The work ethic of New Zealand's batsmen has been questioned by Ric Charlesworth, their departing high performance manager, who believes the side is still five years from seeing major batting improvement. Charlesworth, who announced in October he was leaving New Zealand Cricket, said the team's Test collapses in South Africa were simply the latest in a long line of top-order woes.
"A couple of Test matches against a very good team in difficult circumstances has highlighted it to everybody," Charlesworth told Radio Sport. "But we in New Zealand Cricket have been aware for a long time, we don't have quality, sustainable batting and that's the area where we are most deficient."
New Zealand failed to reach 200 in any of their four Test innings against South Africa. One of their biggest problems has been their struggle to find a quality opening pair since the retirement of Mark Richardson - they have not had a century opening stand since June 2004.
Charlesworth said Richardson was a player who had "wrung every ounce of talent" from himself but few of the current New Zealand top order could say the same. "We have to be very ambitious," Charlesworth said. "We want to be world class, not just playing for New Zealand.
"Because there's not a competitive environment around the team, then there isn't quite enough hunger and the work ethic that there needs to be. The question has to be asked of some of those players - do we prepare well enough?"
A damning indictment of New Zealand's top order came with the latest ICC player rankings, which featured only one New Zealand player - Stephen Fleming - in the top 30 Test batsmen in the world. Fleming is at the back end of his career but perhaps even more alarming is that the second New Zealander to appear on the list is Daniel Vettori at No. 31.
"We need a critical mass of outstanding players in that team, not just one or two," Charlesworth said. "If you had to have 100 players playing international cricket, we'd struggle.
"But you only have 11 in a team, so we have enough talent to produce an outstanding team. We've lost some very good Test players in the last couple of years and that hurts you in the short term but there's some very good talent who will eventually be competing for New Zealand."