If you had to put money on which side would win this year’s T20 Black Clash who would you pick?

Would it be Team Cricket, which features former Black Caps such as Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills and Nathan McCullum, or would you back Team Rugby whose line-up includes sporting greats such as ex-All Blacks skippers Richie McCaw and Kieran Read and renowned cricketer Brian Lara?

For many sports fans, it’s a hard one to call.

Now in its sixth year, the Black Clash is an annual summer cricket match where two sides – usually made up of former top-level sportspeople from rugby and cricket, take to the field in the name of fun. Team Cricket have won three of the past encounters with Team Rugby securing victory twice.

This year’s match takes place on Saturday, January 20 at Bay Oval, Tauranga.

Read will captain Team Rugby and Vettori will be the skipper for Team Cricket.

“It’s definitely a lot of fun,” says Read. “I try to come with a real social mindset. But as soon as you step out and over the white lines, you do get a bit of competitiveness going. But honestly, it’s just so much fun so I try to keep it that way.

“I don’t do too much preparation. I just try to enjoy the occasion.”

Nevertheless, this is a competition.

“I guess for us, as rugby players or ex-rugby players, there is no real expectation on us to be able to swing a bat and bowl and things, so I think the pressure is normally on the cricketers to do well in that department,” says Read.

“But I know a few of the guys will probably jump in the net. My daughter plays cricket, so she’s kind of my net bowler. I’ll try to get a bit of practice in over summer.”

But does Read, who now works as a leadership consultant, miss competing in top-level sport?

“I don’t,” he says. “You know, I’m obviously very blessed and privileged to have had a great career. I can watch now and just enjoy the spectacle for what it is and don’t miss it at all.

“I think it is pretty awesome to be able to go out and play in this game (Black Clash) and have a big crowd and know people are watching you again. It is an awesome occasion – just purely for what it is, as a social occasion and a big event.”

One of the Black Clash wild cards this year is former West Indies batter Brian Lara who will represent Team Rugby.

“It’ll be amazing, eh?” says Read when asked how much of a boost Lara will be to his side. “He’s an absolute cricketing legend.

“I grew up watching him play. Just like his cover drive, his follow through with his bat is something…

“It will be awesome to have him in the changing shed, and more just to be able to share a yarn and enjoy a beer, if that’s what he’s after, and just have a good time.”

While Read’s stellar rugby career included playing for the All Blacks and Crusaders, he showed a talent for cricket in his younger years.

“I played for Northern Districts age-group teams,” he recalls. “So regional I guess. I made New Zealand tournament teams for under-17 level for two years. But basically, after I left school, I didn’t get a chance to play much more.”

At last year’s Black Clash at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval, Read scored 73 and took three wickets.

And with the Black Clash matches so popular, what are the chances of getting the cricketers to turn their talents to rugby.

“It would be very hard to get the cricketers in rugby boots and get them to run out and get them to play against a bunch of rugby players,” says Read.

“I think the concept works with cricket. You know, New Zealanders know the game. We’re quite passionate about it and obviously rugby is there too, so you’ve got that following.

“I just don’t think it works with rugby. It would be very difficult to kind of sell it and there is no way I’d want to go and play too much more rugby anyway. The body certainly lets you know that it’s not up for it.”

Former New Zealand cricket international Nathan McCullum, who is playing for Team Cricket, isn’t keen on the idea of a rugby Black Clash either.

“Maybe a game of golf,” he says. “I don’t know about playing those boys at rugby.”

McCullum, is the older brother of Brendon McCullum, the former Black Caps captain and the current England coach.

Nathan, who works in construction, has played in every Black Clash match. This time around he will be joined by his nephew, Riley – Brendon’s 19-year-old son.

“I was due to play a club game in Auckland with Riley but it didn’t end up happening,” says Nathan McCullum. “It got rained out. But I’m really excited about that (Black Clash) and so is Riley.

Yeah, it will be a pretty cool thing for the family for the both of us to play together and it should be good fun.”

However, one famous family member is likely to be missing. Because of coaching commitments abroad, Brendon McCullum isn’t expected to attend the match.

While Black Clash matches are fun events, Nathan McCullum agrees both sides have a strong will to win.

“I think the rugby boys always have a bit of a point to prove in that they could have been Black Caps,” says McCullum.

“For us, as cricketers, it’s a good chance to get back out there. But when the heat comes on, those winning traits certainly come out and you’re keen to make sure you get across the line.”

T20 Black Clash, Saturday January 20, TVNZ 1 and TVNZ+

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