Odds stacked against New Zealand
The soap opera that is playing itself out in New Zealand cricket could not have come at a worse time for either the Black Caps or South African cricket. New Zealand is ranked No 8 in the world test rankings. They are about to take on the No 1 ranked team in their own backyard and they choose this time to sack their captain – who, incidentally, is also their best player – in such controversial circumstances that he refuses to go on the tour. They are also without former captain and top spin bowler Daniel Vettori and problem-child Jesse Ryder.
It is mind boggling that a small cricketing nation that used to be known for their team unity and ability to fight the odds because of their team spirit, has descended to such an all-time low. It is unfair as well to the hosts South Africa who have given the Kiwis top billing for the domestic summer. The least New Zealand could have done was to bring a full-strength team to South Africa in an attempt to compete. A divided team well below full strength will find it difficult to do that against a world-class team at the very top of their game.
There has been mudslinging from all quarters in the Kiwi ranks. So much so that the New Zealand Board felt it necessary to apologise to sacked captain Ross Taylor for the unfortunate set of circumstances that prevailed which ultimately led to his sacking.
Coach Mike Hesson, who never played top-level cricket, has been a long-time friend of new captain Brendon McCullum . Once Hesson was appointed, the speculation in cricket circles in New Zealand was rife that it was only a matter of time before McCullum succeeded Taylor. Director of cricket John Buchanan who supposedly presides over cricket matters, was responsible for the appointment of Hesson. Tacitly one would imagine that Buchanan must be supporting the removal of Taylor.
The previous coach John Wright, a New Zealand playing legend, fell out of favour with Buchanan and was replaced by Hesson as the current coach. The intrigue will do nothing for the image of the game in New Zealand. Cricket runs a distant second to rugby in the land of the silver fern and this latest unfortunate saga will further damage the reputation of a sport that has struggled to capture the imagination of the New Zealand public.
Chances are then that New Zealand will be lambs to the slaughter. Hopefully for their sake once they get out of New Zealand they will bond as a unit and play above themselves in order to extend the Proteas. The home team can only compete with what is put in front of them. I am sure they will be determined to show the hapless Kiwis no mercy.
Will the two test matches go into day five? If New Zealand achieve that with this team, it will be a good effort. Their best chance of an upset will be in the T 20 internationals. Somehow even in that competition I can’t see it happening.