Wednesday, December 26, 2012

At the wicket with Anna Peterson

Teapots - this?
Anna Peterson is living the dream – a lifestyle many of us imagined as young children hitting a taped-up tennis ball in the backyard. She may not be the Malcolm Marshall or Martin Crowe figures we had “dibs” on as we wiled away long into the summer sun, but she lives and breathes cricket – at work, play and recreation.

To have debuted wearing the hallowed silver fern of your country would suffice for most, but “Wolfy” is working hard to add to her international caps. She is carving out a strong record for herself as part of the Northern Spirit, juggling her time between a congested domestic season and her operational role with Waikato Valley Cricket. Anna has also found time to edit a magazine for her association – spreading the word on our great game in her local community.
Or this?

Anna talks to a cricketing Buddha about what she needs to do to regain her spot in the White Ferns, her work with young girls wanting to give cricket a go, and ascension of a woman to the coach’s job (that plug should help with the first point…) . She also enlightens us about her love of teapots - there’s far more to the young Hamiltonian than just cricket.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Six quick singles – plenty of gifts for everyone

This week’s Plunket Shield round-up is a little later than normal – my apologies. Unfortunately, my “real” job has got in the way of my passion, as it so often does at the tail end of one year and the start of the next.

The final pre-Christmas round involved all six sides and there were more highlights than Willie Watson bowling to a young Sachin Tendulkar. Records tumbled, as did wickets, and the ball was despatched to, and over, the fence on a regular basis. Players with international experience, whether local or foreign, shone through in every match. The Plunket Shield now takes a break for a month to allow for the HRV Cup to dominate the holiday period – for those who complain, think for a minute where the money comes from to finance our domestic game.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A very Wisden Christmas

Courtesy of www.wisdens.org
'twas the night before Christmas 
Children smiled as they slept
Except in New Zealand
Rangi wailed and he wept.


For he feared that from Santa
His sack would be missin'
An old and well-read
Wisden early edition.
 

Monday, December 17, 2012

At the wicket with Morna Nielsen

22 year old Morna Nielsen’s game has undergone a major transformation. Entering New Zealand’s domestic game as a wide-eyed 17 year old medium pacer, she is now carving out a niche as one of New Zealand’s premier limited overs’ bowlers – as a left arm spinner. 
(Courtesy of BlackCaps.co.nz)

In her third year in the White Ferns, Nielsen has been a shining light with the ball in the two opening matches of the Rose Bowl series against Australia – some of the game’s most destructive batters struggling with her guile and accuracy. Though she battled against the power of Meg Lanning in the third match, her returns in the fourth match will likely have a large influence on the final series result.

Leading her Northern Spirit side from the front, Nielsen has a long future in our domestic game. New Zealand cricket fans need to all cross their fingers that her cricketing future isn’t cut short by a “real” career or the draw of a family, as is the case with so many of our promising female cricketers.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Six quick singles – the night watchman delivers

It was going to take a Herculean feat from Central Districts to recover from a poor first day – it never came. Will Young’s maiden century was lost in a heavy defeat, surpassed by a nonchalant innings from the talismanic Jesse Ryder and a maiden ton from Scott Kuggeleijn.  Cricket matches aren’t won or lost by the individual feats of one man, though CD management must be tempted to touch base with Tonya Harding’s husband, and bodyguard, prior to the sides’ next meeting.

Central Districts 260 (W Young 121, M Gillespie 3/56, S Kuggeleijn 3/53; 59.1 overs) and 389 (J How 51, J Raval 74, C Cachopa 90, P Trego 59, J Franklin 4/71, J Patel 3/66; 116.4 overs) lost to Wellington 403 (M Papps 117, J Ryder 162, A Lamb 3/76, A Patel 3/62; 98 overs) and 248/3 (M Papps 77*, S Kuggeleijn 142*; 66.4 overs) by 7 wickets at Karori Park, Wellington

Friday, December 7, 2012

The captaincy debacle - ascension, demotion and absence

New Zealand won a test in Sri Lanka less than fortnight ago. Victory after a 14 year hiatus should stick in the mind and help a despondent New Zealand cricketing public forget Hobart - it won't.  The captain was at the forefront with the blade and his seamers continued to hunt as a pack - and succeeded. Regardless of the media source, I've seen no coverage this week - instead the headlines have had no positive spin – on the contrary. That a comprehensive victory is pushed to the background so quickly highlights the ineptitude of cricket administration in this country - a game that is struggling for a public profile cannot afford to bypass an opportunity to put it in the spotlight for the right reasons.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Six quick singles – a rose amongst thorns

After a run-filled November, December has been a return to the “bad old days” of domestic cricket – inclement weather, cavalier batting and totals that would raise the wrath of club coaches. Colin Munro continued his dominance in Kingsland but Otago’s Dr Jekyll won out over Mr Hyde. Northern Districts’ James Marshall showed loyalty is a virtue, but his female contemporary Nicola Browne took the early honours, setting a new benchmark in the women’s game.

Northern Districts 200 (G Andrew 3/46, R McCone 4/48; 73.5 overs) and 410/5 decl. (J Yovich 128, J Marshall 61, D Mitchell 73, BJ Watling 68*, C Anderson 69*; 122.0 overs) drew with Canterbury 186 (G Andrew 89, B Arnel 3/48, G Aldridge 5/45; 45.3 overs) and 112/2 (P Fulton 68*; 33.5 overs) at Seddon Park, Hamilton

Auckland 196 (C Munro 59, I Butler 5/57; 51.2 overs) and 274 (C Munro 118, I Butler 4/61; 56.4 overs) lost to Otago 253 (A Redmond 98, H Rutherford 70, D Bartlett 5/53; 97.0 overs) and 223/7 (N McCullum 77, C Martin 3/62, M McClenaghan 3/48; 60.3 overs) by 3 wickets at Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland

Friday, November 30, 2012

Six quick singles – Munro goes long

Central Districts humbled Otago by 10 wickets, Auckland and Wellington took part in a run-fest on the Eden Park Outer Oval, records were amassed like a ‘70s DJ building his collection, but it was all irrelevant. All anyone will remember was a large double hundred in Kingsland, Colin Munro putting on a master class unrivalled in the City of Sails.

Central Districts 476 (C Cachopa 123, T Nethula 108, A Milne 97, B Soper 3/116, I Butler 3/132; 127.2 overs) and 21/0 (4.5 overs) defeated Otago 257 (S Wells 78, I Butler 73, P Trego 3/57, A Milne 5/47; 73.5 overs) and 239 (A Redmond 57, H Rutherford 55, A Mathieson 5/39, C Cachopa 3/28; 98.0 overs following on) by 10 wickets at McLean Park, Napier.

Wellington 380 (J Ryder 72, L Ronchi 127, M McClenaghan 4/90; 95.2 overs) and 145/2 (J Brodie 60*; 42.0 overs) drew with Auckland 658/9 decl. (C Munro 269*, C Cachopa 166, M Gillespie 4/166; 147.5 overs) at Eden Park Outer Oval, Auckland.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Spirited conversation with Kerryanne Tomlinson

Name: Kerryanne Tomlinson
Age: 22
Nickname: Kerry, Kez, Kezza
Club: Melville
Reside: Hamilton
Other teams: Netherlands, Wellington Women’s, Central District Women’s
Occupation: Student
Playing role: All rounder
Batting style: RH opener
Bowling style: RH fast-medium, leg spin, off spin

What was you first cricket experience?
Playing with the yellow cricket sets in primary school with the boys.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Spirited conversation with Nicola Browne

Name: Nicola Browne
Age: Experienced
Nickname: Manty
Club: Melville
Reside: Hamilton
Other teams: White Ferns
Occupation: Project Manager
Playing role: Allrounder
Batting style: RH batter
Bowling style: RH medium-fast
Twitter handle: @njbrowne

What was you first cricket experience?
Playing at Simpsons Beach in Whitianga on holiday most summers.

A Spirited conversation with Natalie Dodd

Name: Natalie Dodd
Age: 19
Nickname: Doddy
Club: Melville
Born: Hamilton
Reside: Te Kowhai, Hamilton
Other teams: NZ Emerging
Occupation: Student
Playing role: Batter, wicketkeeper
Batting style: RH opening bat
Bowling style: RH off spin

What was you first cricket experience?
Playing backyard with Dad.

A Spirited conversation with Morna Nielsen

Name: Morna Nielsen
Age: 22
Nickname: Mornface, Mornana
Club: East Shirley (Christchurch), Melville (Hamilton)
Born: Tauranga
Reside: Christchurch/Hamilton
Other teams: White Ferns, NZ Emerging players
Occupation: Studying civil engineering
Playing role: Bowler
Batting style: RH middle/lower order
Bowling style: LH orthodox
Twitter handle: @mornface

What was you first cricket experience?
Playing on the field at primary school – I don’t really remember too much more than that, far too old.

A Spirited conversation with Katie Johnson

Name: Katie Johnson
Age: 19
Nickname: KTJ
Club: Papatoetoe
Reside: West Auckland
Occupation: University student
Playing role: Batter
Batting style: RH opener
Bowling style: RH medium

What was you first cricket experience?
Probably in a pram, or on my bike watching my sister play cricket for Baradene College, or Auckland.

A Spirited conversation with Jacinta Coleman

Name: Jacinta Coleman
Age: 18
Nickname: Jay
Reside: Tauranga
Other teams: Bay of Plenty Women’s
Occupation: Student
Playing role: Fielder, batswoman
Batting style: Lower order

What was you first cricket experience?
Back yard cricket with my family.

A Spirited conversation with Felicity Leydon-Davis

Name: Felicity Leydon-Davis
Age: 18
Nickname: Floss
Club: Melville Cricket Club
Born: Hamilton
Reside: Hamilton
Other teams: Melville Green, NZ Emerging players
Occupation: Student
Playing role: Bowling all-rounder
Batting style: RH lower order
Bowling style: RH medium
Twitter handle: @Felicity_floss 

What was your first cricket experience?
Watching my older brother play at primary school, later joining in practice in the back yard cricket with him and Dad. First memorable exciting coaching session I experienced was when the Marshall brothers came to my primary school, inspiring me to be a great cricketer.

A Spirited conversation with Brooke Kirkbride

Name: Brooke Kirkbride
Age: 19
Nickname: Brooko
Club: Melville
Reside: Cambridge
Other teams: New Zealand Emerging Players
Occupation: Student
Playing role: Pace bowler
Batting style: RH lower order
Bowling style: RH medium

What was you first cricket experience?
My first real experience was actually my brother winning a backyard bash with the Knights. So I got to have a bowl and bat with people like Daryl Tuffey and Scott Styris.

A Spirited conversation with Anna Peterson

Name: Anna Peterson
Age: 22
Nickname: Wolfy
Club: Melville
Born: Auckland
Reside: Hamilton
Other teams: White Ferns, NZ Emerging and Bay of Plenty
Occupation: Cricket administration/Boss
Playing role: Batting and a bit of spin
Batting style: RH Top order
Bowling style: RH Off-spin
Twitter handle: @AnnaPeterson06 

What was you first cricket experience?
Dad made me and my brother, when we were about two and three, our first ever cricket bats - Alex (my brother) got a Batman sticker on his, and I got Donald Duck.

Six quick singles – more records than Elvis

The start to the 2012/13 Plunket Shield season has seen records broken like plates at a Greek wedding. For a competition steeped in history, the play has been fascinating – domestic cricket’s cream has risen quickly to the top.

A mixture of youth and experience continued to show through in the most recent round. Michael Papps, Dean Brownlie and Peter Fulton all dominated with the blade, while promising young international Tom Latham led his Canterbury team mates to an unlikely victory in Rangiora. But the most encouraging performance came from Central Districts’ young quicks, Adam Milne and Ben Wheeler – if only they can stave off injury that so regularly strikes down bowlers with any pace in this country.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Six quick singles – the battle for Southern supremacy

Few domestic encounters in New Zealand cricket evoke the same passion at the clash of the two Southern sides – Canterbury and Otago. The provincial neighbours have already met in the first round of the Plunket Shield, with Otago securing a comfortable victory in Rangiora on the back of Aaron Redmond’s pair of centuries.

The return encounter at Dunedin’s University Oval flattered to deceive. A low scoring affair, both sides has opportunities to win the match in the final hour, and neither would be overly satisfied with the draw. But it was what Southern derbies are all about – two sides giving all they have, grafting for every inch.

Canterbury 254 (P Fulton 102, S Stewart 76, J Duffy 3/35, M Craig 3/28; 95.3 overs) and 252/9 decl. (P Fulton 108; 105.3 overs) drew with Otago 272 (T Johnston 3/88; 101.1 overs) and 203/7 (A Redmond 61, N Broom 49, B McCord 3/35; 68 overs)


1. That’s two for Fulton, and Fulton for two
Peter Fulton was to the fore for Canterbury hitting back to back hundreds (102 and 108) – the third time this season a batsman has achieved the double in a Plunket Shield fixture. Aaron Redmond and Jesse Ryder doubled up in the opening round – now in just the sixth match of the summer Fulton has joined the elite group. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Six quick singles – Plunket Shield’s return to Eden

Return to the Garden. Courtesy of @sillymidoff
The battle of the north returned to Eden Park in the latest round of the Plunket Shield. Last season’s top two sides came into their second match after a winless previous round – Northern Districts’ were denied victory in a match they should have won; Auckland looking to build their confidence after a poor effort in a loss in Napier.

Northern Districts 208 (J Yovich 106, B Martin 4/43; 82.1 overs) and 196 (B Martin 3/63; 79.3 overs) lost to Auckland 392 (C Cachopa 82, B Martin 114, G Aldridge 3/74; 120.2 overs) and 14/0 (1.2 overs) by 10 wickets


1. Return to the Garden
A little over a year ago the Outer Oval, Eden Park 2, the Garden of Eden – call it what you will, was being used as a car park, a corporate hospitality venue and a communal toilet block for rugby’s greatest showpiece. It took a hammering as the All Blacks raised the William Webb Ellis Cup and crowds flocked for every available ticket to the oval ball’s showpiece tournament.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Six quick singles – ND and Auckland enter the fray

After a week waiting in the wings, Northern Districts and Auckland got their Plunket Shield campaigns underway against Otago and Central Districts respectively. 

Both matches peaked in high drama on the final day – what Kiwi cricket fan’s would give to be able to listen to the drama on the radio – maybe later in the season if 2011/12 is any indication. For now, they’ll have to rely on Twitter updates and New Zealand Cricket’s live scoring – the second rate coverage of our first class game is disappointing. However, if the season continues in the manner of the first four matches then fans should make every effort to get along to their local park - entertainment guaranteed.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Video killed the radio star

Or was it the collective greed, and financial disparity, of international cricket boards?

The last week has seen an informed and unbiased debate on the merits of England’s two divergent cricket commentaries – BBC’s Test Match Special and the internet hit, Test Match Sofa – if only…

Instead, Test Match Special stalwarts Jonathan Agnew and Christopher Martin-Jenkins have done little more than throw barbs at their more irreverent couch-bound contemporaries. Their views have come across as sanctimonious, nasty and arrogant – akin to an entitled bully taking pot shots at the quiet kid in the corner minding their business – David is never going to topple cricket’s Goliath. Those who take the views of two seemingly bitter old men to heart would firmly believe that “the Sofa” is destroying the very essence of our great game and putting the financial stability of the ECB at risk.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Six quick singles – Plunket Shield’s opening round

First class cricket is upon us and summer is underway - the first two matches of the Plunket Shield are done and if the season continues in the same vein supporters would do well to get to their local oval. In an early season reversal, bat dominated ball with the top order leading Otago and Wellington to comprehensive victories over Central Districts and Canterbury respectively.

If you missed all the action, have a read of my six quick singles and keep abreast of our great game.

Canterbury (297 and 352) lost to Otago (383 and 267-2) by 8 wickets
Central Districts (383-8 decl. and 298-7 decl.) lost to Wellington (340 and 343-5) by 5 wickets



1. Ryder defeats Central Districts

Monday, October 29, 2012

Second rate coverage of a first class game


The Plunket Shield - full of history
The Plunket Shield got underway on Saturday with all the hoopla of an Eketahuna calf show. What was once New Zealand Cricket’s domestic flagship has been usurped - left to its own devices.

Mirroring the 2011/12 season, first class cricket in New Zealand is missing a voice on the airwaves, left to make its way on sporadic updates from around the grounds. Cricket is a game steeped in statistical history but it is words, and pictures, that bring it to life. Short score segments tell nothing of the game’s ebb and flow, the breakthrough performances of its emerging talent or the individual battles that hold centre stage in our great game.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

B is for… (Part 2)

Part 2: Bodyline to bunnies, with a victorious stop in Brisbane

(Courtesy of Getty Images)
In part one I took a short journey through a small part of New Zealand’s cricketing history and a period of unrivalled West Indian dominance over a struggling England. If you missed it, read Bartlett to Blunt via the Basin.

Part two is largely based in the West Island (Australia, for the uninitiated) – the world’s foremost cricketing icon, the series that set to nullify his dominance, a Brisbane victory that will go down in the annals of history (but not for out trans-Tasman friends), plus reading and rabbits…

Monday, October 22, 2012

B is for… (Part 1)

Part 1: Bartlett to Blunt via The Basin

A second single at the start of a promising innings, there was the option for more B’s than a hive flush with honey. Those that made my list have been a strong part of my cricketing education – stepping stones on the path to my love of our great game. 
The Basin Reserve (Courtesy of supersport.com)


Among them the game’s most revered player, New Zealand’s Wisden trailblazer and a genuine quick with a bent arm. But cricket is about more than just the players, we all remember matches, grounds and series - a crushing victory against our most formidable foes on their turf, a ground at the centre of Kiwi cricket, a whitewash with a twist and a series that angered nations, changing cricket forever. What resonates with cricket’s tragics is as varied as the surfaces it’s played on – here’s a collection dear to a cricketing Buddha.


Bartlett, Gary
How often does New Zealand produce a genuine quick – a fast bowler that can hurry and rattle batsmen, hurling red thunderbolts?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sri Lanka – Take Two

Less than a month after an early exit from the ICC World T20, New Zealand will return to Sri Lanka in search of better results. With Mike Hesson settling into his new role, will his side continue the progress they started in India or will the heartbreak of defeat linger? 

With domestic cricket not yet underway, and the recent A series providing no stand-out performances, the familiarity of the two touring squads was inevitable –emerging Canterbury leg spinner Todd Astle is the one new face. Twelve of the fifteen strong limited overs squad played in the World T20, while there are only two changes in the test squad from the recent tour to India.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gayle. Gangnam. Glory.

(Courtesy of thesun.co.uk)
The smiling, dancing and laughter at Colombo’s R Premadasa Stadium told a compelling story – for only the fourth time in a storied history, a West Indies’ skipper lifted an ICC trophy to the heavens – the cricketing world joined in the celebrations.

Chris Gayle’s mighty slab of willow may have been silenced on Sunday but he had wielded it like a Viking for three weeks. His impact on a buoyant Windies outfit was undeniable. The Calypso cricketers played the game we love like a sporting party – and they won! On sub-continent decks where one of the local sides looked set to take home the gong, a burgeoning Windies side extinguished their flame.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

(Super) Over and out

Southee says it all...(Courtesy of stuff.co.nz)
For many, the final memory of New Zealand at the World T20 will be the mercurial Chris Gayle effortlessly hoisting a Tim Southee no-ball over the rope. One delivery summed up New Zealand’s tournament efforts – so close, yet in actuality a long way from success. The sight of shoulders drooping atop 11 black shirts matched the reactions of thousands of fans at home – no matter the frequency, the inevitability of another loss is no easier to swallow.    

Has the New Zealand side failed to live up to expectations? Unquestionably, but does that say more about the inflated views we have of our national side than the shortcomings in their performance? Ranked sixth in the T20 ICC rankings when leaving the Caribbean, New Zealand ended the tournament having slipped to eighth – on this occasion the numbers don’t lie. One win in five is a poor return – victory against a hapless Bangladesh will satisfy no-one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The T20 debate: Every cloud has a silver lining

If you haven't already, have a read of the affirmative side of the debate – Blame T20, for everything?! – there are two sides to every argument.


Negative – everything in moderation:
As it was pointed out by the affirmative, T20 is having an effect on international cricket – but is it necessarily a negative one? If its evils were so divisive and detrimental to our great game wouldn’t cricket’s shortest format have died out before it even got started? It hasn’t, and that in itself holds the key – the simple principles of supply and demand mean the format is flourishing.

At its base, sport is about competition and entertainment. Competition drives players, entertainment attracts fans. In a modern world where entertainment choices are greater than ever before, has T20 filled a void that was missing in our great game? For the most staid of traditionalists T20 may offer very little – it’s seen as the antithesis of what they believe cricket is, if only because of a closed mind. But for those on the fringes, cricket is seen in a light that’s never shone on an outfield before.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The T20 debate: Blame T20, for everything?!

One of the most regularly discussed, or argued, cricketing topics is the effect T20 has had on our great game – people seem divided into the two opposing camps - there is often little middle ground.

With the World T20 in Sri Lanka in full swing, what better time to consider the evils of the shortest form of our great game – perceived, at least.  I’m something of a traditionalist and would happily sustain myself on a diet of test cricket, but I’m also a realist – in a society that is now overflowing with entertainment choices, cricket has had to look outside its standard boundaries and expand its horizons.

If one were to listen to talk back radio, or read comments through Twitter, Facebook or any number of cricketing mediums it would be easy to think that everything wrong with our game started and finished with T20 – there seems a lack of balance in most opinion. Vocal traditionalists appear unable to see beyond the realm of first class cricket, whilst those drawn to our great game through the T20 vehicle are often lambasted for their love of the devil’s game.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A is for Ambrose

Cricket is an in-depth game, it’s full of idiosyncrasies and nuances unlike any other sporting theatre. We are all drawn to the great game for different reasons – the individual battles, the statistics, the history – the list is endless. 

My cricketing A-Z isn’t about detailing the basics – that path is well-trodden. It’s written for things I love in cricket - those that have made an impact on me, that draw me to the game. They may not be the played in the “V” but they are a part of what makes cricket sing for me. It’s unlikely they’ll match your list but they’ll offer a trip down cricket’s memory lane, and hopefully some debate – there’s little better than healthy discussion.

Please excuse the strong New Zealand and West Indian bias – they shaped my love of our great game.

Over the coming weeks (read: months) I’ll work my way from A to Z, and given more time to reflect I’ll no doubt have to back track and make some additions, but here’s a start.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book review: Guile and Spin – Stuart Larner


It’s been close to 20 years since I wrote a book review, and dry essays about Shakespearean dramas written for insular school masters don’t qualify me to critique a novel built around our great game. I’ve read more cricketing (auto) biographies than one man should, so why not a work of fiction – Stuart Larner’s Guile and Spin is infinitely more readable, and believable, than most of them and doesn’t require the contrived controversy that mars current cricket books. 

Managing a dilapidated council sports and recreation centre while continuing to coach tennis as a side venture, Jeremy Freeman fills the role of the reluctant hero. Having not played cricket since his schooldays, Jeremy has little more than a passing interest in our great game and but for the influence of an attractive female cricketer, Claire Spedman, the story would likely have died before it started.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Well bowled, Timmy!

The Bangalore visitors' honours board (Courtesy of blackcaps.co.nz)
7/64 on a green seamer at the start of a New Zealand summer would be a fine haul – to achieve it against India on the sub-continent is almost without peer. The extraordinary effort of Tim Southee made for riveting test cricket, albeit a hard-fought loss, and helped dull the pain of an inept New Zealand struggle in the first test. Will it allow him to cast aside the potential tag that has threatened to hang him for the past four years?

A baby-faced Tim Southee announced his arrival on the international scene with 5/55 against England on test debut in Napier – four years and 18 tests later, a more mature 23 year old has finally shown a return on the potential that had started to weigh him down.

Having got his break for Northern Districts as an 18 year old, Southee made the step up to the international arena in 12 short months, but his appearances at test level have been sporadic and often underwhelming. Like Vettori before him, Southee has grown up, both personally and in a cricket sense, almost wholly at an international level - developing in the spotlight is never easy, doing it as an impressionable young man can be a recipe fraught with danger.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What price a wicket?

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.
           Vince Lombardi - American football coaching legend


How do batsmen define price - value, worth, or dollars and cents? Is the price they put on their wicket something entirely different?

In the IPL, where money abounds and a player’s worth is crudely defined by their price at auction, putting a numerical value on price is easier, or is it? Half a million dollars over 10 innings artificially sets the price of a star’s wicket at $50,000, regardless of the runs they make, or don’t – but isn’t that too simple? Should the amount a player is paid for his services even have a place in the price they put on their scalp? For the sake of the game, let’s hope not.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A tour to India and the World T20 – a Kiwi view

Pallekele International Stadium (courtesy of Getty Images)
For a New Zealand cricket fan, recent history has not been kind. The national team’s dismantling in the West Indies rubbed salt into an already festering wound, and reminded many of the efforts of their efforts prior to Stephen Fleming’s reign at the helm.

A one win – eight loss record across all three formats in Florida and the Caribbean should never be acceptable – most leading cricketing nations would be looking to run a scythe through their line-up but those in the second tier, such as New Zealand, do not have that luxury. That we are in the middle of the off-season means there are even fewer options to call on to step up at international level.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The team and “I” in professional cricket

A professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn't feel like it.
             Alistair Cooke KBE – journalist/broadcaster


(Courtesy of toonpool.com)

Most definitions of a professional centre on money and payment; they miss the essence of professionalism. Cooke’s description brings it to life – money is such a small part of it.

In the wake of the drama that is the Kevin Pietersen saga, it’s worth considering what professionalism means in modern cricket. Is it based solely on remuneration or is it a mind-set? What are the roles, and importance, of the individual and the team? Does one outweigh the other or does a successful team need to find a healthy balance?

Friday, August 10, 2012

West Indies tour review 2012 (3)

Part 3: Issues, opportunities and an Olympic pause


Issues and opportunity encapsulate all that is New Zealand cricket and its cricketers - the problem is that the opportunities seem to morph into issues. Throughout the tour old mistakes were repeated ad nauseum whilst new ones were created. That the most engrossing part of a long tour was an Olympic final says it all…

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

West Indies tour review 2012 (2)

Part 2: There’s no “I” in team. Or is there?


In Part 1 I took a look back at the early happenings on tour – a second trip to Florida, Kane Williamson stepping into the captaincy role and the start of a spate of injuries that saw 10 players miss at least one match.

In the second of the three part series I consider the individuals who both shone and slumped – they all had an impact, but was it a positive one?


Is the potential tag becoming a noose?
If you’ve read previous pieces I’ve written, you’ll have read that tagline many times – it’s something that seems to afflict many of New Zealand’s naturally talented cricketers. I am an unashamed supporter of Kane Williamson but it’s time he takes his game forward – for mine it needs to become a “sooner rather than later” proposition. At 22, Williamson is still a young man. He’s only played 14 tests in his third international season but when you start your career with a debut hundred against India on the subcontinent and then blunt the South African attack two years later, it’s hard as a fan to accept mediocre returns.

Monday, August 6, 2012

West Indies tour review 2012

Part 1: Early doors on tour
  
Ever since Kane Williamson and Doug Bracewell walked off the Basin Reserve having blunted the South African attack to stave off victory, my thoughts have been focussed on the New Zealand tour to the Caribbean.
 
The 2012 edition was not like the tours of old with large baying crowds, hostile bouncers, forceful stroke play and a cloud of ‘ganga smoke wafting through the stand, but it’s a Kiwi side in the West Indies – two of my favourite things in cricket. 
 
Man for man the two sides measured up well – it’s a pity for New Zealand the game is played on the pitch and not paper. I was looking forward to a close battle between two teams dear to my heart, but it was largely one-sided and the gap was substantial.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

New Zealand versus West Indies – by the book

The current test series in the Caribbean involves the two sides at the heart of my cricketing love – New Zealand and the West Indies. One is a patriotic, almost familial, love for the countrymen of my home land, the other an unconditional but passionate affair for the men assembled from a collection of tiny Caribbean islands who instilled in me a love of our great game from an early age.

The 2012 edition is the 14th series between two sides as different as a withering recluse and a gregarious extrovert – it’s not hard to guess who sits where. Numbers and statistics never tell the full story – they often hide the human element that is so pivotal in sporting endeavours. What follows involves both numbers and stories – statistics and situations that provide some insight into 60 years of enthralling history.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

When the Calypso Kings ruled Babylon

The fast and the furious (courtesy of ESPNcricnfo)
More than 30 years ago, New Zealand and the West Indies did battle at the end of a long Southern summer. The 1979/80 home test series was full of talking points, though many of them had little to do with the quality of the cricket played in the middle. As the two sides again prepare to do battle in the Caribbean it’s apt to look back at a series that proved a significant milestone for both countries.

It may seem unusual that I have chosen to reflect on such an ill-fated series, but the conduct on the field is only a small part of the significance of that series. It was more about what those three tests started than what happened on the field of play. For the Windies it was their last series defeat in 15 years – the beginning of the Fire in Babylon era. While there was no Spark in Wellington to follow for the Kiwis, their first test series victory in New Zealand would see them embark on a 12 year unbeaten series run at home.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ryder set for domestic return

I'm going to come back stronger than ever and make an impact for Wellington. This is the first step in the next stage of my career and I'm going hard out - whatever happens in the future will happen. I want to play for New Zealand again, but I'm taking one step at a time.
           Jesse Ryder, Sunday Star Times (8 July, 2012)


Courtesy of FairFax NZ
I have tried in earnest to make this blog about cricket - what happens in the middle, not that which occurs outside my viewing or listening realm. Whilst I haven't always been successful, for the most part I have tried to remove personalities out of discussions - what relevance is the view of one looking inside out, without context? Should the personality of a cricketer, and what they do in their private lives, matter? No. It may provide a weak background to a cricketing story but for mine anyway, the two are separate issues, provided one does not impact on the other. Scribes and bloggers only seem interested when personal (read: off-field) issues affect the cricketer, and his cricket, and only when in an adverse way - it makes more compelling copy for the masses, I guess.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Florida's T20 post-mortem

For all the questions raised about cricket in the home of the brave I was pleasantly surprised by the two-match T20 series in Florida to kick off New Zealand’s West Indies tour. It may not have the history of the Kensington Oval or the dancing masses of Sabina Park but Florida’s Broward County ground didn’t look out of place as an international venue – if only the cricket had matched the surroundings.

The United States’ only ICC sanctioned international ground has undergone a cricketing transformation from the tentative baby steps it took when New Zealand first toured in 2010. Whilst it lacked the pace and bounce of the best limited overs wickets so do many in both New Zealand and the Caribbean. It had enough of both, and minimal sideways movement, to allow players to swing through the line with confidence – Smith, Bravo and Pollard went at it from ball one. The indifferent efforts of a sub-par New Zealand line-up shouldn’t be seen as a reflection on the wicket, more of the lack of preparation and absence of mental toughness that international cricket requires.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Coming to America - Home of the Brave?

International cricket in Florida (Courtesy of the ICC)
Even on maps of the old world, Florida has never been part of the West Indies – it has a strong Caribbean influence and a significant population of expats but it sits squarely in the United States of America. The Miami area is home to the Dolphins, Marlins and the NBA Champion Miami Heat, but for the second time it will play host to international T20 cricket in Broward County, Lauderhill. New Zealand returns after its initial foray in 2010 - they will be joined by a West Indian side who, given the issues with the game in their collection of tiny nations, would likely be better served playing at home as opposed to trying to grow the game in an Associate nation. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

The prodigal son returns

Twenty20 is a format Dan enjoys and the opportunity to be part of a team which competes at a world event is enticing for him. He has been encouraged by his team-mates, coaching staff and others at NZC. And we are thrilled to have him in the mix. He will offer a lot to the side.
        National Selection Manager Kim Littlejohn on the return of Daniel Vettori


In a month when Kevin Pietersen announced his retirement from all limited overs international cricket, Daniel Vettori’s decision to come out of retirement and make himself available for New Zealand selection for the World Cup T20 tournament in Sri Lanka, whilst showing his worth to his side, illustrates the difference in riches between cricket’s glitterati and the second tier nations.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Bride’s perspective

By the Buddha’s Bride


Who better to provide an insight into the mind of a cricket tragic than those who have to live with one? After much coercion the Bride/her indoors/one of the most tolerant women I’ve ever met, agreed to pen a short piece for Donning the whites. Enjoy – and welcome to a little slice of the life of a cricketing Buddha.


I am the Bride, as I am (affectionately?) referred to in this blog. I don't pretend to be an expert on the game DH (Dear Husband) loves so much, I am useless when it comes to statistics and I can't recall the ins and outs of certain games. I. Just. Like. It. That's all.

I can’t put my finger on why I like the game - I just do. It’s certainly not because of all the gorgeous hunks and their six packs (oh whoops, that’s rugby), although I do have a bit of a thing for Jesse Ryder. Maybe it’s because he reminds me of DH – on the cuddly side and doesn’t give a s@#t what people think. It’s got to be that it’s a thinking person’s game – there is so much more to it than going out on the pitch and having a bash. Although that’s fun too.

Monday, June 11, 2012

KSW ist eine Gottheit

By @lemayol
Kane Stuart Williamson

Variety is the spice of life – sometimes puha needs to take a backseat to a spoonful of Senf. This week my German mate talks about her love of the great game and following cricket in a country where it doesn’t even rate a mention.


Cricket isn't that big in Germany. I'm sure there are people who have all kinds of fancy numbers at the ready and could tell you exactly how not "that big" cricket really is, but even without those numbers I can safely say that it thankfully still ranks above dry swimming and sitting shot put, but far behind our Volkssport football, cycling, swimming or the ever so popular winter sports. Most active cricketers in this country are either British soldiers stationed here or originally hail from the subcontinent, with cricket automatically being part of their lives despite the onmipresence of football and co.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why blog? Why not?

Blogging is new to me – in honesty I thought it was for those who live under the stairs or in their parents’ basement. That’s not meant to offend anyone – I live in New Zealand; we actually talk to each other here, usually over a beer at a barbeque, and solve the most perplexing of cricket questions - for a night at least. I had no idea this other world existed – I was under the misguided impression that all reasonable cricketing comment existed only via traditional media.

A little under six months ago I finally took the plunge – a mate of mine had just taken a trip to the sub-continent and I’d found her blog intriguing – not because of the countries she visited, as interesting as they were, but because it gave me an insight into her; what made her tick, what was really important in her life and what actually ran through her head (kudos, Becks). In that time I’ve penned just over 30 posts and had a shade over 10,000 hits (thanks Mum and Mrs Buddha) – it would have been just enjoyable had I only written a handful of comment pieces read by a couple of hundred people.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pietersen’s cricket pick and mix

After a great deal of thought and deliberation, I am today announcing my retirement from international one-day cricket. I am immensely proud of my achievements in the one-day game and still wish to be considered for selection for England in Test cricket.
         Kevin Pietersen, 31 May 2012 


The ECB’s Hugh Morris was “disappointed”, at least that was his public sentiment – privately he may well be poking pins into a voodoo doll with a penchant for shades and a love of biltong. Michael Vaughan, in The Telegraph, proclaimed that “when I first heard the news on Thursday my gut reaction was he should never play again and kick him out the team”. Fans, it seems, in a Twitter straw poll at least, are divided between dissecting the perceived short-sighted nature of the ECB’s stance and venting their vitriol at the IPL for ruining our great game – or a combination of the two.

Are there any winners? I can think of a couple of potential ones in Australia if only strike action is averted.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Test preparation 101 - the KSW way


KSW raises his bat - more please...

After a short autumn break New Zealand are due to head to the Caribbean, and Florida, to do battle with the West Indies. While a struggling Windies side tours England, their Kiwi counterparts are spread far and wide – preparing on their own before a short pre-tour training camp. They will emerge from a glut of IPL T20 cricket on the sub-continent, the gyms and the indoor nets at home and the daily grind of County Cricket.  Along with Martin Guptill, emerging talent Kane Williamson has chosen the latter – an expectant cricketing public waits with baited breath.

Kane Stuart Williamson is the most promising youngster to emerge in New Zealand cricketing circles since a Harry Potteresque Daniel Vettori made his test debut 15 years ago, as a naïve 18 year old.  The 21 year old Northern Districts batsman has the potential to be a true great of our game – a prodigy long earmarked to reach the top of the cricketing mountain.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

New Zealand's Wisden Cricketers of the Year – who’s next?

Kane Williamson and Doug Bracewell - Wisden Cricketers of the Year in waiting?

For a country similar in size to Sydney, Australia (or the counties of Kent, Essex and Hampshire), New Zealand has produced some exceptional cricketing talent who have left an indelible mark on our great game. A dozen of them have received the game’s ultimate accolade, being named one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year.

Friday, May 25, 2012

New Zealand's Wisden Cricketers of the Year - winning is a habit


A Crowe cover-drive: poetry
Since the end of the 1979/80 summer and a series victory against the West Indies at home, New Zealand has continued to record any number of firsts. They went 12 years unbeaten at home in a test series following what was a spiteful series marred by some of the worst acts seen on a cricketing field. The actions of Windies legends Colin Croft, Michael Holding and future ICC Match Referee Clive Lloyd sully my memories of the start of an era of West Indian dominance. How severe would Lloyd have been in his official capacity on players who shoulder charged an umpire, kicked stumps out of the ground when a decision didn’t go their way, or kept their charges in the changing rooms as a protest for 12 minutes after play was due to resume?

Monday, May 14, 2012

New Zealand's Wisden Cricketers of the Year – Sir Richard Hadlee

Sir Richard in familiar pose
I had intended for this piece to cover New Zealand’s four ‘modern’ inductees to Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year but the more I read about Sir Richard Hadlee, and the more personal memories I recalled, I thought it was apt that Paddles was shown the reverence he deserves and exalted to a spot on his own. Why? Yes, he was a fantastic cricketer – there is little sensible argument that can sway pundits away from the premise he was, and will likely always be, New Zealand’s finest cricketer.

But the true confirmation of his greatness? He is the only New Zealand sportsman to regularly, and almost singlehandedly, move the gaze of a sporting nation away from the All Blacks, and as with the performances of the most dominant rugby force on the planet he was able to change the mood of our tiny island nation. At a time when Fox, Fitzpatrick, Buck and Kirwan were at their prime Sir Richard usurped them all as New Zealand’s most recognisable sporting star.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Zealand's Wisden Cricketers of the Year - the firsts continue

Glenn Turner on the attack at Worcestershire
Part 2/3:

From the mid-1950s through the 1970s those honoured with the opportunity to wear New Zealand’s iconic black cap, emblazoned with the silver fern, continued the progress of the trailblazers of the New Zealand game. It was a period of peaks and troughs – more ups than downs when context is applied. There were undoubted struggles but looking back through rose-tinted glasses it was an era of international development nonetheless. At times, such as on the 1971-2 Windies tour New Zealand played largely for the draw because of relative strength of their batting when compared to often sparse bowling stocks, but that was preferable to series defeats suffered at the hands of England both home and away in 1962-3 and 1965 respectively.

New Zealand was the lowest ranked test nation throughout though there was no Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe or Bangladesh to supplement results. Yet over a quarter of a century they managed to win tests, and a series for the first time. The Kiwis had their first truly professional cricketer in the mercurial Glenn Turner, who regardless of his struggles with the game’s administration at home did wonders to lift New Zealand’s profile on the world stage, most notably in England. Whilst some of the results weren’t as strong as we were to see through the 1980s when New Zealand had, what is arguably, its most competitive side in a period when test cricket  was at a peak, this group of cricketers continued to build a base that enabled Hadlee, Crowe, Cairns et al. to flourish in the decades that followed.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

At the wicket with Iain O’Brien – the sequel

Part 2: A career post cricket
Test cricket deserves a three-piece suit

In the second part of a cricketing Buddha’s interview with cult figure Iain O’Brien we discuss life after a decade long playing career – Iain mixes light hearted banter with the some great cricketing insight. He talks openly about his battles with depression, spot-fixing, Jesse Ryder and his portrayal as a young Ron Snowden. He is candid about his dealings with the media and how it is now sitting on the other side of the fence. 

In a Donning the whites exclusive Iain puts the rumours of a career in nude modelling to bed, though he leaves the door open for his own underwear range.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

At the wicket with Iain O’Brien - Part 1

A blessed career in the middle

Into the wind at the Basin - again...
Iain O’Brien donned the black cap of New Zealand on 36 occasions and made a career of bowling into the wind – an admirable choice when your home ground is (windy) Wellington’s Basin Reserve. His first class career spanned a decade but was eventually cut short by a spine that more closely resembled an S-bend. He was never the type of international cricketer would was going to set the world alight, but he holds a special place in the hearts of those who truly understand the New Zealand game – he was always the fan’s cricketer. Any number of his Wellington and New Zealand team mates will tell much the same story.  He retired from the international game at arguably the height of his powers and upped stumps and moved to the United Kingdom to be a ‘proper’ husband and start a family – how many other cricketers would make that choice?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Zealand's Wisden Cricketers of the Year - the trailblazers

Even if you don't know much about cricket, you may know that a small yellow book called Wisden has been around for a while... Some in the cricket world refer to it as 'the Bible'… You may also know that, despite being an annual publication in the age of instant comment, Wisden still has a bit of clout, which says plenty for the acumen of previous editors. Then there are the Five Cricketers of the Year, the selection of whom has been the sole prerogative of the editor since 1889, give or take the occasional break for a world war. 
                  Lawrence Booth, Mail Online, 11 April 2012


Booth, the 16th editor of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack in 149 years has just chosen his first Five Cricketers of the Year, a responsibility that rests squarely on the shoulders of the editor of cricket’s bible and often divides punters and pundits alike. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

At the wicket with George Dobell


In the first interview featured on Donning the whites, George Dobell was kind enough to answer a few questions from a cricketing Buddha.

Since his first article in The Cricketer, George has written for SPIN – the Cricket magazine, The Guardian, The Times, and The Birmingham Post. He is now a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo and has developed a following as one of the preeminent scribes on the County Championship.

He talks to a cricketing Buddha about his start in the business, an affinity with the Windies and gives a reasoned account of a number of the issues facing our great game. He also answers the age old question of the origin of the humble pavlova.

Monday, April 2, 2012

XI lessons from a New Zealand summer (3)

Part 3: Finishing the innings with the bunnies

The final instalment of my three-part feature looks at the batting bunnies at the bottom of the order and New Zealand’s continued lack of consistency. The 12th man even makes an appearance in the outfield.

9. Consistently inconsistent (read: frustrating): I support the Warriors, Arsenal and the Windies so inconsistency and frustration seem to greet me at every turn – the Black Caps confirm I have a penchant for punishment.

Friday, March 30, 2012

XI lessons from a New Zealand summer (2)

Part 2: Accelerating through the middle order

In Part 1 I took a look back at the performances of the New Zealand top order through the 2011/12 season and discussed the key issues facing New Zealand cricket.

In the second of a three-part feature I move away from on field performance and reflect on matters concerning (and perpetuated by) the fans.

5. Fans turn quicker than Vettori: When Craig McMillan, along with a number of other prominent sports “journos” and emotional “fans”, berated Jesse Ryder for costing New Zealand a T20I series victory against South Africa I began to question whether I had returned to the United Kingdom and was listening to the vitriol of football tragics after England’s exit from another high-profile tournament.

XI lessons from a New Zealand summer

Part 1: Opening up at the top of the order

New Zealand’s domestic summer is over – next stop is the Windies in the Caribbean. Before we move on to reggae, rum and Caribbean cool it’s apt we look back at the home summer.

From a T20I against Zimbabwe in Harare on Oct 15, 2011 until the end of the third South African test at Wellington’s Basin Reserve on 27 March, 2012  New Zealand have played 23 matches across all international formats – the much maligned Brendon McCullum is the only player to don the black cap in every match.

The undoubted highlight was New Zealand’s victory against Australia at Hobart in late 2011 – Doug Bracewell’s heroics helped his side to their first test victory on Australian soil in 26 years and confirmed the promise he’d shown in Zimbabwe. For mind, Kane Williamson’s fighting century in the final test of the summer ran it close.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Protea amongst the Silver Ferns

By Maiken Kruger

In the first of a new series of guest posts from both new and established bloggers, a close South African friend talks about supporting her team from afar – enjoy...


At the time of writing we are two tests down in a three test series between the Proteas and the Black Caps in New Zealand, and I’m watching the weather forecast for Wellington with increasing foreboding ahead of the third test.

Living in a country different to the one where your loyalties lay means doing what you can to get your fix of your favourite team playing your favourite sport. Weather interruptions are extremely unwelcome; especially when I’m unsure where my next South African cricket fix will come from.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why not Kallis?

“…surely our trio (Lara, Ponting and Tendulkar) should be a quartet? For all his feats and constancy, Jacques Kallis tends to slip under the radar when it comes to idolatry…..Kallis commands more awe than affection”.                                                                                            
                            Rob Steen - ESPNCricinfo

“Tendulkar, Lara, Richards are cricketing royalty and so is Kallis - yet too often he is forgotten like Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh and, let's face it, Old Phil is pretty close to the top".                                                                                           
                            Mark Richardson - Herald on Sunday, 26/02/2012


When the red ink is marked against the score of J H Kallis for the final time and he bids farewell to our great game, his exalted place in cricketing history is guaranteed – but conjecture will remain about whose company he’ll enjoy near the summit. Surely even Kallis’ harshest critics cannot deny his unparalleled influence on South African cricket or the legacy he will leave the world game. Why is it that so many deny him his place amongst cricket’s modern batting greats?

Friday, March 9, 2012

The WISDEN addiction – one man’s story

Wisden: it might start with one but....
The first Wisden purchase most cricket fans make changes something in them – they may not have the immediate desire to collect the complete set but all know they are buying into a history closing in on 150 years.The little yellow book – a cricketing bible means different things to different people but in all of us it symbolises a love of our great game.

How did a Kiwi cricketing tragic half a world away from Wisden’s spiritual home catch the bug? Like many of my generation, I got the obligatory sporting biography at Christmas – it resonated with me and ever since I’ve collected cricket books quicker than the public turned on Jesse Ryder. In my formative years there was very little overseas cricket coverage on the television or the radio in Aotearoa, and before I embraced the digital age books opened a window to an unseen cricketing world – they are responsible for my love of the Windies.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The little yellow book – a cricketing bible

When little John Wisden launched his even smaller Almanack in 1864 he didn't know he was creating an institution - he thought he was establishing a nest egg for his retirement from a successful cricket career with Sussex……..it arguably started the modern fascination with statistics, and set the standards for their accuracy and presentation. 
                                                                                  Steven Lynch


Wisden 1864 - where it all began
Is the written word continually playing and missing? Are books, once the source of all knowledge, about to be dismissed after a well compiled innings? Has the new digital age seen them go the same way as cricket's grafters in a T20 world?

With the cricketing bible, Wisden, set to celebrate its 150th year in 2013, no declaration appears imminent. How is the little yellow book still relevant after such a lengthy knock?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cricket's better half

I've spent the larger part of the past two weeks with my two favourite ladies - my wife has just given birth to a beautiful little princess and I've had the chance to watch the two of them bond - priceless! It's given me the opportunity to reflect on the part women play in all our lives every day, and the influence they have at every turn.

Do we pay them the same reverence in cricketing circles? In the male dominated corridors of our great game (thanks, cricketsjk) has the old boys' network shown them the requisite respect?

No longer do we live in the male dominated societies of the 1920s and '30s. A woman's place is not in the kitchen or typing the dictated notes of her male superior - many would say they're on a surge. Why should cricket be any different?

Whilst I grew up enthralled by the deeds of Crowe, Hadlee, Cairns and Jones, and lapped up every snippet of the all-conquering Windies though the 1980s and '90s, there was another less fancied but perennial constant. Debbie Hockley was a cricketing pioneer; a world class batter who dominated the women's game. Through 21 years Hockley dismantled all comers at international level and was part of New Zealand's World Cup winning White Ferns in 2000 - she still holds the record for World Cup runs with 1501. She was a fantastic cricketer - gender is not important.

Lesley Murdoch, a dual New Zealand cricket and hockey international, was one of, if not, the first woman to commentate on men's cricket on our airwaves. She still commentates on a number of first class matches every season and it's a delight to listen to her views on New Zealand Cricket and the issues facing our game. Murdoch has no need to compete with her male peers; she is simply a commentator bringing our summer game to life.

Most of my private life is just that, but I met my wife because of her love of cricket, so women in cricket hold a special place in my heart. One of my work colleagues, a young South African, sums up what I love about women and cricket. Unlike many of my mates who become emotive, and irrational, when discussing players and issues, she tends to consider her response before jumping in with both feet - she is as knowledgeable and passionate as anyone I debate cricket with. She doesn't conform to the negative, and misguided, stereotype that women trivialise players on their physical attributes - the only attributes discussed are how Kallis struggled to complete his action when he bulked up or how Steyn positions his wrist behind the ball for different deliveries. Watching her discount the snide comments of her peers with cricketing knowledge and insight, not cutting personal remarks, is a thing of beauty.

I don't raise these examples to illustrate that the occasional woman has cricketing nous; I do so because they are real examples that gender need not come into our game - women are not islands in the sea.

Others? Really? They're Women's Internationals
I know men (or boys, in actuality) who won't even read cricket pieces by women because they're women - Philistines! My advice would be to take a minute to read their thoughts and judge them if you will but judge them against their peers, cricketing writers, not as a separate species. And a quick note to ESPNCricinfo – women’s fixtures are not Others, they are Women’s Internationals!

I'm new to the world of Twitter but have been amazed at the number of women writing, and tweeting, on our great game. These are some of the best - follow them on Twitter and have a read of their blogs:

@FirdoseM – Firdose Moonda is the real deal! She is ESPNCricinfo’s South African correspondent and a guaranteed great read. She doesn’t blog, she writes for a living.

@mspr1nt - Ant Sims is a fantastic South African blogger, and a self-described ‘female cricket disciple’. You can read her thoughts on WicketMaiden, a website that promotes the tagline – balls to the wall and no balls at all.  Like me, the Windies hold a special place in her heart – if you’re ever looking for comment, just mention Chris Gayle. For those who like statistics, Ant’s infographics are well worth a look.

@lemayol - an obsessive follower of Northern Districts and the Somerset CCC, she will discuss Kane Williamson at any opportunity, with aplomb. @lemayol has just launched a new cricketing agony aunt column, Miss Cricket, on Alternative Cricket - email her for all the answers to your cricketing dilemmas.

@legsidelizzy  – with over 5,000 Twitter followers Lizzy is everywhere cricket is. A freelance writer for both The Mirror (UK) and SPIN cricket magazine, and a guest commentator on Test Match Sofa, Lizzy describes herself as ‘part-time cricket writer. Full-time cricket tragic.’ She offers great insights with an English spin – you can read her thoughts at legsidelizzy.com.

@fayeb07 – a self-professed lover of English cricket, Faye is a more recent convert but her writing shows a cricketing maturity that belies that. Her blog – Caught at Slip, provides her thoughts on the English game including coverage of the England Women.

To the women who have read this, I sincerely hope it hasn't come across as condescending; it's meant as the complete opposite. I love the work of the female scribes - not due to their gender but because I appreciate their writing and views.

Don't get me wrong; I'm sure there are women who do go the cricket to see their white knight, just as some men use it as a chance to get lagered and hurl vitriol at the combatants - sport simply reflects life.

No-one should judge coverage and comment by the gender of the writer but by the quality and insight of the writing. If you don't like a piece, comment and tell the author - we all love feedback. For many of us it's the reason we write, for the interaction with those who love our great game as we all do - woman or man.

If you know of other female scribes, please let me know - make a comment or tweet me @aotearoaxi.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fans - critic or assassin?

"When we judge or criticise another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical" - Unknown

Jesse Ryder in full flow
Why is it that so many fans feel the need to be critical, bordering on the vitriolic? That's not to confuse constructive comment or well-reasoned and supported argument - more the conveyance of ownership and the personal attacks, not of sporting ability but character and personality. Are we so baseless that we take delight in the derision of our sporting 'heroes'?

The deciding New Zealand versus South Africa T20 brought such comment to the fore - the Black Caps capitulated as their African opponents have done at ICC tournaments in the past. For once, the clichéd choke is not too strong a word. With five overs to go New Zealand needed less than a run a ball with seven wickets in hand, and on a ground that only just accommodates a full sized rugby pitch, yet in the ensuing 24 hours comment centred solely on Jesse Ryder.

Ryder's an easy target. He has just returned from another injury layoff, enjoys a pint or 20 and thinks a steak and cheese pie is a well-balanced meal - but the man can wield the willow. He hit 52 at close to 125 and top scored for the match after not donning the black kit for the first time since New Zealand upset Australia in Hobart last December. Without question he made errors, big ones, but if you believe much of what has been written and preached he was the only Kiwi on the pitch. The condemnation has been direct, swift and condescending.

Little has been made of the soft dismissals of the other top order batsmen or the inability of capable middle order players to even lay bat on ball - scribes and punters lay the blame squarely at Ryder's feet. Yes, he fumbled his way through his last few runs but he has no track record of putting personal milestones above team outcomes - Twitter and talkback radio would tell you otherwise. Much of the comment was baseless at best; personal abuse at gutter level. But, the sentiment that struck me was from a former player, himself the target on too many occasions during a career that never quite reached the pinnacle of its true potential.

Craig McMillan, former Black Cap turned television commentator and radio pundit, was unerring in his criticism of Ryder and his pursuit of personal glory, whilst largely neglecting the mishaps of others. He's a paid 'expert' asked to give his considered opinion - no issues there. But, and it's one of JLo proportions, the crucifixion of Ryder is coming from a man who himself was widely criticised for his girth, his fitness and his propensity to throw it away in a blaze of glory. The same man who, when people questioned his form in test cricket near the sunset of his career, answered in the best way - with a test century but then commented that his innings should gag a few commentators - how quickly we forget about the glasshouses in which we all live.....

Whilst Ryder is so frequently the target of condescension and personal attacks, there are many others scattered throughout our great game. Brash South African, sorry - Englishman, Kevin Pietersen, Australian captain Michael Clarke and Brendon McCullum all suffer the same fate. Outspoken New Zealand wicketkeeper Adam Parore and the aforementioned McMillan were never far from the airwaves and column inches in their day either. But why is it that certain players draw unparalleled criticism whilst others seemingly walk on water, even when they have muddied them so frequently?

Why do 'fans' continually partake in the character assassination and unsupported criticism of our sporting 'heroes'? Is it our right? In the end are players, coaches, managers and teams accountable to the paying public? As we invest more heavily in inflated ticket prices, merchandise, sponsors' products and pay television, maybe they are - though that's for another day. Constructive comment and considered opinion are fair but why must we cross the boundary into personal attacks and vitriol - is it seen in any other endeavour (politics excepted)? Is it envy, jealousy or the unparalleled riches that players earn while the 'common man' (and fan) puts his nose to the grindstone in a 'real' job? It's an open question - I have no definitive answer....

Scribes and casual bloggers do it too; it's not just the domain of the man on the street. Unfortunately, emotion sells - would anyone buy a newspaper that leads with 'We lose - no one's to blame'? In a few short months of writing this blog I've realised it's easier to criticise on personal feelings than compose a considered argument.

In today’s digital, social media-obsessed world there are now endless avenues open for comment  – the issue is that most are anonymous, so balanced debate is often lacking. Most fans love to comment on the stars of their sport, especially in Aotearoa where most are easily accessible to the public. Twitter, Facebook, talkback radio (with SMS comment – I still don’t get it), blogs, forums and article comments, among others, all provide an endless source of unmitigated banter. But, here is the kicker – on most occasions, in New Zealand at least, when our side wins talkback, and most others, is often slow; when we lose to France at a RWC or are farcical in our efforts at the wicket, every couch critic wants his two cents and his pound of flesh – no matter the lack of logic in the argument, heated as it often is.

Most of us will never play at the highest level, or commentate or write about our great game to audiences too innumerable to count – more the pity. Why then do we confuse personal sporting performance with criticisms of personality - seldom do the two meet? Very few of us have insights into the players; their work ethic, attitude and personality. Our view is largely from the outside, yet fan comment often bases thoughts on what we see and our perceptions; not fact or reasoned opinion - a little context goes a long way. 

Many of us have love-hate relationships with our cricketing personalities – others simply love to hate them. Whatever your opinion, most fans are just that – they love their teams and want nothing more but for them to do well – sorry, WIN! The paradox is that a minority have a confused way of showing it. 

For all his faults in the decider, Ryder did not lose New Zealand the game – maybe South Africa should even get a little credit. Will the same punters who offered little more than baseless abuse jump back on the bandwagon if Ryder flays the South African quicks in the test series? Ryder appeared to have lost a little weight in his injury absence yet people still made comment about his running – did punters say the same things of the beer swilling Tasmanian, David Boon? No, the portly Boon still holds legend status for his Ashes tour drinking antics – he’s seen as the quintessential Aussie bloke.
Don’t get me wrong, I have little time for cheerleading either - Channel 9 are cringe worthy to all but a select groups of Aussie sycophants. Likewise, no-one wants to hear the Super Rugby player political correctness or the ‘netball was the winner on the day’ speech – as fans it’s about having an opinion, not a baseless rant.

If you think my ramblings are off the mark, I'm open to both destructive criticism and vitriol. Post a comment or hunt me down on Twitter (@aotearoaxi) - I don't live in the public eye, I prefer the anonymity of a faceless moniker. Let’s hope that irony is not lost…

This post also appears in the April edition of SPIN-off Cricket.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kane Williamson - T20I or not?

Kane Williamson - tests or T20?
There is little doubt Kane Williamson will grow into one of the true stars of New Zealand cricket, helping his unfashionable band of grafters to triumphs throughout the cricketing world. The question remains whether his continued inclusion in the T20I side is hindering his rise to the upper echelons of the world game.

'Experts' and arm chair selectors alike are torn on what is best for Williamson and New Zealand cricket - not just in the now but for many fruitful years to come. There seems to be little middle ground in people's thinking - either Williamson must be a part of all New Zealand teams or he should be rested from the international T20 arena. Who's right will likely only bear out in seasons to come but the wrong move now could delay the young man's cricketing ascension.

Those who believe that Williamson's, and New Zealand's, best interests include the young Northern Districts whippet playing T20 internationals will point to his astonishing finishing in the final match against a struggling Zimbabwe. With New Zealand requiring 26 off the final two overs, both McCullum brothers were caught in the deep leaving nine balls to finish the innings and save Kiwi blushes - Williamson needed only five. He showed timing, placement and cricketing nous to score 20 and save New Zealand the embarrassment of a loss to Zimbabwe with 2 balls to spare. The innings was one that many thought would silence any doubters, but has it had the opposite effect?

In five matches Williamson averages 60 at a little over 140 in T20I but the numbers are deceptive - he's only compiled 120 international runs. In 40 matches at all levels Williamson averages below 20 at marginally over run a ball, on par with his efforts in this season's HRV Cup, but his batting seemed almost an afterthought in a Northern Districts side full of hitting options. The shining light was his economy rate in the 2011/12 domestic game at a miserly 5.74 - the competition's most economical bowler. The intriguing part is he has only bowled 30 balls for New Zealand.

While he can compete and help New Zealand, should he be part of the setup in the immediate future at least? Will his continued use in international hit and giggle affect his test game? At 21, Williamson has time on his side.

New Zealand is developing their spin stocks in McCullum, Hira and Nicol, and there is no shortage of batsmen if others do their job. With Taylor waiting in the wings after the South African series and Ryder back in the squad after another injury, Williamson's inclusion is not a necessity.

For all but jockeys, Williamson is a small man. He has shown impeccable timing but lacks the brute power of his peers so when caught a little short he can't muscle the ball to, and over, the boundary like McCullum or Guptill can, while still holding technical shape. He needs bottom hand to achieve any power whilst his game relies on batting's more subtle arts. As a result he is forced to hit to areas he would usually avoid. Over time will it prove detrimental to his test cricket development?

In a short test career Williamson has achieved only modest numbers but the manner of his play and obvious cricketing mind have shown all what is possible. A burgeoning test average a shade over 30 defies his test potential but he has his maiden test century, 131 against India on the subcontinent, and another three 50s to his name in just nine matches. Since his test debut as a baby faced 20 year old, Williamson has looked bound for greatness. His technique, though with the gaps of a man just starting his international journey, provides him with a base most senior players would envy and his temperament seems inclined towards the lengthy not the flashy. Not since Stephen Fleming has a young Kiwi looked to have the cricketing world as his feet – I discount the deeds of Ross Taylor for though he has amassed impressive numbers neither his technique nor mental ability have shown marked recent growth.

Given time to build on the early promise, and with a lot of hard work, the international game appears to open out before Williamson. Like Turner, Wright and Crowe before him, a stint in the daily grind of the County Championship would help the young pretender hone his undoubted batting talent in preparation for the fierce examination at test level. Coupled with Plunket Shield cricket and New Zealand’s test schedule, application to his craft will carry Williamson a long way – Martin Guptill’s growth in international cricket illustrates that. The volume of ODIs New Zealand plays will allow him to develop the attacking side of his game without the immediacy of T20 pressure – a challenge he has relished with two centuries at 36.20 in his first 19 outings.

The knowledge that comes with learning his game in the longer formats, without the confusion and urgency of T20 tactics, will not only aid in the test and ODI arenas but will give Williamson the cricketing introspection to excel in international T20 in the future.

I am a proud New Zealander who adores test cricket. My thoughts may appear lopsided but test cricket will forever remain the pinnacle of our great game. Regardless of whether Kane Williamson continues to play T20 internationals in his formative cricketing years, he will undoubtedly have a long and successful New Zealand career.

We quickly forget that today's greats such as Ponting, Kallis, Tendulkar, Dravid, and Sangakkara, among others, didn't have the pressure of T20 early in their careers. They spent time building an innings, fine tuning their technique and learning their game before joining the T20 circus.

The question will remain, as it does with young tyro Doug Bracewell, whether T20 will delay his ascension to his position among Crowe, Turner, Reid et al. – time will invariably bear that out. My views hold little weight; such influential decisions sit with John Wright and Kim Littlejohn, who are making steady progress and creating undoubted depth. Like most New Zealand supporters nothing would make me happier than to see Williamson lead his country in years to come and end his career among the game’s elite – time will tell.

If my writing seems a little confused this week, please blame my little princess. My wife gave birth to a little girl a few days ago so what you're reading are the sleep deprived ramblings of an exhausted but elated Daddy.