New Zealand struggling from lack of international cricket post 2011 World Cup
One positive that New Zealand can draw from their loss in the first Test is the performance of Dean Brownlie, who played a crucial knock alongside Vettori in the first innings which helped New Zealand post a respectable total © Getty Image

 

By Karthik Parimal

 

The repercussions of playing insufficient cricket and excessive cricket are not very different. On one hand, India’s decline in performance post World Cup was attributed to too much cricket, and on the other hand, New Zealand seem to be struggling, primarily because they simply haven’t played enough cricket. Surprisingly, the Kiwis have been a part of just two Tests and three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) thus far since their exit from the 2011 World Cup earlier this year.

 

Despite roping in a seasoned coach like John Wright and appointing a new captain, New Zealand has failed to function as a cohesive unit. Unlike South Africa, which is the other team to have played little cricket in the past eight months, New Zealand appears to be short of match-winners who can snatch the game away from the opposition, especially in the longer format.

 

After being relentlessly whitewashed by Bangladesh and India, New Zealand managed to exit the World Cup in a respectable manner by going down to Sri Lanka albeit fighting till the end in the all-important semi-final. The Black caps then toured Zimbabwe, where they were expected to whitewash the hosts in all formats of the game, but eventually ended up winning the ODI series 2-1 and almost snatched a defeat out of nowhere in the only Test. Luckily, New Zealand could breathe a sigh of relief as Brendan Taylor’s heroics in the second innings of that Test went in vain as Zimbabwe conceded victory by a narrow margin of 34 runs.

 

Before the series against Australia, the Kiwis, who are currently ranked eighth in the Tests and are only above Bangladesh, would have hoped to better their Test rankings with an impressive performance. Sadly, they were comprehensively beaten by a new-look Australian unit in the first Test. New Zealand are a much better side than the rankings suggest and its time the players got their acts right. They have excellent ODI players who are struggling to find a foothold in the Test arena.

 

In the last couple of years, Brendon McCullum is the only player to have scored over a thousand runs in Tests for New Zealand. Surprisingly, only McCullum, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor have averaged over or close to 40 since December 2009 (if a minimum of five innings is considered). Nevertheless, Daniel Vettori continues to be the only consistent player contributing decently with the bat and ball.

 

New Zealand has players like Ross Taylor, Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder, James Franklin and young Kane Williamson, who can be destructive in the shorter formats and are all capable of giving the opposition a run for their money. However, their approach in the first Test against Australia was appalling, and one got the feeling that New Zealand’s ODI specialists had a tough time adjusting to the game’s traditional format. This was evident from the way the Kiwi batsmen kept flashing outside the off-stump and edged the balls that deserve to be respected and left alone in Test cricket. Their below-par fielding also testifies the lapse in concentration.

 

Fortunately for the Kiwis, all of the above-mentioned players have age on their side. It’s important that the roles of these players are well defined in Tests to enable them to prosper in the longer format. Someone must also be ready to put his hand up and take over the mantle of consistency from Daniel Vettori as he heads into twilight.

 

One positive that New Zealand can draw from their loss in the first Test to Australia is the performance of Dean Brownlie, who played a crucial knock alongside Vettori in the first innings which helped New Zealand post a respectable total. He also top-scored in the second innings, but the visitors folded up for a paltry 150, thereby losing the Test. Despite an unimpressive performance in this Test, Kane Williamson is another youngster who possesses immense potential and can be a force to reckon with once he learns the ropes of Test cricket.

 

However, there is hope and an opportunity to climb a few notches up in the ODI and Test rankings for New Zealand in the near future, as they have one more Test against Australia before they host Zimbabwe and South Africa. As mentioned earlier, the roles of each player should be well defined, and they must be willing to apply themselves and bat for long in the longer format if they want to taste success.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)