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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Regan on July 22, 2012, 0:51 GMT

    The thing that stands out like a beacon for me in this article is the appallingly low number of tests played by New Zealand as opposed to the rest of the teams listed in the table listing test records since 2006. It is little wonder that out stats are far worse . . . we play so infrequently that it seem we forget how to play (with the odd exception - i.e. Ross Taylor and Dan Vettori). I think that this is the strongest reason for New Zealand's decline - how can they get better with out consistent play? I am certain that if NZ address this lack of Test match play they will improve and I think this would also have a positive flow on into their ODI cricket. We seem to have a few more tests scheduled this year than we have had in recent times, even if too many of them are only two test series. Let's hope that this is the beginning of addressing the problem and we can see some improvement in New Zealand's results.

  • Dummy4 on July 21, 2012, 13:45 GMT

    Think they should persuade India to play more often there and a longer series, especially Tests, perhaps. The TALENT will follow the money.

  • Bored on July 21, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    NZ has given cricket so much these past few years... Cricket really needs to give back. Its sad really because they've always had some good players: Hadlee, Wright, Cairns, Harris, Fleming, Vincent, McMillan, Taylor...But the ICL really hit them hard! Bowlers of the calibre of Bond/Hadlee should be approched to get coaching their guys and Fleming as batting coach-cum-think-tank could do wonders! And yes; they need more Tests!! Theyve played HALF as many as Eng! Its crazy really!

  • Nigel on July 21, 2012, 6:27 GMT

    Hamish makes an excellent point, we have played between 11-37 less tests than anyone else since 2006! This is literally 1-3 years less experience over that time (with English players having had twice as many tests in the same period). Consistent experience is a key factor on which to develop consistent performance. NZs erratic test schedule leads to erratic performances. Given NZ lack of presence on the cricket landscape there is no answer and longer term this could lead to the eventual demise of NZ cricket into a 2nd tier nation such as Kenya or Ireland. I don't imagine too many outside of NZ would really care if this actually did occur, hence I do not see any solution. It would take someone like an India or England to actually decide that this situation is not good for the future of cricket and be prepared to make the sacrifices needed to make it happen. I think there would be more chance of Elvis making a come back. It is the rich getting richer and the rest suriviving on scraps.

  • Jon on July 21, 2012, 4:01 GMT

    Getting a couple of teams into the Aussie domestic comp would do wonders for NZL -- the learning curve would be very steep but our young batsmen need more exposure to quality bowling. The problem with Guptill is that he's not an opener. He's been forced to open because NZL cant seem to produce any top order players. McCullum needs to keep wickets and bat down the order at 5 or 6... he's screwed up the balance of the team. On the positive side there is still some quality there -- Taylor, Ryder, Williamson, Brownlie... these guys can all play.

  • Ricardo on July 21, 2012, 3:09 GMT

    sangan3: Your idea of a trans-tasman dosmetic league similar to the NRL and NBL is exactly the only solution that will help NZ cricket. We have the likes of Peter Ingram and Mathew Sinclair who are domestic superstars being found out badly on the international stage. It's painful seeing all the hype from our media regarding these first-class players only to see their stumps cart-wheeling after Umar Gul, Dale Steyn and co yorkers. Exposure is needed earlier due to our small population and having one or two teams to battle the aussies would be a great solution. Also, our senior players have to cut out their arrogant attitude, they haven't earnt it lol

  • Dummy4 on July 21, 2012, 2:09 GMT

    Pretty sad thing to see from a New Zealand point of view. Unfortunately I can't even begin to imagine who will possibly save us in the batting department. Guptill has the potential to be so much better. It's the same old thing though, our players never realise this 'potential'.

    Unfortunately, we make matters worse by handing caps to players who should never even be in the team. No disrespect meant, but Rob Nicoll is fine to play T20 but come ODI's he should be batting down the order since he is an All Rounder, and should never have played Tests. Andrew Ellis - no.

    We need Ryder back. Williamson needs time, and some of our young fast bowlers need to come through. Then - NZ might get back to those good days.

  • Michael on July 21, 2012, 1:07 GMT

    The problem is the lack of games, and the timing of those few games NZ plays. There are very few home games, and none at all at the peak of summer. Which means that public interest - and therefore participation by kids - has nosedived. Such few games also means those who do play at the highest level don't get a chance to settle in and improve. Sadly, given the state of the international calendar and the lack of priority afforded New Zealand, I can't see a way back from the brink.

  • Dummy4 on July 21, 2012, 0:26 GMT

    What you've said is all true, and part of the problem is that in the last six years, NZ have only played 37 Tests. Every one else has played more than 50 (except Pakistan who've played 48) - and England have played 74! We'll never be world beaters in the Test arena, but we could at least be competitive if we played more regularly, and in longer series (none of this two match stuff). We can't get better at playing test matches if we don't get to play enough of them to begin with. I thought the FTP was supposed to help level the playing field?

  • Andrew on July 21, 2012, 0:01 GMT

    @Flighted_kiwi - one annoying thing for kiwi fans, is that there is currently a talented young batsmen/spinner playing County cricket in England, he is born & bred NZlder, but he is trying to qualify for the Poms, can't remember his name (I think he recently either played for the Lions or some other England XI), but he is at least at Williamson standard. @khanc - IMO - there have been 3 truely great captains in my lifetime (in no particlular order), they were Imran, Tubby Taylor & Fleming. I reckon I'll add Pup Clarke to that group in the not too distant future.

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