September 8, 2000

Crowe expects runs aplenty from Kiwis during summer

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Test centuries, and lots of them by Black Cap players, are on former New Zealand captain and master batsman Martin Crowe's wish list for the new international summer.

Crowe, who will not in Africa for the Sky television coverage which will cover every international being played by New Zealand, said that while he has said the same thing every year recently, it was more important this year that New Zealand's batsmen take a step forward.

"I'm looking for Test hundreds specifically," he said.

Crowe pointed out a survey done last year that compared the nine Tests each played by Australia and New Zealand.

"There were similar numbers for both teams from 0-99, but they scored 10 centuries and we scored two. Nine of their centuries were 150-plus, and they were all scored in pairs," he said.

A comparison between captains Steve Waugh and New Zealand's Stephen Fleming showed that they had similar scores from 20 to 50 but Waugh had three 150s and Fleming had none.

"That's what has got to change. It is a good chance to start practising big scores in Zimbabwe," he said.

"Obviously there will be a little focus on Matt Horne and Mathew Sinclair. I would expect them to get the first opportunities."

Crowe was also keen to see what tactical approach New Zealand would take if Dion Nash were fit to play.

"Does he take the place of a top order batsman with Fleming moving to No 3 or does he play at the expense of off-spinner Paul Wiseman?"

He hopes the idea of playing Chris Cairns at No 3 in one-day games is also forgotten.

"How long will that last? If it does last, how long will it be before Cairns burns himself out?"

Fleming needed to step into the role because New Zealand could not possibly sustain an approach that involved having two [Cairns and Daniel Vettori] of its top three bowlers batting in the first three as well.

What was needed to lift New Zealand to a ranking in the top three one-day teams in the world was for everyone in the team to lift their performance by 20 per cent. Crowe hoped New Zealand got all the experimentation out of its system in Singapore.

There was a difference between experimentation and innovation and New Zealand needed to recognise that.

"Innovation is for when you come up against the best in the world and your usual approach isn't working.

"Innovation should be used as a surprise.

"You assume a role, you learn it, you fine tune it and then it becomes automatic.

"We didn't see that in Singapore but maybe they got the experimentation out of the way there.

"We await with great anticipation," Crowe said.

His own demonstration of innovation in the 1992 World Cup when for a month everything he touched turned to gold remains one of the most memorable images of Crowe's career.

Deciding in partnership with coach Warren Lees to open the bowling on Eden Park's slower pitch with off-spinner Dipak Patel was highly effective, as was his field placement, his constant switching of his slower bowlers and his brilliant batting approach were all examples of Crowe's innovation.

New Zealand rode to the semi-finals on the basis of that, and had Crowe not damaged a hamstring while batting, it would probably have seen the Kiwis into a highly winnable final.

Opportunities to be innovative have been few and far between since. New Zealand has been on an elongated development phase. Now it has mid-table status in both Test and one-day cricket, it should be starting to play with more authority.

Now more involved in Sky Television's cricket coverage, Crowe said there are some technological innovations in store for New Zealand viewers.

"We have a couple of new things which will be revealed soon. We will have a new level of production with an lbw zone and super slo-mo cameras. We'll have one at each end and one placed side-on.

"It'll be really special," he promised.

On the playing side in the home summer there was plenty to be enthused about.

"It's going to be an interesting year. There's only one Test match at home before March. There is a lot of focus on one-day cricket, and that's not a bad thing.

"But they have got to win.

"If they stick to the basics and ask much more of each individual then they should get results," he said.

"We await with great anticipation," he said.

Sky's international coverage begins on Tuesday, September 12 on Sky Sport at 7.55pm with live coverage of the first test from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Coverage will continue until 3.30am. Coverage will continue throughout the Tests and One-Day Internationals. When Super 12 rugby is played, cricket coverage will be on Sky Sport 2.