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.

WI
NZ
T20
2
0
ODI
4
1
Tests
2
0
  
The loss in the first test in Antigua was New Zealand’s first defeat against the West Indies since they were beaten in the first test in Bridgetown in 1996 – a stretch of 10 matches. During that time New Zealand had won three of the four series between the two sides, the fourth, and most recent, ended in a draw. It’s a shame that both runs have ended but the West Indians have dominated New Zealand through Florida and the Caribbean.
  
The Windies 2-0 defeat of the Black Caps has condemned New Zealand to eighth place in the ICC test rankings, with only Bangladesh below them. They now hold the matching spot in the ODI pecking order – there seems little respite in the short term and minimal chance of ascension up either ladder.
  
With one victory and eight losses from nine international fixtures across all three formats, the tour results would rank amongst the worst in recent history – they’d rival many of New Zealand’s early international disasters. The Black Caps appear to have gone backwards in the past 18-24 months - whilst I don't envy the task ahead for Mike Hesson, surely things can't get any worse? The key is that the players start to learn from results like this. While defeat should never to accepted, or even tolerated, it is far more palatable if players learn the lessons and ensure the manner of the losses is not repeated again.
  
In the first of a three part series I take a look at cricket in a foreign land, the heir apparent and the call of a Caribbean ambulance.
  
Coloured clothing in Florida
I’ve discussed cricket in the Home of the Brave and Florida’s T20 post-mortem previously but I imagine New Zealand are likely to return more regularly in the future, especially against the Windies and the sub-continent sides given the number of expats living in the United States. 
  
The Lauderhill ground has improved, the crowds were strong and the local organisation and practise facilities will continue to improve. Whether the proposed T20 league being promoted by the USACA ever gets off the ground will only be revealed in the fullness of time. I have no major issue with New Zealand playing in Florida but it’s not a good idea to play at the start of the season when strong practise facilities are required to build into a long year.
  
Those in the corridors of power at New Zealand Cricket (NZC) need to be prudent and remember that while money helps grow the game, seeing their idols in the flesh is what attracts youngsters to our great game. T20 is their opportunity – taking them out of Aotearoa for a little extra coin may provide short term gain but is it the best investment for long term growth?
  
Preparation and practise
The Kiwis lack of preparation showed. A lack of cohesive training at home before the start of a tour is unacceptable, regardless of John Wright’s claims it’s simply a part of the modern game. He told the New Zealand Herald prior to leaving New Zealand - “they (the Black Caps) may be a bit rusty early on and we probably have to expect that” – do we? I understand his charges have a busy 12 months ahead of them but for mine the absence of even a short team camp in New Zealand shows a modicum of disrespect for the silver fern. That an underprepared New Zealand side was outplayed in all facets was to be expected given the Windies were coming off the back of a tough tour of England – it was the margin of the difference in performance that grated. A stronger bowling effort in the final test has illustrated that the Kiwis improve the more time they spend together – NZC need to learn from their mistake.
  
If it was about money, and I hope it wasn’t, then it was a poor economic choice. Given the modest results on tour, will crowds be even smaller when New Zealand returns home? If the game is to grow in this country spectators need a reason to attend – there are few at present.
  
KSW – heir apparent?
Kane Stuart Williamson has been destined for greatness since his international debut in 2010 – he’s got all the skills as a batsman, but it was the opportunities in the captaincy role that came to the fore early in the tour. After Ross Taylor injured his shoulder in the first T20I in Florida, Williamson was handed the captaincy reins for the second T20I and the first three ODIs in the West Indies. The 21 year old became New Zealand’s youngest international captain and the fourth youngest captain in ODI history, but was it a big step made too early? Yes, but there were few choices. Most of the senior players had injury clouds hanging over them and vice-captain, Brendon McCullum, was being rested.
  
Williamson has always been earmarked as a future leader but he’s not yet ready. His game is still in its infancy – he shows glimpses of godliness but just as quickly shows childish mortality. Asking a young man to take the reins of a side lacking in natural leaders and cricketing maturity is a big ask – Fleming had a steeliness when he took over that KSW is yet to find. For all that, he did a fine job when his country needed him, in what was a trying time – he could have said no and chosen to hide but he understands the bigger picture. Williamson’s young and is better to leave the captaincy until he is comfortable in his cricketing skin – the problem is that there seems few leadership examples in the team on which he can draw. Leave the lad to get his batting to the level it needs to be and then revisit the captaincy – it should be his as soon as he’s ready.
  
The ambulance doesn’t wait at the bottom of the cliff - it follows the Black Caps
New Zealand’s international quality playing stocks are limited at best – the inevitable injuries suffered on tour always create issues for those donning the silver fern. It’s rare that New Zealand field a full strength side, though that’s not unique to our corner of paradise, it’s endemic of modern cricket.  However, on the current tour the team physio has been the busiest man in the wider group – players included.  On a short ten-match tour New Zealand have suffered injury at every turn; Mark Gillespie didn’t even make it onto the plane to prepare for the test series. In all, ten players have missed matches through injury – Tom Latham’s eye didn’t cost him any playing time:
  • Roneel Hira - hand
  • Ross Taylor – shoulder
  • Jacob Oram – knee
  • Tom Latham – cut eye, though he didn’t miss a match
  • Andy Ellis – leg
  • BJ Watling - quadricep
  • Trent Boult - quadricep
  • Daniel Vettori – groin (abductor)
  • Daniel Flynn – groin (abductor)
  • Mark Gillespie – ankle
  • Doug Bracewell - back

Would a group of fully fit players have changed the tour results significantly? No, but it may have narrowed the gap and enabled the Kiwis to build their confidence in the lead up to a torrid 12 month schedule.


Tell me what you think – I’d love your thoughts. Do you agree with my view from the soap box or do my opinions hold as much water as a sieve? Post a comment below or tweet me @aotearoaxi.
   
Next up:
  • Part 2: There’s no “I” in team. Or is there?
  • Part 3: Issues, opportunities and an Olympic pause 

6 comments:

  1. Well summed up. The biggest lesson is that extra preparation would have made a huge difference between the teams. And could have helped to cope better with all the injuries.

    Hope you'll include Vettori's lack of wickets in part three.

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  2. Thanks for the comment. More prep time would have helped but I think the gap was still a bridge too far. Vettori, the keepers, Guptill, KSW, Trent Bould, Gayle, Narine and plenty more in the next two parts. Check out the Windies tour review tab for an overview of both pieces.

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  3. SittingBesideYourWifeAugust 7, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    I think the lack of preparation for the BCs was a major factor.

    Having Wrighty do this tour when he announced his resignation as far back as 1 May has just created uncertainty. Three months to find a replacement coach and one month more to get him in charge of the team is not good enough.

    On tour selections also make you wonder and I know this is related to injuries but not taking a specialist spinner into the last test - what happened to Nethula - I saw him running drinks? Note the Windies spinners took 10 wickets in the game!

    The return of Gayle also helped the Windies but to my thinking having Narine in the team was the biggest success factor for them. It goes to show how badly they have been affected in recent years by their poor administrators.

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    Replies
    1. Lack of prep and the coaching changes was undoubtedly sa factor - Wright looked like he'd had enough and the brick wall got a battering. Mike Hesson has a big job ahead of him but things can't get much worse - my concern for him is some "entitled" players asking him after his international playing experience.

      On tour selections were confusing - I thought they would have gone for Boult in the first test over Wagner but I think they felt they owed him for a four year wait. Not picking Nethula was nonsensical - even Williamson got it to jag around a bit. That Deonarine took so many wickets in the last test says as much about our lack of ability against the turning ball as it does about the spin in the wicket.

      The next piece talks about Gayle, Narine and some of the other individuals who influenced the series.

      The incompetence of the WICB is almost up with some of the decisions we've seen at home - almost... There structure is rife with administrators looking to line their pockets and find away into island politics.

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  4. SittingBesideYourWifeAugust 7, 2012 at 9:07 PM

    Boult was injured for the First test; thats the reason why Wagner got his chance. See http://www.espncricinfo.com/west-indies-v-new-zealand-2012/content/story/573700.html

    Look forward to next piece. To my why of thinking Narine had the greater impact than Gayle. What a find. He did well in IPL too.

    "Entitled Players". That is a potential subject in itself. Look at Pietersen. Enjoyed watching him bat at Leeds...but cant stand him off it. You could make up a World Arsehole XI. He'd be in it, with Gayle, Ryder, Symonds, and a few others... Love to watch them fight out between themselves who would be captain

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    Replies
    1. An injured Boult makes a little more sense.

      Narine destroyed the Kiwi batting - he took a lot of wickets but his biggest influence was the uncertainty he caused throughout the batitng order. It also meant that players tried to attack the bowlers at the other end - Deonarine profited a lot in the final test.

      Most "entitled players" have a reason for their attitude - the talent masks their divisive nature and arrogance - I'm not sure that's the case with NZ. As for a whole XI? Steve Waugh's Australians. Part 2 is up now.

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