Paul Ford February 24, 2009

Why NZ won't do India any favours

Gagging for the cricket to begin so we can all stop banging on about paymasters, financial windfalls, and record revenues

Mark Richardson believes India will get favourable batting conditions on this tour © Getty Images
New Zealand's worst ever sprinter, lycra suit advocate, and top-rate self-promoter Mark Richardson wrote a column entitled "Keeping the boss happy" for Cricinfo this week - it's a decent piece, although it did seem strangely reminiscent of a Sunday newspaper article I read whilst masticating at my local Karori café at the weekend (all that "playing the boss at cricket", "pressure on the groundsmen", "sense of goodwill towards New Zealand cricket" stuff). Here are a few more thoughts to throw in the mix.

1. The primary motivation in December 2002 was not to stitch India up. No, no, no: it wasn’t about you, it was about us. NZ was aiming to stitch up whoever happened to have the misfortune to touch down in the Land of the Long White Cloud that sorry, soggy summer. The New Zealand team was blessed with one of our best ever fast bowlers at that time, Shane Bond. It wasn't an anti-Indian move as much as it was an attempt to deploy the one genuine match-winning weapon in our arsenal. Rest assured, if we had been playing England, Zimbabwe or Nepal, the pitches in would have been exactly the same.

2. Mark Richardson points the finger at the green tops and New Zealand's moves to make the most of favourable conditions - but humbly leaves out the fact that he averaged 48 in the two-Test series. That was a full 15 runs more than The Wall and almost double that of Tendulkar: India's two best batsmen in the series.

3. I dearly hope Rigor is wrong when he says the Indian batsmen can "rest easy this time round...because New Zealanders and New Zealand cricket understand who pays the wages nowadays". That should never come into it, and I don't think it will. Most New Zealanders couldn’t give a rat’s posterior about where the “financial power” of world cricket resides. The most important difference between 2002 and now is that we do not have a world-class fast bowler to prepare pitches for, thanks to the boning of Bond via administrative interference and a plethora of cock-ups.

4. "In cricket terms what New Zealand really need to achieve from this tour is a sense of goodwill towards New Zealand cricket from Indian cricket once the tour is over." Richardson's words - and I think they are complete and utter bollocks. If the New Zealand team is out there doing business development and relationship-building rather than playing to win, the whole thing is a waste of time. Sure, cricket in the right spirit and all that chaps, but on the field there's no expectation for the Kiwi team to treat the Indian XI as anything other than its equal. This idea that we have to be fawning and over the top in dealing with India to make sure the BCCI is nice to us down the track is half-embarrassing, half-patronising, and 100% wrong.

5. Hopefully the Indian players have been terrified by some of the tales written about in the lead-in to the tour. Tinu Yohannan telling the Indian Express that "at times it was so cold that I would be running up to bowl with tears streaming down my face. I couldn't even see what was in front of me." The guy only bowled 25 overs in the Test at Hamilton which is hardly the Antarctic of Aotearoa. For a sad, blind man he did pretty well all things considered - cricket writer Lynn McConnell said he was "accurate and unrelenting in his control".

6. If we were to doctor the pitches to suit the "strengths" of the current New Zealand Test team, what would we do? Settle for draws and prepare flat, lifeless highways, hoping like hell Ross Taylor goes absolutely berserk while Tim McIntosh and Daniel Flynn pitch tents at the other end? The issue is that India's current pace bowling has proven to be more than useful on foreign soil - and their batting on flat (and bumpy) decks is pretty handy too. The other conspiratorial theory in favour of preparing bat-athon wickets is that having the Test matches go the distance would be useful from a "keep the sponsors happy" perspective.

7. Harbhajan Singh shouldn't even be here - his fine for dirty boots last time around saw him declare that he would not return to New Zealand ever again. See footage of a cranky 2002 Turbanator in this story focusing on the Indian team's arrival last week. Of course, we're glad he went back on his word and made it to our shores this time around. Anyone who thinks Andrew Symonds is a muppet is anchored in a safe harbour here in New Zealand.

8. My favourite comment on Richardson's article was this one from Da_punjabi: "In India, we have a story of swan, and a fox, who treat dinner at each other's home. Fox serves food in a plat, which swan couldn't bow down enough to digest. She gets mad, and thinks of a revenge. When the Fox arrives at her house, she serves him the food in a bottle neck pot. So you can all imagine where this story is going..." Just so wonderfully odd.

9. For advice on how to make a successful Indo-Kiwi business deal on the banks of The Basin Reserve, Seddon Park or Maclean Park, New Zealanders should check the opportunistically timed advice just released by New Zealand's international trade agency, NZTE. How’s this for a hot tip? “Indians seem to think Australians are more fun to deal with when it comes to business negotiations. This suggests New Zealanders need to take time to build long-term relationships in India and share a bit of laughter while doing so.”

10. Gagging for the cricket to begin so we can all stop banging on about paymasters, financial windfalls, and record revenues? Me too. Just have to get through these twenny-twennys and one-dayers first…

Paul Ford is a co-founder of the Beige Brigade. He tweets here