Seasons In The Abyss

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When the darkness came, we accepted it gratefully, knowing that in its embrace lay a glimmer of hope. Hope that we might avoid defeat for a second test in a row, and thereby retain some shred of dignity and carry that into the winter.

The forecast is pretty average for today, though the forecasters have been wrong before, but there’s a fair chance that New Zealand might be able to fumble their way through however many balls we get to the end of play, and a 1-0 test series loss.

How are we supposed to feel about this? All blogwarring aside, a better team than ours, with far more talented players, came to our country and beat us in a test series. We can complain about our bowling and certain batsmen, but it was those simple facts that decided the series.

The beauty of cricket is that such is the ability of one player to impose their will upon the game that there was always a sliver of hope that we might see a different result. When Ryder hit his double century we were part way there, waiting only for a bowler to answer the call and join him in his reverie.
That none did is hardly surprising. Chris Martin became the all-time fourth-equal highest wicket taker for New Zealand this series, with only unequivocal talents Chris Cairns, Daniel Vettori and Richard Hadlee ahead of him. None of whom he’s likely to overtake.

Martin represents what we have to rely on most of the time in New Zealand: good players who want so badly to be great that they can occasionally will themselves to greatness. A look down that list is littered with examples of the provincial toiler, who was lucky enough to be born in New Zealand and therefore play test cricket, and every so often was worthy of the honour.

Paul Wiseman and his average of nearly 50. Dipak Patel (who I loved) and his of 42. The pre-Vettori era was a dark one for the art of spin in this country. Danny Morrison, the player Martin sits alongside, is perhaps the supreme example of sheer determination trumping obvious physical limitations.

Every so often the ratio of genuine talents to these manful strugglers in our team will rise to 6:5 or better, and it’s such times when we can really prosper. In this current side it sits at 4:7 by my reckoning, and while the bowling stocks have only one world-class entrant (and one who tends to be far more successful on some surfaces than others) we can’t expect those four to carry the weight of the seven journeymen to test victories very often. Unless we’re playing sides of a similar DNA, then all bets are off.

If this sounds depressed in tone, I don’t feel down. Another international season has gone, and it provided pretty good entertainment, though no victories. But when you’re played your heart out and lost to a better team there’s not much to complain about. It’s not like we have stacks of fast bowlers out there begging to be picked.

If we could somehow dredge up a couple, or Southee (who unlike the 30 Club members Martin, Mills and O’Brien, still has some upside to be determined) can develop a little more control and discipline and make that leap, then we’d have a pretty decent test side. In the meantime, there will be sessions of hope, and more of despair. Until the next special talent arrives, that’s our lot. As always with test match cricket, it’s a waiting game.
– Duncan

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10 Comments

Filed under Cricket, Reminiscing, Soccer

10 responses to “Seasons In The Abyss

  1. Great summary. Such are the trials and tribulations of the NZ supporter. In your 4/7 ratio I suppose it is: Vettori, Muccullum, Ryder and Taylor. See I also think that Guptill and Southee might one day be considered as part of this field and I still maintain that there aren’t that many ‘third seamer’ bowlers in world cricket better than O’Brien. Ahhhhhhhhhh.

  2. A couple of other things from this series: Ishant Sharma wasn’t the star that I thought he could be. He was good but clearly needs more experience in different conditions. Zaheer Khan on the other hand was a constant menace, some of our bowlers with similar talents could learn a lot from him.

    Did the Indians really care about winning that last test? Dhoni’s decision to bat on was incredibly timid at best and stupid at worst. It almost certainly cost them the win. Hard to see NZ surviving another hour or so.

  3. Duncan

    You picked the four – guess that wasn’t too difficult. I think Guptill and Southee have the potential to join them for sure. If the former could just up his concentration span a little, and the latter could start feeling like a test cricketer they’d be set. But they’re neither far off. As far as third seamers go… I’d probably take Patel, definitely Broad, Definitely Morkel… And probably Yasir Arafat, just because of his name. But IOB’s serviceable enough, we just don’t get nearly enough terror out of our top two.
    Sharma was definitely a little weak – a moody throwback to the last Indian tour, but Khan’s ability to light up out of nowhere would make you distinctly uncomfortable when facing him. And having that extra yard of pace makes all the difference.
    Yeah the Indians seemed comically unconcerned with closing out huh? They should have had this thing finished by Monday evening. I guess the ranking’s not super important to them. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but you know Australia or SA would’ve closed out that test.

  4. i quite like the look of having guptill, ryder, taylor and flynn in our batting lineup. flynn didnt show much against india but i think he has what it takes. those four are all reasonably young and are worth perservering with in the top/middle order. if only we had decent openers (i’m not convinced that guptill is a test opener).

  5. Duncan

    Honestly, I actually quite like the whole line-up, or at least don’t see any reason to mess with it in the short term. MacIntosh has one powerful factor in his favour to counter his lack of runs in the series, because he bats time even when he gets out to low score. So Flynn, Taylor Ryder etc have the new ball terrors relieved somewhat. Guptill might not b,e a test opener in the long run, but he’s definitely shown enough to be persevered with, and at this point his more attacking nature is a nice counterpoint with T-Mac’s slow-and-steady. Thing is, these guys didn’t cover themselves in glory for the most part, but nor did they disgrace themselves against a very good, very experienced team. I think we need to give them a chance to develop, leave Jimmy Franklin in so that he feels secure in his position, look hard at the bowling, but as a core, I think they deserve another shot. Because, and this is the point I was trying to make above, we don’t have vast pool of talent to replace them. They’re trying hard, and sometimes succeeding. there’s no shame in losing 1-0 over three tests to India, so let this lot of journeymen and the odd star go another round before we tear them asunder.

  6. To continue the “Obrien is the best third seamer” debate that rages hotly in my head, out of those players you mentioned he has comfortably the best average at 31.94. Morkel is next at 34.9 then Patel at 36.17 and Broad at a whopping 40.6.
    Hilfenhous Oz comes in at 52.28.

    So he IS the best..so there.

    I can take an argument for Morkel with his pace and bounce but he is not as consistent as our boy and so call that one a tie.

  7. tom

    re. the batting I can’t remember the last time NZ scored 6 centuries in a series, 2 players scoring 2, 3 batsmen averaging over 50. Just seemed like things went really badly in two innings and that was the series. The top 3 really did nothing and that’s a problem but like Duncan I am really hopeful about the future of all three. What impresses most with all these new players is the good positive attitude they bring which really comes out in the field (my main example here would be Guptill). Just let them get to at least double digits in the matches played column.

  8. Duncan

    @Molly: Wow. His average is seriously good huh? Maybe I just find it hard to take him seriously because he’s got such a bad face. You have to admit that Patel, Broad and Morkel have him beat in the sexiness stakes. If that wasn’t important for a fast bowler we’d think Brett Lee was as cool as Wasim Akram, and no one except his wife and Leyton Hewitt thinks that.
    Seriously though, I can’t believe Broad’s average is so poor, he always looked the business when I saw him. Though he was bowling against New Zealand, which makes anyway look hella dangerous.
    @Tom: It was a good series with the bat, no doubt, but so it should have been. The Napier track was not test match standard, and the other two contained none of the demons they’ve held in the past. But as you say, it’s an energetic young (in the sense that they’re eager and inexperienced, even if some are in their mid thirties) unit, and should be given time to find its feet for sure. It definitely looks more like a one day side to me, but that’s the way the talent’s fallen for us. On a side note, how messed up is it that Elliot and his 50+ ODI average can’t make our Twenty20 side. Very, I reckon.
    Series ratings coming tomorrow, people.

  9. a compelling argument.

    with the right kind of haircut obrien could be quite nice. morkel has the body of a stick insect. admittedly broad is rather handsome but remember he is english. patel could be the best looking of the lot.

    i think i need a cold bath.

  10. sid

    Hi Deadball…
    As an Indian, I often wanted Indian team to be more like NZ’s, way back in 90s when India still boasted of big stars in the lineup but lesser success stories. My contention was that NZ , while bereft of true star genius, was never about individuals but a fighting unit where the sum of all parts was more than the total. I loved the way 11 men fought and chipped in their bit, instead of a lone man carrying them around.
    I think as a NZ cricket fan, you have exciting times ahead of you because, going by this series, I think now you not only have the bits and pieces players in the midst but also genuine talent-esp in batting. Ryder, Taylor and McCullum of course and will also include Guptill based on what I saw in this series. And they are all very young and have a long career ahead of them. Bowling looks a concern – but will definitely be stronger if Bond comes back. O’Brien has the heart of a quick bowler and can still play for a couple of years at least, and same can be said about Martin who also has the knack to take wickets. Southee has a good prospect and with time and proper nurturing can be potent (I did manage to see a bit of him during the Aussie series). Vettori remains a force to be reckoned with I think. (I pray for the sake of NZ and cricket as whole for the return of Bond) bowling will still be one concern area for some time (unless you have fresh talents hidden away somewhere and disclose them soon) but batting looks solid and ever-improving with a competent tail.
    India has already found its core team and it has been in-form too. So a 1-0 loss is not a big shocker. But if the current NZ players live up to the potential and form the much-needed nucleus, I think we will be on level terms in 2-3 years maximum (remember we still have no replacement in sight for Sachin, Dravid, Laxman)

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