Time Out August 20, 2012

'Hard to be positive about New Zealand cricket today'

ESPNcricinfo staff
Harsha Bhogle, Simon Doull and Mark Richardson discuss the state the team finds itself in ahead of its tour of India

A country that has traditionally been known to punch above its weight in international cricket, New Zealand have gone through a poor phase recently. They were beaten in the West Indies and before that by South Africa. This after things appeared to look up when New Zealand won a thrilling Test in Hobart last year.

There has been change in the administration since John Buchanan took over as the director of New Zealand Cricket a year and a half ago. Kim Littlejohn was named selector, while John Wright quit as coach - the West Indies series being his last. New Zealand have replaced Wright with Mike Hesson and are heading to India for what could be a tough tour. There's also the lure of the IPL, raising questions about player availability amid inconsistent performances at the international level. What does the future hold for New Zealand cricket?

Harsha Bhogle spoke to former opener Mark Richardson and former fast bowler Simon Doull.

Extracts from the discussion below. The numbers in brackets are the duration for each segment

What has been the impact on all the changes in New Zealand cricket off the field? (2.40 - 4.48)
Simon Doull: Too much change for my liking. It's been a very difficult time for New Zealand cricket both on and off the field. Some very strange appointments, which probably date back a little earlier than Buchanan. I was very surprised when he picked up the job. I still think he has coaching aspirations, and perhaps that was why he didn't get on too well with John Wright. If a guy of Wright's standing cannot get along with the director of cricket then there are some real issues. For many years, New Zealand Cricket have thought that as long as we get Australians involved, we'll get better. To me that is 100% wrong.

Mark Richardson: New Zealand need leadership from the top. Unfortunately what we've seen over the last five or six years is that too much decision-making has come from the players, and a lot of those decisions haven't been good. They need some very good decision-making coming from coaches, and I don't think we've seen that. Now there's a realisation that we need help.

Does the lack of direction have to do with the captaincy of Daniel Vettori and Ross Taylor? (4.50 - 6.18)

"For many years, New Zealand Cricket have thought that as long as we get Australians involved, we'll get better. To me that is 100% wrong"
Simon Doull

MR: The New Zealand team really performed very well between 1999-2005. This is when Stephen Fleming took over the role. Steve Rixon came into the side and cleared out all the rubbish, got the culture right, got the key players moving in the right direction, and developed a young captain in Fleming. Then Fleming grew into the role and became a great leader, and set up a model whereby the captain did have power. However, Vettori, when he took over, wasn't in the same situation as Fleming, and needed a strong coach to help him through. I don't believe he got that. I believe he wanted all the power. A lot of poor decisions were made and that model has been handed through to Taylor.

Why aren't New Zealand punching above their weight now as they used to? (6.19 - 9.32)
SD: Fighting cricketers who worked their guts out to get the best out of themselves and get the best for the team - that's what typified New Zealand cricket. I don't see that fight at the moment. I don't see the will to work hard, that I have seen in the past. We've always had one or two real class players but I don't think in this team at the moment we have any world-class players. The fact that these guys are getting all of their money upfront - no performance bonuses, with no incentive to play well, is a bit of a problem for me.

MR: Kane Williamson is a player of immense talent and he plays with a degree of maturity, responsibility and desire. [Brendon] McCullum is massively talented but massively overrated as well. Vettori once was a magnificent left-arm spinner. He is still very good but has lost the ability to take wickets. The team continues to make mistakes as a batting unit and players get out in the 60s and the 70s. They fail to make 400 regularly. You've got to be bowling sides out. New Zealand lack pace and lack spin. Vettori hasn't been able to produce that role. The key players have failed to be the catalyst for performance and the youngsters simply aren't at the level to make up for that.

How do things look for New Zealand cricket? Also, is it a case of players such as Guptill and Ryder being better than their numbers suggest but not delivering? (9.33 - 12.30)
SD: As a commentator, when your team is playing well, your job is easy. You can find things to talk about all the time. We had two days through that whole West Indies tour over five and a half weeks where I was able to be positive about New Zealand cricket. That, for me, was very hard. It's hard when you go into your daily job and can't find things to be positive about. I'd like to think things will get better on the Indian tour, but I don't see it. From what I've been told, Mike Hesson brings a fair bit of organisation and structure to the job but it's too quick to try and turn things around in the space of a week and a half.

MR: That's the frustration of a New Zealand cricket fan. We see what these guys are capable of but most of them are trying to play a style of cricket that is not sustainable for them, and no one is grabbing them by the scruff of their neck, giving them a good shake and saying, "You can't play this way and expect to be consistent." They all seem to want to play like Virender Sehwag. They can't, they are New Zealand cricketers. They've got to pull their horns in, and no one seems to have got that message through to them.

Do we see New Zealand becoming a bigger force only in the shorter formats? (12.31 - 13.53)
SD: That would be nice if that was the truth. We were ranked No. 3 in ODIs and No. 3 in Tests three to four years ago. At the moment we are No. 8 in Tests and No. 7 in ODIs. So the stats are just not stacking up, to say that we'll be a better one-day side. There will be the odd good performance, like there was in the World Cup, but remember, South Africa was the only side we had to beat in a one-off situation. To play and win three or four games in a row, we don't seem to be able to do that.

With Tim Southee, Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult, how's the bowling unit? (13.54 - 17.25)
MR: New Zealand, in seamer-friendly conditions, are very good, very competitive. They look a different team. But those conditions are less and less around the world. It's about being able to generate wickets in flat conditions. New Zealand lack genuine pace. There are some lively bowlers around in the first-class level but they just don't seem to be making that next step up. Quite often we see a guy and say, "Wow, he's got some pace", but we see him in an international game with a speed gun on and he bowls at 135kph.

How big a problem is the IPL, especially next May when New Zealand tour England? (17.26 - 20.30)
SD: I don't see the IPL as a problem. Players have to realise how they got there. It's because they performed at the international level for New Zealand. That's the only reason you get to play in those tournaments, because the country puts you on the world stage. I wonder if too many players around the world forget the fact that that is where they were predominantly first seen, and that's where their loyalties should lie.

MR: For our key players, the IPL has become their greatest earner. When you are under pressure at the international level, you need an element of desperation to succeed. If success for your country is your livelihood, it's what you must have to perform. Does that three-year contract in the IPL take away that little bit of desperation, even at a subconscious level, away from your performance when you're playing for your country? I think that mentality has crept in just a little bit when it comes to our top players playing for New Zealand.

What's your forecast for the series in India? (20.32 - 23.38)
MR: New Zealand's going to struggle. There is no form behind them. I can't see this New Zealand team bowling out India [twice].

Numbers Game (24.22 - 29.03)
Starting April 2006, New Zealand have won four and lost 23 out of 39 Tests against the top sides (excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). Starting January 1, 1980, how many matches did they play to lose 23, and what was their win-loss record during that period?

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jon on August 22, 2012, 0:47 GMT

    Back in the 80s, when NZL truly did 'punch above their weight', it was largely on the back of a handful of players that we're battle hardened by playing County Cricket - I'm talking about players like Hadlee, Crowe, Wright and Turner. While I certainly don't begrudge modern players the opportunity to chase the big money in the IPL, I think some of them would benefit by playing more 3-4 day cricket. NZC needs to try and get a local side playing in Australia's domestic competition -- it worked for the NZ Breakers, who have won the Aussie basketball league for the last 2 years running, helping to boost the profile of the sport in NZ.

  • Andrew on August 21, 2012, 8:02 GMT

    @ Posted on (August 20 2012, 22:04 PM GMT) - please don't tell us the NZ players don't have opportunities. NZ's top players such as Taylor and McCullum have as good opportunities as anyone else. How many properties and horses does McCullum own these days? Taylor's last two contracts in India were said to be worth US$1m so assuming it'll be roughly the same in 2012 and even if he played only the first half of the season, it's still an exceptional living for a 28-year old. As far as I'm aware none of NZ's players have said they won't play the Tests next year, rather it's been the press that have intimated it. I just wonder that when they retire from cricket, what will be a better story to tell the grandkids - winning a Test match at Lord's or making smashing a quick 40 in Delhi?

  • Ryan on August 21, 2012, 4:39 GMT

    Guptill is our hardest working player. During the IPL he and Kid were over in England working their butts off to improve their 4/5 day game. Meanwhile, Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor are doing rubbish in India and are struggling to get in their sides.

  • Nathan on August 21, 2012, 0:59 GMT

    The batting is the problem, we bowl well fairly often but then chuck it away with poor batting. We were lucky to win the Hobart test as the bowling and catching was exceptional enough to compensate for the poor batting. No lack of effort from guys like Guptill and Williamson but guys are giving their wickets away with poor shot selection too often. Ross Taylor is the worst offender, has no idea how to restrict himself to low risk scoring shots. He keeps playing loose shots outside off stump - will he ever learn? If John Wright couldn't get the message through, i doubt anyone else can. Dropping him will be the only way to get him to take this problem seriously. Other guys are not so loose but making poor decisions all the same. Witness Guptill and Watling in the 2nd innings of 2nd test v WI. Both LBW playing across the line to an ordinary off spinner when we were effectively 98/0 and in a good position in the test. Next day it was all over. We need smarter batsmen with discipline.

  • Dummy4 on August 20, 2012, 22:04 GMT

    Your sentiments are appreciated amclean, but unfortunately we do not have the same opportunities as people in England. Matt Prior and Hashim Amla both won 4000 pounds for the player of the series awards earlier this morning - we don't see that sort of prize money handed out to New Zealand players, nor do we have match fees as high as the major nations. I applaud players who can make a living as professional cricket - it isn't easy, and certainly not very rewarding down here in New Zealand.

  • Dummy4 on August 20, 2012, 19:14 GMT

    @patchmaster gud un.. : )

  • Andrew on August 20, 2012, 17:11 GMT

    I was at Lord's over the weekend and I was annoyed that Kevin Pieterson was not playing - not because I like him as individual, but because of this concept of player power that Mark Richardson refers to. Pieterson was naive in thinking he held the power. I loved seeing Hashim Amla's honours-board celebration when he reached 100 and it made me think if NZ's best players do not turn up next May (as the press keeps suggesting will happen) and they elect to play domestic cricket in India over the chance to achieve every cricketer's dream of having his name added to the list of Lord's centurions and wicket takers, we will have reached a very sad moment in cricket's evolution. Brendon McCullum has a 96 and a 97 at NW8 and has never won a Test in England, Ross Taylor conceded that he played an awful shot in his first and Test at Lord's. If either of them (or anyone else) were to not play next time, how many cricket players and fans around the world would not have a lesser opinion of them?

  • Ash on August 20, 2012, 8:27 GMT

    This only just occured to me... Give Graham Henry a consultancy role maybe? I know it's rugby but the man gets everything in the right place.

  • john on August 20, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    I agree with most of what is said, EXCEPT I wish you would give Martin Guptill a bit more credit, he played very well in the tests against WI, had a very good average but you put him along with Ryder, who hasn't shown anywhere the same amount of fight. Guptill has concentrated on 4/5 day cricket, not been tempted by the $ at IPL, and I think he should be praised, not criticized.

  • Ed on August 20, 2012, 7:01 GMT

    As an NZ fan, you just will them on, pray and hope they'll get better, but they just don;t have the grit and steely determination to knock sides over like they used to do. I think they should bring in performance related pay for all formats , McCullum looks like he couldn't care less. Southee has been much improved from his spell spell of being dropped, I like the look of Wagner as well. I think it's time to try a younger / new spinner instead of Vettori, his batting is literally hit or miss and I don't believe (unlike others) that he can hold his place on batting alone.

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