey from Durban, early struggles, six-hitting ability and his quest to be a better version of himself (5:04)

In June this year, Colin Munro considered turning into a freelance T20 cricketer. He wasn't sure of getting a New Zealand Cricket central contract. He had already featured in franchise leagues across India, England, Australia and most recently in West Indies, where he was the highest run-getter for Trinbago Knight Riders in a victorious campaign in August 2017. But an honest chat with the coach and national selectors convinced him to delay making the "tough decision".

The latest vindication of his decision to stay back came on Saturday, when he was among six New Zealand A cricketers chosen to stay on in India to make up the 15-member squad for the short limited-overs series. Munro, who has never batted above No. 4 in his career, is pressing his case to become the first-choice opener.

"If you think you are going to get opportunities for your country, stay and play. If you don't think you are, then you go and try to make as much money as you can, while you can and get that enjoyment. I'm hopefully going to get a crack in this one-day team. It's all on me now," Munro tells ESPNcricinfo.

"It depends what you want out of cricket. Some people play for stats, some people want to play in a team all the time, some people want to go around playing indifferent conditions.

"I nearly chose the other way this year. I'm glad I didn't. It's trying to take it each year at a time and see where you are - as long as you keep those lines of communication with the coach and selectors. New Zealand's been good in terms of letting us know where we sit."

There's an adventurous streak in Munro's batting. Since 2012, he has hit 374 sixes across formats, the fourth-most after Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Brendon McCullum. But making a decision about his career at 30 needed some thinking and balance.

"I spoke to a lot of people I trusted. T20s are always going to be there, but international cricket's not always going to be there. I still want to play for New Zealand in all formats."

Growing up, Munro preferred hockey and made it to the Kwazulu Natal's Under-15 side in Durban, where he grew up and went to boarding school with his brothers. A year later, however, his family moved to New Zealand in search of a better life and opportunities.

In Auckland he chose cricket, because the guys who played were "like-minded".

"Hockey involves too much running, I'd rather play cricket and hit sixes," he laughs.

Munro was an instant hit as a "sixer king" in college. They played from just one end at the community ground and leg side was his preferred hitting zone because his mother encouraged him to do so, even if meant broken windows. She would give him two dollars extra in pocket money if he cleared the roof of their house, positioned near cow corner.

A decade later, in 2014, Munro would make use of all that practice to smash 23 sixes - seven more than the previous first-class record held by Andrew Symonds - in his knock of 281 for Auckland, against Central Districts.

But his path to international cricket wasn't an easy one. On first-class debut in 2006, he batted at No. 11, but bowled first change and picked up three wickets. He changed clubs for more opportunities with the bat, but that didn't help either. For the next three years, Munro found it hard to break into the Auckland team as an allrounder. At 22, he considered giving up the game, until he rang up his good friend Carl Cachopa, also a South African-born New Zealand cricketer, who was at the time playing club cricket in Adelaide.

"He convinced me to come over, have a season there and get by doing some odd jobs so that I could get the enjoyment [of the game] back," Munro says of his decision to play for West Torrens in 2009.

The laidback lifestyle and the small-city charm drew him in. "I had the worst season of my life, but enjoyed playing with a good bunch of blokes."

He finally broke into Auckland's squad as a No. 7 allrounder in 2012 when Colin de Grandhomme received a late call-up to the New Zealand squad. Munro made the best of the chance with a match-winning 115-ball 130, which included 12 fours and seven sixes.

In early 2013, Munro was summoned to the Test side after James Franklin was injured ahead of match in Port Elizabeth.

"I didn't [expect a call-up] to be honest," he says. "The timing of cricket is quite funny. I went and scored three hundreds and a double-hundred, and then got called-up to the tour of South Africa mainly for the white-ball stuff. I was called in as a replacement in case someone went down. I don't think I had the best preparation, because I knew I wasn't going to play. I was there just to get a taste of what it is like. I probably didn't prepare as well as I should have. It pretty much showed when I played in my first Test, where I didn't bat really well and it showed." He hasn't played a Test since.

Munro says it has taken close to three years since that forgettable debut to get his mindset right. New Zealand coach Mike Hesson introduced him to Pete Sanford, a sports psychologist last year. He learnt to deal with the tendency of being in two minds when playing a shot, which he admits has been the reason for his inconsistency.

He gives an example of this process, which, he says, is slowly yielding returns: playing the reverse sweep for six in the first over of the 2016 World T20, off R Ashwin.

"For the last two years, the mental side of things has helped me. Before that, I just relied on natural talent. When you're young, you don't believe in such things [mental conditioning]. There is work to be done but as long as I'm striving to be better, it's all good. I've tried meditation but I can't sit still for long. So talking to people who I trust helps me.

"I ask myself couple of questions at the end of each game: Did the bowler get me out? Did I get myself out? If I answer them honestly, then the reflection process is pretty good."

Conversations with Brendon McCullum have helped.

"McCullum has been a massive influence over the last three-four years. I was probably arrogant early on. My mouth's got me into trouble a few times. I also want to try and be a leader now.

"A couple of years ago, I was reckless, but I've honed my skills. T20 is fun, so you just want to grow up and express yourself as much as possible. You try to carry forward his legacy. He earned that right to play that way over many, many years. I'm lucky I'm naturally aggressive, but you can't hit every ball for four. Brendon has been pretty good, playing together at Trinbago Knight Riders as well, has helped."

Over the last two years, Munro has become a force in the shortest format. In January 2016, he broke the record for the fastest T20 fifty by a New Zealander, five overs after Martin Guptill set the record. A month later, he was signed by Kolkata Knight Riders at the IPL. CPL and BBL contracts followed. Earlier this year, he was Trinbago's MVP. But for a man who is in demand across continents, he's still got his sights on being a key member of the New Zealand squad.

"The next six months are huge. I'm trying to break into the Test team but obviously we play just four Tests. But I think it's about communicating with selectors, following my routines and getting feedback. I will keep pushing as hard as I can, keep banging the door down."