NZ Cricket Sucks

NZ Cricket Sucks

If you hear anyone talking about the Black Caps’s test team being in a “rebuilding phase”, this constitutes binding verbal consent to bowl beamers at them next time you hit the nets. When are the Black Caps not in a rebuilding phase? How many times have you heard the tired excuse, “well we may have been thrashed 3-0 by Sri Lanka, but our players have gained valuable experience that will serve them well against Pakistan later in the year.”

From July 2012 to March 2013, the Black Caps have an epic schedule of extremely challenging test cricket on foreign soil. New Zealand will play two-test series in the West Indies, India, Sri Lanka, and South Africa, before returning home in February 2013 to play three tests against England, whose team includes NZ’s nemesis James Anderson, whose near-perfect seam positioning seemingly rends the air itself and extracts massive swing. We need results now, not excuses. And here’s three ways NZ Cricket could start getting better results:

01 | Look beyond the statistics

How many times have we seen a player like Brent Arnel selected based on domestic stats, only to flounder against international opposition? Yes, we know he’s carving up in the domestic competition. So did Matthew Sinclair. Players like Andy Ellis and Jeetan Patel are never going to be test match quality. Everyone knows it, yet these players keep getting picked.

Unfortunately, the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better – the resignation of NZ coach John Wright has resulted in even more power going to NZ’s Director of Cricket John Buchanan, who prefers to select players based almost entirely on statistical analysis of their domestic performances. This is designed to create a more consistent and fair selection process – but what about players like Doug Bracewell, who might not have been discovered under such a rigid system? Dougie’s stats weren’t amazing when he was picked for the test team, but Wright correctly banked on the Bracewell family name instilling him with the confidence to succeed at the highest level. And he duly delivered with a match-winning six-wicket haul in Hobart.

NZ needs to start selecting players based on cricketing intuition. We need to track down players who have the potential to be genuine international cricketers. One player who could be worth selecting at a young age is Tom Latham. Given a chance in the Zimbabwe series at age 19, he impressed with his skilful and inventive strokeplay. I’d take the unproven Latham over the proven mediocrity of Daniel Flynn any day.

02 | Don’t drop players for bullshit reasons

Jesse Ryder averages over 40 after 18 tests, yet he is constantly facing the axe for a combination of discipline issues (fair enough) and being too fat (ridiculous). Much like Shane Warne, even if Ryder’s weight did make him a liability in the field, his other skills would more than make up for it. And as it turns out Ryder, as did Warne, fields in the slips and does a perfectly good job.

Bowlers should never be dropped for being too aggressive. Example: Mark Gillespie was given a decent run in ODI cricket back in 2007. His aggressive bowling tactics, aimed at taking wickets rather than preventing runs, caused him to be expensive at times. But anyone who watched Gillespie during this time will remember that he looked like a genuine international bowler. He was the second-quickest after Shane Bond, bowled a good bouncer, and was constantly looking to attack. After about a year, the NZ selectors decided to opt for more conservative bowlers, and when Shane Bond was injured, the Black Caps were left with a bowling lineup that simply could not take 10 wickets.

It took the selectors three years and dozens of economical-but-wicketless performances from Arnel & Co. before they realised their mistake in dropping Gillespie. Recalled for the second and third South Africa tests, Gillespie ripped out two five-wicket hauls, and is now a certainty for the tests later this season, injuries permitting. Since he strives to take a wicket every ball by mixing things up with swing, bouncers and yorkers, Gillespie faces a greater risk of missing his length and conceding a few boundaries. But that’s the price you pay for wickets. You don’t win test matches with conservative bowling. So for the love of God, don’t drop him if he goes for four an over once in a while.

Finally, sports teams should never drop older players if they’re still performing. Brett Lee is still terrorising batsmen at age 35, but his fellow Australians Simon Katich and Brad Hodge were dropped at the height of their powers because of a misguided obsession with “building for the future” rather than focusing on the here and now. Thankfully, New Zealand is not as prone to this fallacy, and we’ve reaped the benefits in the form of the tireless 37-year-old Chris Martin.

03 | More tests, fewer international T20s

A cliché, but so true. The insistence upon two or three international T20s per series leaves NZ with time for only two tests. T20 is like rugby sevens – an enjoyable sideshow, but best confined to separate carnival-like tournaments such as the IPL. Does anyone even remember who won the T20 series that acted as a curtain-raiser for the real action against South Africa? Which was more memorable, Richard Levi’s T20 hundred or Kane Williamson’s epic five-hour century to save the third test?
This article first appeared in Issue 10, 2012.
Posted 12:51am Monday 7th May 2012 by Callum Fredric.