Cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on Sunday

New Zealand need to woo their fans back

Spineless performances will have made their supporters feel jaded. To make them care once again, some of New Zealand's players will need to play exceptionally

Andrew Alderson

August 28, 2012

Comments: 30 | Text size: A | A

Kane Williamson drives through the off side, West Indies v New Zealand, 1st Test, Antigua, 2nd day, July 26, 2012
Kane Williamson: New Zealand's fortunes seem to ride on his shoulders right now © LaTouche Photography
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There is one thing worse than fans being frustrated by the New Zealand team's capitulations to South Africa, West Indies and India since February. It's their apathy.

The "couldn't care less" curtains appear to have been drawn on most cricketing matters in New Zealand of late. Much of the evidence is anecdotal but will presumably be reflected in statistics like television viewer numbers and website hits, if flaky performances like the innings-and-115-run loss in Hyderabad pervade further results.

Since South Africa's arrival in February, New Zealand have lost four out of their last six Tests, seven out of eight one-dayers and four out of five Twenty20s. Hopes of leaping over West Indies in the ranking tables were extinguished. The might of India now towers over the New Zealand agenda.

The days are gone when groups of like-minded cricket fans could debate for hours the merits of New Zealand tactics, strategy and personnel, and their chances of success or failure. Cricket was the indisputable summer game. Few such debates ignite these days. There was a fleeting glimpse after New Zealand's Test victory in Hobart last year but the insurance of public goodwill from that has long been spent.

Compounding this apparent lack of cricketing interest has been New Zealand's Olympic success in London. Kiwi sports fans revelled in a haul of 13 medals (six gold, two silver, five bronze), equalling the country's best cumulative effort at the Games. Rowers, sailors, cyclists, horse riders, a shot putter and a kayaker rose to prominence by virtue of their dedication to excellence. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the country's best cricketers reverted to anonymity as they floundered in the Caribbean.

The whole Olympic escapade hinted at a shifting of the guard in the New Zealand summer game, albeit momentarily. Gold medals aside, there is little chance of any sport usurping cricket because of the incomes that can be derived from bat and ball in the modern T20 world. Top rowers now make a decent living from their Olympic and world championship successes but medals cannot match the lure of six- and seven-figure annual sums for aspiring young athletes.

Yet a catalyst has to be found to give New Zealand's cricket a fillip on the international stage. Winston Churchill once said: "It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required." New Zealand's current situation mirrors that. No one doubts the players are doing their best but someone needs to dredge something special from their mental core to reverse the submissive trend.

In Hyderabad, Brendon McCullum's alleged inside edge on to his pad which was given lbw is still no excuse for the team losing their last nine wickets for 66 runs. It is a travesty the DRS was not in place but that cannot expunge the lack of application in twin sub 165-run scores. Ross Taylor's reference to the team's inability to play quality spin is hardly a mitigating factor. R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha took 18 of the 20 wickets in the Test but so much cricket is played on the subcontinent these days that playing spin forms a mandatory part of any genuine international player's batting armoury.

The loss has highlighted the need for someone to exceed expectations. Kane Williamson is the obvious candidate, given his current form - his 32 and 52 in the first Test formed 26% of New Zealand's runs - and proven ability to weather bowling tormentors. That was demonstrated when he secured a draw with a century in Wellington against South Africa in March. Williamson will need partners to produce anywhere near what is required to challenge India in the second Test in Bangalore. Support on the bowling front would also help so batsmen are not daunted by a number like India's 438 sneering from the scoreboard.

Ardent supporters will be pleading the New Zealanders can seek redemption; the more fickle will have already flicked channels to domestic rugby or perhaps the latest in Olympic sport. New Zealand's cricketers have to begin winning them back.

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

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Posted by Patchmaster on (August 30, 2012, 0:21 GMT)

As a NZ fan, here's my wish list. Bring someone like Craig McMillan into the assistant role. Work on ditching the 'couldn't care less' attitude which some players seem to have (Ross Taylor batting in the last test would be a good example) ditch Vettori for a young spinner who can grow into the role. Forget ODI's, play a young B team for that as a way to blood young players. Concentrate on T20 and Tests. Find a young opening batsman to open with McCullum, move Guptil to number 3 or 4.

Posted by mrmonty on (August 29, 2012, 21:10 GMT)

NZ should bite the bullet and bring Ryder back. The trouble is most of their players look like they have been picked from the fans' pool not cricketers' pool.

Posted by beejaytee on (August 29, 2012, 5:28 GMT)

It's not always easy at the moment, but I think fans and commentators alike need to keep a sense of perspective about this side. Take Chris Martin out, and the average age drops to about 24 or 25. Southee is still only 23, Kane has just turned 22, Bracewell & Boult are both 21! What we are looking at is a side in a *genuine* rebuilding phase, rather than just using that term as an excuse for poor performces as the big sides do.Yes, McCullum & Taylor have failed to adapt their games to what is required of senior batsmen, and NZ haven't fielded the best side available for some time. Franklin's inclusion is overdue but he is a batsman these days, Nethula deserves a chance, and Boult should open the bowling *with* either Southee or Wagner. But even with these problems, the SA Test series was one woeful collapse short of a pretty good tussle, and poor catching cost them dearly against WI. Not nearly as dire a situation as recent results indicate.

Posted by sirNathe on (August 29, 2012, 3:10 GMT)

The game plan of prodding forward from the crease all day is the same one we have been using since i first starting watching our cricket 30 years ago. We haven't improved that area of our game at all since then. We've had the odd batsman be successful at times such as Sir Marty Crowe but generally speaking we have been ordinary. We need to take a look around the world at players who have been successful against quality spin, copy their game plan, practise it and get good at it. You'll find that that game plan includes batsman using their feet and coming down the wicket. Ponting and Clarke come to mind as players that were very hard for spinners to bowl to because every 3rd or 4th ball, they'd be coming down the wicket at you. That forces the spinner to change his game plan. It's high time our guys changed theirs.

Posted by D-Ascendant on (August 29, 2012, 1:27 GMT)

My two bits: Bring back Andre Adams from the cold. Since Fleming won't coach, have someone like Craig McMillan have an assistant coaching role in the team. Actually, given the state of the current batting lineup, I think Macca would be able to slot right back into the team to provide some middle order blood'n'guts.

Posted by dalboy12 on (August 28, 2012, 23:20 GMT)

There is actually a bit talk about the cricket here in NZ, especially on sport radio. We are in the middle of rugby season and the local league team is in crisis as well so that is dominating things. But to say we are only into Rugby is wrong and stupid - how did we win 13 medals incl 6 golds (remembering Rugby isn't even there yet) at the Olympics which is pretty good for a nation of 4.5 million. Anyway, we have been cutting our own throats a bit -- why go and play a WI team that has come off hard series against England and Aussie after a long break without cricket, then try and play India at home without so much as a warm up game. No wonder we struggle. Our bowlers are not too bad, not like they can complete with SA line-up but Bracewell is only 21 and Boult is only 23 this is there 1st time playing in these conditions and they will be better for it and they look promising for the future. Our batting is the problem.

Posted by ygkd on (August 28, 2012, 21:27 GMT)

NZ has just lost another Wright. Something is obviously Wrong. At the top.

Posted by SIDE-KICK on (August 28, 2012, 20:22 GMT)

hey firstly id like to say well done to New Zealand for making the batting changes the were needed with the no 3 osition having Kane Williamson there is a great move and its starting to pay off his 52 in the second innings was good expect that shot that got him out he plays spin well smothers the ball and that what the other new zealand batsmen need to do no excuses kep up the good work Kane

Posted by   on (August 28, 2012, 16:27 GMT)

Shed the T20 mindset, Ross!! Stop trying to slog everything on the leg side!

How I miss Mark Richardson now!

Posted by   on (August 28, 2012, 13:13 GMT)

I'm pretty sure sides like Bangladesh can beat NZ 2 times outta 5 at least. Whats worse is that sides like NZ have been around playing mediocre cricket since time immemorial but nations with obvious talent like Ireland can do no more but lose stars to strengthen England who in turn relish in the success of these imported stars, covering their obvious shortfall of homegrown talent. Sad situation overall.

Posted by   on (August 28, 2012, 12:43 GMT)

It is obvious that the underdogs of world cricket need 2 stick together if they are to have any chance of competing with the top teams India, Australia, England and South Africa. maybe an exchange program could be set up where young players from Ireland, Zimbabwe & New Zealand could play first class cricket in West Indies, Pakistan & Bangladesh to learn more about bowling / playing spin in warmer countries while young players from West Indies, Pakistan & Bangladesh could play first class cricket in Ireland , Zimbabwe & New Zealand to learn more about playing / bowling bounce, swing and seam in colder wetter countries.

Posted by Maccanui on (August 28, 2012, 11:11 GMT)

I think Maitland has summed things up quite nicely. Our bowling attack isn't too bad at the moment, not world beaters by any stretch, but they can at least hold their own. It is the batsmen who are really letting the side down, particularly the senior guys like Taylor, McCullum and Guptill. Wright suggested of attitude problems with some attitudes when he left and you'd have to agree when it comes to Taylor and McCullum. It's a shame a guy like Williamson has had to assume so much responsibility when he should be allowed to develop properly. Good to see Franklin back in but he has been massively stuffed around in the past. The administration of NZ cricket continues to be a shambles, Vaughan was a disaster and things seem no better now with coaches all heading for the exit. As an ardent NZ cricket supporter for over 20 years I've been through some hard times but its difficult to think of a time when things seemed more bleak than they are now.

Posted by India_boy on (August 28, 2012, 11:00 GMT)

the most disheartening thing about NZ is that they produce genuine world class cricketers but in an extremely sporadic manner. You look at all good teams around the world, they have always had at least 3 excellent players, playing at the same time, capable of walking in any other team. SL has had Sanga, Mahela, Murali, Aus had 4-5 world beaters, same with Ind, Pak, SA and (until last year) with Eng. Unless NZC develops 3 excellent players and try to build their team around them,they cant be one of the top 5 teams.

Posted by bobbo2 on (August 28, 2012, 10:44 GMT)

As a long suffering fan, it is dissapointing to see NZ's lack of fight over the last year or so. The Hobart test was brilliant, but that was still off th back of the batsman making no runs. Guptill seems to care and Williamsons seems like the future. But Taylor is the best batsman in the side but he too often gets out to lazy shots.

A shame Ryder isn't with the team because he is something special but he needs to get himself right. I'm just dissapointed we can find a couple of players willing and able to grind out a parternship. The bowlers are not far off if we have some runs on the board but the batsman let us down time and time again.

I accept we are simply not as good as the top tier teams but we are good enough to fight even if we do lose in the end.

Posted by RandyOZ on (August 28, 2012, 9:29 GMT)

No one in NZ cares about cricket, they are only good at, and only care about, one sport; rugby union. The only reason they are good at that is because Australia doesn't give two hoots about it anyway.

Posted by Adeel9 on (August 28, 2012, 9:27 GMT)

It is always heartbreaking to see a team going backwards especially in a game where we have only secured 10 teams in 100 years. Like it or not T20 seems to be the way to get more teams as the teams from the lower end of the table and beyond top 10 can only compete in T20 (you wont see zimbabwe beating South Africa in tests.)

Posted by maitland on (August 28, 2012, 8:46 GMT)

The big thing is they appear to show no fight. The captain has proven inadequate and should step down to try and concentrate on his own game and let someone else inspire the team. Guptill looks totally confused as to what style of game to play. No one in the tail is capable of showing any fight and hanging around with the bat.

The administration of the game is to fault for letting all of this develop. The previous CEO really appears to have been useless based on results over recent times. Going into the last two series with no warm up games looks like incredible arrogance and incompetence.

This article is right on the mark. The public treat cricket as a joke and what youngster is going to play the game and be a laughing stock when they could take up rowing or many other sports.

Posted by playinrain on (August 28, 2012, 8:14 GMT)

Test cricket requires bowlers bowling to their fields....The Kiwis are just offering too many loose deliveries. The batting as hapless as it seems is a weird one. You need sometimes a touch of luck and a decision to go your way sometimes to turn a slump around....basically nothing's going their way including 50/50 calls from umpires. Once a team is down and out in their fortunes, it's like a rot. Really sad to see, but the West Indies have just been through it and are re-amerging as is Pakistan. Swings and roundabouts. Sometimes a team seems to have to knock all 3 stumps over`to get a wicket, and never let the ball touch theirs pads while batting to turn it about! I feel sorry for the guys. One rash shot , out , and the opposition can snick and slash happily all day. It's a cruel game when it goes wrong. They just have to play the % game their strengths will allow.Not taking anything away from Indias performance, which was very professional and quite clinical throughout.

Posted by frenchcut on (August 28, 2012, 7:30 GMT)

As a very frustrated fan, some comments from the heart.. Ross Taylor needs to lead from the front. He is our premier batsman and the captain. The last 3 tests, 2 against West Indies and 1 against India has him averaging 22.5, 6 completed innings. More to the point he keeps getting out to silly shots. Simply not good enough !!. Maybe he needs to stand down from the captaincy and simply concentrate on batting.. His job is to score runs. Without runs NZ cant compete. They dont have a bowling attack to run through any of the top 6 countries in the world. 1 world class spell from Bracewell in Hobart got us the only memorable win in most recent history and yes we had some batsmen score runs in that test.. Come on guys bat for three sessions and score 100. Will be damn slow but you know what it will give us hope..

Posted by Knightriders_suck on (August 28, 2012, 7:21 GMT)

get rid of Buchanan and get back John Wright.

Posted by   on (August 28, 2012, 7:07 GMT)

Blackcaps need to tighten their defence and captain needs to be more aggressive...and yes...get DRS...

Posted by kb_joker on (August 28, 2012, 6:57 GMT)

Why can't NZ get Stephen Fleming as coach? He was a great captain. They should also get a good spin coach (someone from the subcontinent).

Posted by mgmad on (August 28, 2012, 6:56 GMT)

I will always support NZ, though it is seriously frustrating at the moment. We have some of the best batsmen we've had in a long time yet we can't build a total. It has to be said though, the ICC and the FTP are not helping our cause - how we're meant to compete with the big teams when they're playing 50% more tests than us I really don't know. And as for no warm up match, what a disgrace, terrible idea.

Posted by Nmiduna on (August 28, 2012, 6:24 GMT)

from SL..really heartbreaking to NZ at this situations, we r country dat is talked n hyped less, bt has consistently been better at the big stage than most of the was NZ, they played us in the 2007 semifinal and also 2011(gave us a scare at our home ground) and won a champions trophy in the last decade, for a country of roughly 4 million and superior interest IN rugby, to say dey have punched above their weight is an understatement!now, more than any time, the value of the fighting spirit and the grit is apparent. perhaps it comes from rugby. but at the same time is heartening to see WI finding some form,its equally saddening to see,NZ, once a team who could threaten the mighty aussies at their best wen more heavyweight teams suffered, are now looking a team who culd just beat ZIM.whatever the reasons, hope NZ can soon find their mental toughness and denial to go down without a fight, which made their identity.NZ, cricket need U! plz come back..WC is not that far.AL DA BEST!

Posted by uwho on (August 28, 2012, 6:20 GMT)

A few points in response to this article:

- what other nation from outside the sub-continent would go straight into a test match in India without a warm up to aclimatise to such foreign conditions?

- for the 40 years I have been following NZ, we have always had an issue with batting against spin. Nothing ever seems to be done to improve technique, we just seem to shrug our shoulders and put up with it.

- we have picked a leg-spinner but are scared to play him. Yes, he might get hit, but he may also get us a few wickets - we need to attack more rather than trying to limit the damage.

- the administration of the game is a shambles - witness the J Wright situation - we got rid of the wrong John!

I think unless we start to take test cricket more seriously, NZ will not be playing tests within the next few years.

Posted by   on (August 28, 2012, 5:45 GMT)

New Zealand cricketers only in recent past have become reckless and less committed, a luxury which a country with small pool of cricketers cannot afford,theya re at their best when they fight

Posted by sifter132 on (August 28, 2012, 5:20 GMT)

I see the point, but it could be argued that if NZ are ever going to suck it might as well be during rugby season when no one is watching! What's your answer Andrew? Just play better? Is there anyone talented being left out? Get more accustomed to spin before these tours?

Posted by Balldinho on (August 28, 2012, 5:01 GMT)

The people of New Zealand do not care for a sport where Ten nations play each other repeatedly in pointless bilateral series till 4 years are up till the next world cup. Make more meaningful tournament with more nations to make it a TRUE world game like how Rug is then maybe you'd seen a spike in Kiwi interest

Posted by Woody111 on (August 28, 2012, 4:37 GMT)

From over the Tasman I still cannot get my head around this batting lineup's inability to regularly post 350 plus scores. Granted Ryder seems to be exiled but Taylor, Guptil, Williamson and McCullum are far from bunnies and should be ensuring the middle order stands up. The bowling stocks will probably always be a bit thin but not even McGrath and Warne could salvage totals being posted by NZ these days. I hope the trend can reverse quickly but I can't see how. Behind the scenes appears a mess so it's up to the players to show some determination and knuckle down. Taylor could go for the jugular in the field more too; defensive captains rarely win consistently and it sends a clear message to the team that the leader doesn't back his team to put the opposition away. A draw will be huge in the 2nd test, fingers crossed NZ can build a 1st innings total the bowlers can bowl to.

Posted by 1st_april on (August 28, 2012, 4:28 GMT)

NZ have to win the toss and bat first to have a realistic chance.....impose a total and see what happens.....i think India are very much beatable...given their barren middle order...Disciplined bowling can skittle India out easily , their results in ENG/AUS prove that...

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