Category: New Zealand (page 1 of 16)

Why Indian pitches offer an excellent exchange rate

Remember when India’s batsmen used to make double hundreds all the time? Captains routinely doubled up as doctors in the first innings, declaring the innings closed and the pitches dead (even if a certain zombie joie de vivre often manifested itself in the form of turn on day five.)

It’s not like that nowadays. Indian fans no longer find themselves spending four days explaining to irate foreigners that a match isn’t destined to be a draw; that things might move on swiftly when the pitch starts to crumble. Nowadays they have to defend their pitches for doing too much, too soon.

Someone, somewhere apparently imposed some standard where only Australian-style pitches were considered acceptable for Test cricket. Everything else was wrong, evil and ‘doctored’. It seems this game that is defined by variety could only properly be showcased on one particular type of pitch. Diversity painted from the narrowest of palettes.

Is a turning pitch a bad pitch? Of course not. It is good to see batsmen having to work for their runs – and if more were available in the recent Test between India and New Zealand than some others on those shores in recent times, then a least no-one reached three figures.

That, to us, can often be a sign of a good match. Runs retained their value against the more meaningful currency of wickets. Everything mattered.


If we start calling Jason Roy a ‘roybot’ do you think it’ll catch on?

Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes were the actual heroes for England, but this is Twenty20, so like everyone else, let’s instead turn our attention to Jason Roy – a batsman.

Roy used both edges of his bat and quite often the middle. Crucially, he also abandoned the moronic belief that it is somehow beneficial for the side that he play himself in and started hitting from what some people call ‘the get-go’ but which we, as a Briton, call ‘the outset’.

Turns out Roy doesn’t need to give himself time. Maybe he is a robot – a roybot, if you will.

Roy’s approach achieves two things. It means England score a bunch of runs and it also means the batsmen who come after him can play with a modicum of control. Not that they necessarily do. When the adrenaline’s pumping, it can be hard to deliberately take singles.

They got enough of them though (plus a few boundaries). They’re into the World T20 final.


Eoin Morgan and Kane Williamson are having a cricket

We find ourself humming Roscoe H Spellgood rather a lot at the minute. This is because of the sheer number of match previews saying that England have come a long way in a short time.

It strikes us that if you go to the trouble of being as bad as England were at the 50-over World Cup, you do leave yourself plenty of room for improvement. What would be truly miraculous would be a half-decent team improved by a similar amount.

So of course England bounced back. Not to disregard the strides they’ve made, but it would have been an even more extraordinary feat to have remained as bad as they were. It would arguably have constituted art. A complete rejection of the surrounding world in favour of a private exploration of inadequacy.

However, after a giddy, sugar-crazed run-chase against South Africa and two shonky wins against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, things now get tough for England. New Zealand are unbeaten and seem like one of the few sides in this tournament unconcerned by how anyone else might be approaching the game. They’ve their own methodology and they’re happy with it.

England’s strategy is simple, even if they do occasionally forget it. They ease their batting aggression slider over further than anyone else would have it in the knowledge that they have more batsmen than anyone else. They then try and bowl tight, and when that doesn’t work, they inject a bit of chaos and try and buy a wicket. It’s nice. At least nowadays they have a plan to try and be better than the opposition. Previously they just aimed to be average and were baffled when that wasn’t enough.

New Zealand, by contrast, seemingly have a multitude of plans. McCullum’s side were a bit one-note, but Kane Williamson has thus far kept the positivity while adding a few more options in terms of how they go about things. It’s worked well for them so far, but we suppose only having one note to play can also bring clarity. Doubt can arise from having choices as much as from lack of faith in your own ability.

That last point seems like the kind of thing we should expand upon, but instead we’re going to slam on the brakes and bring the article to a grinding, unsatsifactory halt.


New Zealand are punching their exact weight

How many World Cup finals would New Zealand have to reach before people considered them ‘the team to beat’? We’d guess about forty. This is assuming they didn’t lose each of those finals to the same team because in that situation the team that beat them would obviously be the team to beat.

Maybe we’ve lost ourself in specifics there. Our point is that New Zealand are never favourites, even when they’re debagging opponents in a multitude of ways.

Respect has to be earned, you might argue. But ask the Associate Nations whether the cricket world pays a living wage in that regard. You can put in long, long hours trying to earn respect and then thanks to an act of god (or at least thanks to the cooling of moist air and resultant precipitation) you’ll find yourself pretty much back where you started. In cricket, respect runs through your fingers. You might get a few grains of it stuck to your skin if you’re particularly sweaty, but they’ll soon be gone.

Whatever their ‘brand of cricket’, New Zealand have a much darker, more permanent brand as outsiders in world competitions. Even though they’re winning all their games, you may still hear people refer to them as dark horses. Anyone who says they’re punching above their weight might like to consult the scales.


It’s the India cricketers we feel for

Imagine you work in accounts for a biggish company that leases out some of its office space to other firms. Imagine that one of your company directors inexplicably removes the coffee machine from the shared kitchen and places it in the middle of your firm’s office.

Now imagine that you trip over in the car park one morning and a load of people who work for other companies in your building all point and laugh at you for 16 minutes while you writhe around on the floor with a broken ankle. This is what it’s like to play cricket for India.

Shikhar Dhawan hasn’t snatched away anyone’s coffee. He’s just a guy with a smashing moustache who enjoys batting. R Ashwin isn’t ruling Prosperity House with an iron fist. He’s just an amiable nerd with a deep and genuine love for spin bowling. Even so, when their team lost to New Zealand, people around the world were laughing at them, enjoying their downfall.

Unfortunately for them, India’s players are representatives. Back when they represented the country, this wasn’t so bad, but nowadays they find themselves the public face of their cricket board. They represent a bunch of fat dullards addicted to cronyism and infatuated with Mammon. This is despite the fact that they have pretty much zero influence over what those people do and are in fact being driven into the ground themselves through their poor decisions.

India are top of the schadenfreude hierarchy. They boss England and Australia, who bully the other six major Test teams, who look down on Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, who in turn exploit all the have-nots scrabbling around for international fixtures. The laughter then goes the other way.

England play the West Indies later today. The world can’t wait to see the Windies beat Giles Clarke’s boys and teach him and them a lesson. They then play Afghanistan next Wednesday, which offers the greatest opportunity for schadenfreude in this tournament with India not playing anyone quite so low down in the hierarchy.

Even when you play for one of the least popular nations, there’s always an opportunity to bring joy to the world.


World T20 begins with ‘six and out’

Then a dot ball. Then another six.

Post-qualifying kicked off as if it had a bit of catching up to do. It was almost as if the tournament had begun a couple of weeks ago without the majority of teams being present until now.

India are playing New Zealand. Martin Guptill hit the first ball, delivered by R Ashwin, for six. Next ball he missed a straight one and was adjudged LBW. (You always use the word ‘adjudged’ when it was later shown to be missing.)

Incoming batsman Colin Munro promised greater solidity, defending the third delivery of the match with a good straight bat. Next ball he reverse-pummelled a six.

New Zealand’s number three lasted way longer than Guptill though. It was the sixth delivery he faced before he clogged one to mid-off and exited the stage.

The match continues.


How Brendon McCullum made international cricket slightly better

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

It’s a familiar story to most of you, but it’s worth retelling.

Looking back on losing his first two Tests as captain to South Africa by more than an innings, McCullum told the New Zealand Herald:

“If we’re being honest, at that point the perception of the New Zealand cricket team was that we were overpaid, underdelivering, lazy prima donnas. And I was one of those prima donnas.

“We decided that we couldn’t win every game, but what we could do is change the way we played and the attitude towards us and the attitude within the group.”

There’s a lot of talk about brands of cricket, but McCullum’s New Zealand really did draw something up and then try and live up to it. A lot of this week’s paeans to McCullum have focused on the intent, but the latter part of the equation is not to be underestimated either.

Without sufficient talent, his team’s relentlessly attacking approach would have ended up as a great string of irresponsible dismissals and a series of massive defeats. They didn’t exactly conquer the world, but they bested a fair proportion of it and pretty much held their own against the remainder.

This approach turned New Zealanders into New Zealand cricket fans – a handy conversion for a game that often seems to be atrophying within the smaller nations. It turned cricket fans the world over into New Zealand fans as well and as a bonus taught everyone the valuable lesson that you shouldn’t conflate attack with aggression.

“We’re going to play an attacking style of cricket; in the field we’re going to chase the ball to the boundary as hard as we can; you’re going to see a team that works incredibly hard off the field; and you’re going to see a team that’s respectful and even-keeled in their emotions.

“We want to be known as a team that respects the game, works hard and plays attacking and innovative cricket. The country can cop us losing, but they can’t cop us being those other things.”

This isn’t necessarily about New Zealand’s being the perfect way to play cricket or anything. It’s more that the international cricket ecosystem had been lacking the kinds of checks and balances that McCullum’s New Zealand provided. Put simply, must positive cricketing intent go hand-in-hand with acting like a cock-faced bell-end?

No, not really. Who knew?

‘Everyone with half a brain’ you might answer, but yet there did seem to be a general feeling that even if positive intent weren’t inextricably linked to cock-faced bell-enddom, no-one on the international circuit was actually willing to try and disprove the theory.

McCullum’s New Zealand were willing and they proved their point unarguably by becoming pretty much the most attacking Test team there’s ever been while simultaneously forging a (somewhat unfair) reputation as pious nice boys.

Cricket in New Zealand is better for Brendon McCullum’s stint as captain and so is international cricket as a whole. Plus he played some innings. Top job.


Mop-up of the day – Hello and goodbye and are you leaving?

Buoyed by a first innings display in which he took six for a million, Neil Wagner persisted with his innovative attritional shock tactics in the second. He took 1-60.

It’s worth noting that Wagner produced this display despite a broken hand. More accurately, he produced this display despite a broken bowling hand.

Neil Wagner.

Hello

To the new top-ranked Test side, Australia. It was a hugely impressive performance from them in New Zealand. The only reason we didn’t write about it was because we didn’t want to because we were supporting New Zealand.

Goodbye

We’ve just noticed that we started an article about Brendon McCullum at some point recently and it’s saved as a draft. Rather than writing anything about him here and now, we’ll investigate what we’ve already written and maybe try and get something up tomorrow (if we get time).

Odds are the draft article’s just a heading and nothing beyond that, but we live in hope.

Goodbye?

Some classic Pakistan retirement talk from Shahid Afridi this week. Our man’s previously said that he’s retiring after the World T20, but now he’s admitting to being under pressure from friends and family to stick around a while longer.

His reasoning’s magnificent.

“I am saying there is a lot of pressure on me that I shouldn’t retire from T20; that I can play on – and as there is no real talent coming through in Pakistan whose place I am taking?”


While Neil Wagner might occasionally let you down, he does frequently pick up a few wickets from a long and determined spell when no-one else is really making any inroads

As Australia’s batsmen dominated New Zealand’s bowlers, there was only one thing left to do: call for Neil Wagner and ask him to bowl 25 overs of short-pitched bowling.

Neil Wagner isn’t perfect, but if you’re looking for donkey work strike bowling (can that be a thing?) then he’s your man. It’s-going-to-take-a-while-to-strike bowling maybe – that’s his niche.

Unlike Brendon McCullum, Wagner’s best isn’t perhaps all that exceptional, but he will keep striving for it. If he’s been banging it in and finds himself with 0-58 off 16 overs, he tends to think: “Right, I’m going to really bang this one in.”

At this point, he’ll be hit for four. Wagner’s response to that will be: “Right, I’m going to really, really bang this one in,” and when he then takes a wicket, he’ll take this is as confirmation of his method.


Brendon McCullum remains very much himself

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Believe it or not, batting with positive intent isn’t actually a new invention. In the hundred-and-odd years of Test cricket, people did actually try it from time to time before now. Mostly they got out.

New Zealand were heavily beaten in the first Test against Australia and when Brendon McCullum arrived at the crease in the second they had lost three wickets for 32 runs. It was doing a bit.

At this point, McCullum had three possible options:

  • Get out immediately
  • Deadbat for a bit and then get out
  • Try and counterattack but get out

Saint Brendon yawned, stretched, rubbed the sleep from his scarred eye and instead walloped the fastest ever Test hundred. Like most of its creator’s best works, the innings was brilliant with unmistakeably rough edges. It was jousey, spawny, flukey genius.

McCullum has never been the best batsman in the world – he may never even have been the best batsman in the New Zealand team. However, in the last few years, he has unquestionably been the most exciting; the man who makes you think something is happening.

McCullum is a guy who sears his innings into people’s minds. His worst is atrocious, his middle ground pretty pathetic, but his best is quite simply better than anyone else’s best. His best leaves you not quite able to assess what’s just happened because you’ve never visited this place before.

Most batsmen would never even attempt to do what he does. A select few try and fail. Only McCullum has the gall to both try and succeed.

Shortly afterwards, New Zealand’s captain completed his final three-pronged lesson. An aggressive approach to batting has nothing to do with any other form of hostility; self confidence can be combined with self deprecation; humility is not a sign of weakness.

When did you think it might be your day, Brendon?

“Probably second ball when I had an almighty, filthy slog and it went over the slips cordon for four.”

And how do you feel about breaking Viv Richards’ record?

“I’m almost a bit embarrassed to go past him, to be honest. Hopefully he enjoyed a bit of the ‘stroke-making’, we’ll call it.”

This is McCullum’s final Test match. He wants the win. There can’t be many cricket fans who aren’t of a similar mind.


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