April 17, 2003

Time for New Zealand to find a style all its own

New Zealand cricket needs to develop a style all of its own.

So says former Australian cricket captain and coach Bobby Simpson.

He made his comments at Otago Cricket's special 300 Club dinner in Dunedin last night. The function was held in honour of the five Otago players responsible for scoring the first six triple centuries by New Zealand players.

Two of the triple century makers, Glenn Turner and Ken Rutherford were at the function while the families of the deceased Roger Blunt and Bert Sucliffe, and Mark Richardson, who is on TelstraClear Black Caps duty in Sri Lanka, were in attendance as well. They were each presented with their mounted black cap from New Zealand Cricket at the function.

Simpson was guest speaker and said that of all the teams in world cricket, New Zealand and South Africa were the only two sides who did not have a distinctive style of their own.

New Zealand and the way they play the one-day game at the moment were too predictable.

Yet Simpson said he was full of admiration for the abilities of New Zealand in all sports and said the country was the greatest sporting nation in the world. It was quite extraordinary that New Zealand could not only win, but defend, the America's Cup which was based on big money, research and expense.

It had produced great sportspeople through all manner of sports and he said it was about time New Zealand developed a style of its own in cricket.

If it didn't have a distinctive playing style, Simpson said the way New Zealand's players, or their families, have all been presented with a mounted, and numbered, Test cap was a starting point.

It was common for the international players of today in Australia to have a numbered cap but he thought it would be a good idea for the Australian Cricket Board to honour their past players in a similar way.

Simpson paid tribute to Turner for having shown the way in batting in the modern one-day game by his innovation.

"I pinched a lot of your ideas and admired your ability to punch the ball over the top of the infield, not far enough to get caught, but far enough for two runs to be scored.

"That approach was part and parcel of our success in the 1987 World Cup," he said.

Simpson also told Rutherford that he would love to have coached him because he was one of the most naturally gifted players he had ever seen. Simpson felt he could have got another 10 runs added onto Rutherford's average.

Speaking of his own career, Simpson said he believed he played in the last days of innocence in the international game.

Fashion, fads and theories now dominated the game and young players were not getting the chance to go out and enjoy their cricket.

"There are more coaches today, but there has never been a greater need for coaching," he said.

Simpson acknowledged his respect for Sutcliffe, with whom he had toured, having him as a room-mate on an International Cavaliers tour after he had been dropped from the Australian team.

Sutcliffe had left an impression on him for his ability to make the game look easy, his unruffled approach and the way he moved so smoothly.

It had been a wonderful tour, organised by Ron Roberts, with the intention of pitting some experienced players with young up and coming players and he recalled the words of team captain Denis Compton who said to him: "Your job is to score runs and my job is to make sure you get enjoyment from your cricket."

And he said it was one of his regrets that he never got to play a Test match against New Zealand due to the thinking of Australia's administrators in his day.

Simpson said those players who had scored triple centuries had done so because they had not set limits on themselves.

"The average person sets self-imposed limits," he said. This explained why so many people did not carry on after they reached a target.

But those who went on didn't see things as targets but rather as milestones.

"Milestones are what you pass on the way to better things," Simpson said.