ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

World Cup 2011

How much mediocrity can New Zealand fans take?

A decent performance in the World Cup is vital to reviving the waning interest of the fans, but to achieve that the team need to find the right team combination

Andrew Alderson

February 11, 2011

Comments: 10 | Text size: A | A

Jesse Ryder goes aerial through the leg side, New Zealand v Pakistan, 6th ODI, Auckland, February 5, 2011
Jesse Ryder is potentially New Zealand's most destructive batsman © AFP
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Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: New Zealand

Anyone who has been to the Eagle pub in Cambridge, England is likely to have been regaled with the tale of how scientist Francis Crick strolled in at lunchtime on February 28, 1953 to announce he and James Watson had "discovered the secret of life" after coming up with their proposal for the structure of DNA, one of the most important discoveries in human history. That is the sort of miracle solution, of the cricketing variety, which New Zealand fans are seeking.

They want new coach John Wright to assume the role of Crick by waving his magic mentoring wand and saying: "This is how we improve the team's performance." However, 11 straight one-day losses on the subcontinent, followed by three more in the six-match home series against Pakistan indicate the solution is anything but simple. The most recent loss in Hamilton even saw skipper Daniel Vettori lock the team in the dressing room for a 90-minute post-match vigil to ascertain where the problems lie. No white smoke puffed through the chimney afterwards, but they picked up their act to win the final one-dayer of the series in Auckland.

Unfortunately, those working in the New Zealand selection laboratory looked vulnerable during the Pakistan series, as varying combinations of player ingredients were mixed and matched - a dash of Brendon McCullum here, a dollop of Jesse Ryder there. With one match in the series washed out, another couple over quickly and an injured skipper for the last two, it seems work still needs to be done to perfect the first XI recipe. There has been turbulence behind the facade of rotation and Wright and Vettori have disagreed with the selectors at times. Much needs to unify if New Zealand are to come anywhere near semi-final contention for a sixth time in 10 World Cups.

The current spate of losses is significant on a wider scale, too. Crowd numbers were down this season; Pakistan are notorious for poor ratings but it is the long-term impact on the so-called 'summer game' that is of greater concern. How much more cricketing mediocrity can the public take? The sport has survived grim patches in the past, but the rise of Twenty20 cricket and the age of the freelance cricketer could ironically eradicate what it is trying to enhance in New Zealand. Players will be better paid but they will largely work offshore. That is fine for the individual, but cricket's place in the nation's social fabric could be diluted. Strong performances by the national side over the next few weeks would shore up the slide.

Paradoxically, the area where New Zealand have the most potential talent is where they have struggled lately; the top-order batting. The top-six combination that played the final one-dayer against Pakistan should be the one used - fitness permitting - in the World Cup.

New Zealands' performances on the sport's biggest limited-overs stage have been fickle on the subcontinent. Batsmen struggle to play quality spin bowling, adapt to reverse-swing, or adjust to sustained periods of batting or fielding in the climate.

New Zealand's best chance of progressing to the semi-finals in Asia for the first time means opening with Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum, using Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor at No. 3 and No. 4, then consolidating with James Franklin and Scott Styris. That leaves Vettori to slap the ball around later, while Jacob Oram, Nathan McCullum and, in theory, a remaining senior batsman, hit out at the death.

An order like that makes sense. Guptill was New Zealand's most consistent top-order batsman during the Pakistan series, tempering any rash instincts to return 40 not out, 39, 21, 65 and 44 - a creditable performance as an opener.

McCullum seemed wasted at Nos. 5,6 and 7 in his first three bats. Returning to the top at least guarantees him facing a decent number of deliveries, if he needs them. Ryder - should the mood strike him - is potentially New Zealand's most devastating batsman, even more than Taylor because of the diversity of his shot selection. Taylor has been reliant on hitting across the line through cow corner, but did turn that around with some crisp offside play in his 69 during the loss in the fifth ODI against Pakistan.

New Zealands' best totals are often anchored by Ryder. Just look at his 107 off 93 balls to help win the final match against Pakistan. His timing was perfect - he could have been belting a tennis ball at the beach, such was his nonchalance.

Franklin and Styris then provide the means to consolidate. Hopefully, they will come in in situations when they are not required to hit out straight away, but are given time to compile an innings while a decent striker remains at the other end. There is evidence to back this wishful thinking. Franklin has scored half-centuries in three of his last six innings, all from the No. 6 position, while Styris' finest performance in recent memory was his 49 not out at No. 7, after being recalled to the side for the series against Australia last year (which included the headbutting fiasco with Mitchell Johnson). He revels in pugnacious circumstances.

That order should offer New Zealand the best chance of batting success. If they continue to fail, then, much like Crick's DNA strands, they will unravel - and the game's support-base in New Zealand could disintegrate more than ever before.

Andrew Alderson is cricket writer for New Zealand's Herald on Sunday newspaper

© ESPN EMEA Ltd.

Comments: 10 
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Posted by dummy4fb on (February 13, 2011, 6:00 GMT)

LeftBrian - your comment is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. You pretty much just committed cricketing genocide against a nation, and made ridiculous and untrue statements without any evidence backing it up. In the last 10 years NZ was one of the strongest ODI teams in the world, and the only team to consistently challenge the absolute dominant power that was Australia in the decade that was 2000. I can only assume your comment was sarcastic, because in all honesty no one could be that blind or stupid to say NZ offers nothing to the cricket world. You need to go watch a highlights reel of Shane Bond's yorking stumps all over the show.

Posted by Avery_Mann on (February 13, 2011, 4:29 GMT)

NZ were ranked no. 2 in the ODI world just last August. It's still the same team and they will be hard to beat on the day.

Posted by cricfan87365209 on (February 11, 2011, 23:50 GMT)

I agree with this batting order with 6 batsmen in Guptil,Bre Mc, Ryder, Taylor, Franklin, Styris, and three allrounders Oram, Nath Mc, Vettori and 2 fast bowlers Southee and Mills. This ensures a very strong batting, even no 11 Southee can whack a few sixes and with the ball they have 7 bowlers and 8 if Ryder can bowl..but more than bowling..this is a batsmen's world cup..one who can play spin well n post huge scores will win

Posted by NikhilChawla on (February 11, 2011, 16:24 GMT)

This is a one team i just love watching them play. They had a sure semifinalist tag with them. But this time they have been more under-rated than expected. But this team is capable of pulling big surprises. They just need 2 big wins under their belt and then they are dangerous..Hope they do well in this WC !!!!

Posted by LeftBrain on (February 11, 2011, 15:48 GMT)

well I dont think there will be any probelm in "taking mediocrity" for NZ fans and cricketers. This is what they are doing since 70 or so years. When there were 4 teams, Wng, Aus, SA & NZ in international circuit, NZ was 4th ranked team, when WI got international status, NZ became 5th ranked team, when Ind became the 6th International team in world, NZ slipped down to 6th ramked team in the world, after inclusion of Pak they became 7th ranked, inclusion of SL pushed NZ to 8th ranked team in the world. Even the 10th international team Bagladesh has proved that they are more exciting and more talented team even though they are there since few years only. NZ didnt offer anything to world cricket and to its fans anything other then this ever. They are always at the bottom, you cant go below bottom. It is sad, but it is what it is.

Posted by zn264 on (February 11, 2011, 15:36 GMT)

Good read...same old story though. A faster way to sum it up is: Yes we have the talent and no we don't deliver. Can we make the semi final? Probably, will we win the cup? No.

Posted by LordOfCric on (February 11, 2011, 15:04 GMT)

Why there is so much hype around Jesse Ryder? He is nothing, today cricket is not same as it was used to be. Bowlers have forget to bowl yorkers which is the prime weakness of so called batsmen such as: Ryder, Brendon, Sehwag, Gayle and all other hitters. If bowlers bowling to them short deliveries off stump on Sub continent wickets then what do you expect? We should worry about palyers like Sachin, Sarwan, Chanderpaul, Mahela, Sangakarra, Younis, Misbah, Ponting who take the game away from oppositions without even letting them know..........................

Posted by Getitdownyou on (February 11, 2011, 15:04 GMT)

I disagree with McCullum being NZ's best option as an opener. He is suited better down the order so he can win games for the caps with his ability to find the boundary. As an opener his record is pretty average compared to when he bats later. NZ need his power at the end. Ryder with Guptil can do just as good a job.

Posted by soumyas on (February 11, 2011, 14:30 GMT)

Nice article on KIWIS... they need one or two indian and South african bloods in Team, like England.

Posted by Farhan-Sg on (February 11, 2011, 14:16 GMT)

I think the team is mentally fragile - on paper and even in the games against Pakistan, they fielded a very good side. Guptill, Taylor, Ryder, Brendon are all excellent players - Styris might not be Cairns, but he is very handy in sticky situations, Southee is class bowler - if they had Bond the team would have been excellent. Vettori is also a good, imaginative and inspiring captain (aside from being a sore loser with unsportsmanlike allusions to cheating) as well as a quality spinner. I really don't understand why this team is going to the World Cup in depression mode - perhaps they are just too nervous and need to relax a bit.

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