Aaron Hawkins from Radio 1 in Dunedin and DeadBall’s Duncan Greive discuss the week in sport, including a spectacular effort by the Black Caps in Bangladesh and the unveiling of yet another new schedule from the ICC. We also go at Sonny Bill Williams attempts to become the least likable sportsman in the country, the Stags’ Shield loss and the way Liverpool’s recent travail’s illustrate the danger’s of becoming a millionaire’s toy.
Tag Archives: The Black Caps
I intended to write this post on September 12, when it was exactly two years since Daniel Vettori assumed the test captaincy of the Black Caps. Unfortunately a very good friend’s 30th birthday party was on September 11th, which proved catastrophic to my ability to get this done (though I did manage to drive to Hamilton and watch the All Blacks lose live in person for the first time this decade, completing a trifecta First Four* of live losses which involved Auckland Grammar, The Warriors and the Auckland NPC team – I think the latter are just called ‘Auckland’, which might be amazing or rubbish, I can’t tell at this point).
Anyway, I’d been planning this post for a while is what I’m trying to say, and now I’m sitting here with a glass of The Macallan (pictured) and I’m gonna write it, goddamn it. Because, I guess, I feel cheated. I came of age as a test cricket fan later than most, in the late ’90s to early ’00s, when, astoundingly, we had a team worth shouting about. I think it began with that monumental series win in England, when Dion Nash became the first cricketer to take 10 wickets and score a 50 in the same match at Lords. It might be an obscure and slightly weird record, but it’s ours, you know?
In that era we beat India at home, lost narrowly to South Africa at home and India away, smashed the Windies at home, tied a series with Pakistan on more than one occasion, drew with England at home and India, Australia and Sri Lanka away… There are a few series I’ve ignored in there, mostly in South Africa and Australia. But for this incredible six or seven year period, we became a competitive test side. And I was in love.
Because, well, little old New Zealand was beating up – or at least drawing up – on these impossibly imposing foes! How did it happen? I picked one team at random (test no. 1573), thinking it’d be a typical New Zealand grab bag of trash’n’treasure, a few gems and some stinkers – that fleamarket vibe which is (mostly) our cricketing lot. Instead I saw this:
I might be a bit drunk, but that is a fantastic cricket team. Sure Vincent (test av. 34) and Sinclair (test av. 32) are a bit iffy. But the rest is very high quality. When I say high quality, though, there’s the implied silent caveat ‘by New Zealand standards’. Were such a side to turn out for Australia you’d say awful. Maybe four of those guys (Bond, Cairns, Vettori and Richardson?) would make their very poor current side. And they’d be contentious. But for New Zealand? That’s one of the all time ten best sides we’ve ever fielded, no question
All of which is an extremely long-winded way of introducing the matter at hand. In the last two years New Zealand has played 21 test matches. I began to wax nostalgic about how much more test cricket we played back in the day, but then checked the total we played in 1998 and 1999, and it was 20. So we haven’t played a bunch of test cricket in a long time. What has changed is how well we’ve played it. We won eight of those 20 matches a decade ago, and drew seven, while losing only five.
The last two years? four wins, six draws and ELEVEN losses. We have slipped, and terribly. Test cricket, which at the time seemed so vital, now seems vaguely quaint (at least in terms of the esteem with which it’s held this country). And to my mind, most of that can be put down to that curmudgeonly philistine John Bracewell’s emphasis on the now-irrelevant (seriously, they will not play any 50 over cricket in English county cricket next year) ODI form of the game. He was utterly disinterested in test cricket, and it showed through brutally in our performances under his ruinous reign. But ultimately the players have to take some of the blame.
Here, then, is the complete list of the batting statistics of those who have dressed in white and gone out to bat for New Zealand under the captaincy of Daniel Vettori. I should warn in advance, it ain’t pretty.
In order of averages, with the figures running matches/total runs scored/average since Sept 07:
1. Jesse Ryder 11/898/49.9
2. Stephen Fleming 7/552/46.1
3. Daniel Vettori 21/1242/42.8
4. Ross Taylor 19/1343/39.5
5. Daniel Flynn 13/627/33
6. Brendon McCullum 21/1126/31.3
7. Jacob Oram 11/559/31.1
8. Matthew Bell 5/245/30.6
9. Tim MacIntosh 7/338/28.2
10. Martin Guptill 5/241/26.8
11. Jamie How 13/641/25.6
12. Aaron Redmond 7/299/23
13. Craig Cumming 4/114/22.8
14. Peter Fulton 3/87/21.8
15. James Franklin 5/139/19.9
16. Lou Vincent 1/37/18.5
17. Tim Southee 5/127/18.4
18. Matthew Sinclair 5/147/18.3
19. Scott Styris 2/59/14.8
20. Gareth Hopkins 1/27/13.5
21. Jeetan Patel 8/104/10.4
22. Grant Elliott 3/27/6.8
23. Iain O’Brien 17/142/17.5
24. Mark Gillespie 3/25/6.3
25. Michael Papps 2/ 17/4.3
26. Chris Martin 17/30.2.5
27. Shane Bond 1/1/1
So many amazing stats, right? My favourite is at the bottom: Shane Bond covertly sending the emergency number to us with his last test before our monstrous slump. You got to admire his dedication to the gag. But Papps above him? Here’s a tip: If you don’t get more runs in four innings than Chris Martin gets in his entire career, you’re shit at batting. Memo to the following: Grant Elliott; Matthew Sinclair; Peter Fulton; Craig Cumming; Aaron Redmond; Jamie How; Martin Guptill – if you’re never selected for New Zealand again, this list should tell you why.
More depressingly, we’ve had no batsmen average over 50 (though Jesse did until his last innings prior to this list) and only four over 35, while only two batsmen (one of whom is a bowler) have accumulated more than 1,000 runs in the period. In two years, 27 cricketers have worn white for New Zealand, and only eight have come out of the experience with an average of over 30! One of those scraping into that category is Brendon McCullum, who must be the most overrated cricketer in the world.
These guys are batting on infinitely superior home wickets than those our Black Caps of the late ’90s strode out on, but continue to fail to deliver runs of any real consequence. Seriously, I went to ‘the toilet’ just now and read about a dude who’s in Australian Idol and has lost more than the weight of John Afoa since he was a teenager!
Dude’s a lot more inspiring than anything we’ve conjured up in the last couple of years. When I was watching Monty’s incredible test saving innings against Australia a few months back it made me recall the legendary heroics of Greatbatch against Australia in 1989. Greatbatch gained nothing from the feat. He just didn’t want to get out, so dug in and drove them wild. Outside of Dan I don’t see a single guy in the current side with that kind of temperament. McCullum’s latest attempt to visit untold indignities upon the game is only the most recent sign that the current crop lack the spine of the one just passed.
Because, for all the ludicrousness of the situation, Monty saved that game. And the draw he procured ultimately handed the Ashes to England. When the histories are written they might point to the heroics of Broad, Trott, Strauss or Flintoff in the test wins as pivotal moments. But in truth it all came down to a grinning non-batsman who decided that he wouldn’t willingly concede his wicket. On that small molehill a mountain was built. That’s what sport is – a thousand tiny actions becoming something far greater.
So it seems a terrible shame that the current Black Caps, with a few notable exceptions (I’ll name them: Vettori, Martin, Ryder and Taylor) seem to take such a narrow view of the game that they don’t see the monumental triumphs that occasionally await those who doggedly resist the tide.
– Duncan Greive
* I looked this up after realising I had heard of a Trifecta and a Quinella, but not a quad____. Turns out it’s called a ‘first four‘. That’s maybe the biggest letdown I’ve ever had in googling, which includes looking for Scarlett Johansson’s boobs in The Killing Game at Bill Simmon’s behest.
Martin Guptil’s head hung disconsolately after his dismissal in this morning’s Twenty20, but it was Jacob Oram who should be ashamed of himself. The way The Giant meekly gave up his wicket was shameful, and you have to think his limp 12 ball 7 will be his last innings as a Black Cap.
Oram’s been a mercurial figure his whole career. For starters, a guy who’s 6’7″ should be bowling at better than military medium. When you think of tall cricketers from years gone by, the likes of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, you think of intimidation, of bouncers which would decapitate a batsman if the blinked at the wrong time, of brutal, unswerving pace.
Oram somehow manages to bowl at 125-130 and be constantly suffering from a stress fracture or strain. How does he sustain those injuries? My grandmother is in her late 70s and not in the best shape, but I’m certain she could throw down an over or two at that pace without exacerpating anything. Throughout his career he’s been a containment bowler, pretty much interchangeable with Scott Styris, who at least has a hideous face to give him some cult appeal.
The saving grace has been his frequently savage batting. But as he last hit a half century for us over a year ago, so that’s been well and truly gone for a while now. I feel like his presence in the dressing room must be more of a hindrance now, this old, once-great war-horse creaking around, a shadow of his former potency, but refusing to admit defeat.
Instead the Black Caps wheel him out time and again with ever-fainter flickers of hope, and he gets no wickets for not too many runs, and uses 10% of our balls to score 4% of our required runs, and turns twos into singles, whic a fitter, faster, younger cricketer mightn’t have. And then we see sprightly, vibrant guys like Guptil destroyed by losing their wicket, when the only reason they’re out is because Jake couldn’t hit runs or gallop between wickets like he used to.
The team is right now in a state of flux. We have too many new cricketers (N McCullum, McGlashan, Redmond) who can’t be relied upon, and too many old nags (Oram, Styris – who also probably needs to make way) who are similarly unreliable. So the new kids who make runs (Taylor, Guptil, Ryder) and the old hands who’ve still got it (B McCullum, Vettori, Mills) have to carry far more of the burden than they’re physically capable of.
And we’re losing. By large margins. And if we’re going to lose by large margins, surely it’s better to be doing so with fresh blood in there than yesterday’s men? A young team which solidifies and learns together can end up surprising you, can gel as a unit and lift beyond its component parts. Right now, with Oram dreadfully out of form, and looking utterly disinterested, we’re breaking the young guys’ hearts and spirits.
Plus, as you can see below, Oram’s gotten a bit fat:
This is the wicket’s view of him on its way down, and it caught a glimpse of an uncomfortable truth: our once fit and sexy allrounder has packed on the pounds. See that line along the middle of his buttock? That’s not musculature. That’s where his Y fronts are cutting into his arse-flesh, trying and failing to contain the jelly within.
I know there have been heaps of great fat allrounders in the past – Beefy Botham, Fattie Lehman, even Jayasuria’s not short of supplies for the winter. But Oram’s not built like that, and has only gained weight because he doesn’t care about winning anymore.
So it’s time to send him to the glue factory, we’ll make cents in the dollar, but he’ll be off our hand, and we can bring in a fresh generation of headcase allrounders to disappoint and occasionally thrill us.
Pretty good week for New Zealand sports fans huh? First The Warriors hold their nerve against the reigning premiers, then Alison Shanks wins gold in the individual pursuit… Now we’ve got the somewhat improbable spectre of India three down for 79 (no 23/3, but still…) with the small matter of 340 more runs between them and the follow on.
I don’t think any of us scripted a day like this against anyone this summer, let alone India, but this topsy turvy tour continues to delight in the endless surprises it throws up. Jesse Ryder is looking awfully like the kind of batsman oppositions grit their teeth and plan around at the start of a series. You know when you line up Australia and have to pencil 100 runs a test next to Ponting’s name – same goes for Pietersen, Chanderpaul, Smith and a few other batsmen round the world. Ryder’s now scored 768 runs in eight test matches, and looked extremely solid doing it, and maybe we’ve found the rock around which can anchor our batting. Even when Richardson was at his stolid best, or Fleming and Astle their most fluent, none ever strode to the crease with as much assuredness and force as Ryder is at the moment.
For three hours yesterday New Zealand piled on the runs and lost no wickets, our number eight batsmen scored a century which, if not handsome (his never are) then certainly had its own undeniable magnetism. At the other end our stocky (if I’m being charitable) number five composed an innings so far outside what we had presumed him capable of that the transformation would merit some kind of cricketing Oscar, were such an odd ceremony to exist.
If the above facts all those that were presented to you, and you asked to extrapolate what kind of a day it had been, you’d have to suggest it was New Zealand’s… Except that knowing it was our numbers five and eight that made hay while the Hamilton sun shone would rightly set off alarm bells. Because outside of the three hours described above we managed to lose ten wickets in the most desperate and petrified manner imaginable. It as if New Zealand’s wildest dreams and India’s were both allowed to run riot for the day, and cleaved evenly in two.
Unfortunately, when we awake, Virender Sehwag’s standing over the bed carrying a machete.
To those who came in the last 12 hours to read our response to the ritual sacrifice in Hamilton, please accept my humble apologies. After watching Sehwag dismantle our side with such effortless, chanceless fury, I needed a little lie down, and only just woke up.
I looked around my room for a while, gathering my thoughts. Went to Cricinfo, and saw the Bulletin headline ‘it’s tough for NZ bowlers to stop me’ – Sehwag. So it wasn’t a dream. Just another dreamy innings. You’d call it a nightmare, but India’s ODI performances this series have comprised such breathtaking, uttery perfect cricket, that even our fans, commentators and Radio Sport hosts are more in awe of the opposition than criticising the local’s work.
Perhaps the only saving grace was that yesterday Australia yesterday completed a completely unexpected dismemberment of South Africa, thus forcing our once haughtily dismissive fellow blogwarriors Short Of A Length to change their name to Punter’s Biggest Fan Blog. I mean, as much as I was desperate for SA to win and vanquish those arrogant ‘strayans, getting to see that grotesque header across the top of our nemesis’ blog for the next month is a slight palliative for the pain. But only slight.