July 20, 2012

Desperately seeking a facelift

New Zealand have been a tough outfit in the past, but their recent stats in both Tests and ODIs are alarmingly dismal

In the 1980s, New Zealand were a real force in international cricket. Apart from their two obvious stars, Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe, they had several others who all contributed handily: John Wright, Jeremy Coney, Ewen Chatfield, and Ian Smith, to name a few. The phrase commonly used to describe them was "punching above their weight", because they did exactly that: in the 1980s they were highly competitive in both forms of the game. Between 1980 and 1990, their win-loss ratio in Tests against the top sides - excluding Sri Lanka, who were finding their feet for much of that period - was 0.78 (15 wins, 19 losses). England and India had much worse ratios during that period. Even in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with such stalwarts as Stephen Fleming, Chris Cairns and Mark Richardson, New Zealand came up with reasonably impressive results.

In the last few years, though, their stats have nosedived in both Tests and ODIs. At the beginning of 2006 they beat West Indies 2-0 in a three-match series, which was probably their last emphatic result against one of the top eight sides in Test cricket. Since then, out of ten Test wins, six have been against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Against the better sides, their results have been dismal: four wins in 37 Tests, one each against Pakistan, England, Sri Lanka and Australia.

However, it's as an ODI team that they've taken an even bigger beating, reflected most recently in their 4-1 thrashing in the West Indies (and before that, in the 3-0 defeat at home against South Africa, which means their 2012 record is 1-7). For long, New Zealand have been recognised as a team whose whole is greater than the sum of their parts, but even that doesn't seem to ring true any more.

Their ODI decline has been more recent, though: they had a pretty good 2009, and then beat Bangladesh 3-0 early in 2010. Since then, they've been in freefall, winning eight of 37 matches against the better sides (excluding Zimbabwe and the non-Test-playing sides). Their win-loss ratio of 0.29 is the poorest among these nine teams, worse even than Bangladesh, who have a ratio of 0.45. In the four years preceding that (from January 2006 to February 2010), New Zealand did far better, winning 44 out of 85 ODIs against these eight sides, and achieving a win-loss ratio of 1.33. Only three teams - Australia, India and South Africa - had a better ratio during this period.

Test record for teams since Apr 2006 (Excluding Tests v Bangladesh and Zimbabwe)
Team Tests W/L Ratio Bat ave Bowl ave 100s/ 50s
Australia 62 35/ 16 2.18 38.62 31.52 76/ 169
South Africa 53 26/ 15 1.73 38.72 30.93 67/ 126
England 74 31/ 21 1.47 37.27 32.85 90/ 167
India 62 22/ 18 1.22 37.30 37.70 70/ 184
Sri Lanka 51 16/ 16 1.00 36.25 37.76 62/ 113
Pakistan 48 13/ 19 0.68 31.43 34.49 35/ 117
New Zealand 37 4/ 21 0.19 27.50 37.60 23/ 81
West Indies 51 4/ 25 0.16 30.04 41.44 41/ 115
ODI teams since March 2010*
Team Matches W/L Ratio Bat ave/ Run rate Bowl ave. Econ rate
South Africa 31 21/ 10 2.10 36.52/ 5.35 25.57/ 4.95
India 60 36/ 20 1.80 35.36/ 5.47 31.18/ 5.29
England 52 29/ 20 1.45 33.98/ 5.34 31.31/ 5.20
Australia 56 29/ 25 1.16 33.11/ 5.22 29.31/ 5.06
Pakistan 50 25/ 23 1.08 27.87/ 4.94 30.95/ 4.91
Sri Lanka 62 29/ 28 1.03 30.81/ 5.00 31.10/ 5.08
West Indies 43 14/ 27 0.51 27.93/ 4.89 31.65/ 5.03
Bangladesh 29 9/ 20 0.45 25.89/ 4.64 35.44/ 5.43
New Zealand 37 8/ 27 0.29 25.05/ 4.94 32.68/ 5.14
* In ODIs against all teams excluding Zimbabwe and the non-Test-playing teams

In both Tests and ODIs it's clear that their batting has been the bigger problem than the bowling. In Tests, New Zealand have averaged 37.60 runs per wicket with the ball in the last six years, which is much below Australia and South Africa, but as good as India and Sri Lanka. Their batsmen, though, have averaged 27.50 runs per wicket, easily the worst among the teams in that table. Similarly, in ODIs their batting average is the worst among all sides (marginally lower than Bangladesh), while the bowling stats aren't much poorer than those of most sides in the list.

One of the problems for New Zealand's batsmen has been converting their starts into substantial scores. In Tests, their fifties-to-hundreds ratio is 3.5, while for the top teams it's around 2 or lower. In ODIs, they've only managed four hundreds in 37 matches - a rate of one every nine games - while the best teams have scored one every five games or fewer.

In the 1980s, on the other hand, New Zealand had a far more solid batting line-up. They averaged only 30.03, but that was in an era in which run-scoring was tougher, and none of the teams averaged more than 35. Batsmen like Martin Crowe and Wright ensured that the conversion rate was far better too, with a fifties-to-hundreds ratio of 2.37.

Test record for teams between Jan 1980 and Dec 1990 (Excluding Tests v Sri Lanka)
Team Tests W/L Ratio Bat ave Bowl ave 100s/ 50s
West Indies 89 46/ 10 4.60 34.23 25.95 81/ 178
Pakistan 80 22/ 14 1.57 34.68 31.28 68/ 154
Australia 99 27/ 32 0.84 33.25 33.44 88/ 201
New Zealand 63 15/ 19 0.78 30.03 32.37 46/ 109
England 113 21/ 43 0.48 30.51 36.10 92/ 230
India 80 9/ 22 0.40 34.65 39.20 68/ 174

New Zealand's three best batsmen during that period were Crowe, Wright and Coney, and they all averaged more than 38 against the top teams during the 1980s. The conversion rates were excellent for Crowe and Wright, but Coney suffered in that regard because he batted down the order, mostly at No. 6.

New Zealand's three best batsmen in Tests between Jan 1980 and Dec 1990 (Excl Tests v SL)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
John Wright 58 3814 38.91 10/ 15
Martin Crowe 50 3503 46.70 12/ 13
Jeremy Coney 40 2030 38.30 3/ 12

Contrast those three names with the ones below, who are the leading run scorers for New Zealand in Tests against the top sides in the last six years. Two of them aren't even specialist batsmen, which is a damning indictment of those who've played in the top six - Ross Taylor is the only one among them with reasonable stats. Jesse Ryder has done pretty well too - 1100 runs at 39.28 against these teams - but then he has other problems to contend with. One of the major disappointments has been Martin Guptill, who averages 24 in 19 Tests.

New Zealand's three best batsmen against the top teams* in Tests since Apr 2006
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Ross Taylor 32 2337 41.73 5/ 12
Brendon McCullum 37 2302 34.87 3/ 14
Daniel Vettori 36 2131 36.74 4/ 11
* Excluding Tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe

In ODIs too, New Zealand's top run scorers have pretty dismal numbers, with three of their top five run-getters averaging less than 30. Kane Williamson has shown plenty of promise in his brief international career so far, but his ODI stats are still pretty ordinary - an average of 28 at a strike rate of less than 70.

New Zealand's best ODI batsmen v top teams since March 2010
Batsman ODIs Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Ross Taylor 30 1039 41.56 76.96 2/ 6
Martin Guptill 32 735 24.50 70.80 0/ 5
Scott Styris 25 705 35.25 81.31 0/ 5
Brendon McCullum 28 650 25.00 91.29 0/ 4
Kane Williamson 22 571 28.55 67.41 1/ 3

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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