'Hard to be positive about New Zealand cricket today'
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?
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.
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?