New Zealand's opening batsman, Mark Richardson, has laid into the standard of opposition provided by Bangladesh during their recent tour, and warns that a "slap in the face" awaits his team when they arrive in Australia for a two-Test series later this month.
As befits one of the most attritional openers in the game, Richardson has spent most of the tour advocating a patient approach to the Bangladeshi challenge, but in his latest column for the New Zealand Herald, he finally let rip. "It's time to get the hell out of Bangladesh," he declared, after watching his side squeak to a nervy three-wicket win in the second one-day international. "You can only maintain your standards for so long ... [we have slipped] right back to club level."
It was a measure of the New Zealanders' lack of enthusiasm at the end of the series that Richardson - a notoriously sluggish runner - couldn't even bring himself to compete in his now-traditional sprint-off against the slowest member of the opposition. "I could have won," he reflected, "given my length-of-stride advantage." Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, he added that the only positive he could take out of the four-week visit was the chance to stock up on pirated DVDs from the local markets.
The first Test against Australia starts at Brisbane on November 18, and Richardson is genuinely concerned for the competitiveness of his team, after their recent uninspired efforts. "Your time in the middle against two dribbly seamers and three left-arm spinners will mean spit against four quicks and a leggy," he stressed. "And average bowling will not bag you four wickets for bugger all."
Richardson, who did not play in the one-day series, endured a lean time with the bat in the Tests, scoring just 43 runs in two innings. "The only way you can view this Bangladesh series is as the launching pad into a challenging summer of cricket," he added. "[But it's been] made only more challenging by the lack of quality of the launching pad."
It is not only New Zealand whose performances have suffered after a trip to Bangladesh. This time last year, England were the visitors, but after five trouble-free victories out of five, they flew across the Bay of Bengal to Sri Lanka ... where they were bundled out for 88 in the first one-day game at Dambulla.
"For those who have scored runs or taken wickets there will be the satisfying feeling of having boosted the averages, but I doubt how many will feel they have gained much as a cricketer," added Richardson. "You can bet your bottom dollar that the boys are itching to get on the plane to Oz."