The New Zealand team is a sperm whale

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Sperm whales have pretty small brains. If you saw one, it would look massive, but they’re small brains in relative terms because sperm whales are massively massive.

In Moby Dick, Herman Melville makes the case that the small brain is compensated for by the whale’s giant vertebrae, the first few of which are almost the same size as the skull and filled with the same brainy gloop. Needless to say, this rather odd argument made us think of the current New Zealand team.

It’s not that the Kiwis are brainless. It’s that they seem lacking up top. For as long as we can remember, New Zealand have struggled to find openers and this has contributed to a batting fragility which for a long time saw the lower order outscoring the specialist batsmen on a regular basis.

It’s reached the point where it just seems futile to hope for much up top, so New Zealand are compensating for this with the first few vertebrae. It’s going rather well for them. In Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum and Jimmy Neesham, they have a cracking spine.

New Zealand have had one or two decent middle-order batsmen in recent years, but having four makes a lot of difference. With four, it seems likely that at least one of them will score in any given innings and suddenly the lower half aren’t being asked to do all the running. Anatomically-speaking, you might think that running ought to fall under the lower half’s jurisdiction, but New Zealand are a sperm while, so they don’t run.

Kane Williamson has made 161 swims without being dismissed in the second innings of the third Test against the West Indies.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Shhhh….you’re breaking the first rule of supporting or endorsing the NZ cricket team. Never be positive. Talent aside, our biggest problem is that we spend so much time as the underdog we’re incapable of doing well if favoured.

    Pity McCullum won’t open though – adding in Corey Anderson, or squeezing in a Ryder somehow and we wouldn’t be far off a great team.

  2. So what would Tom Latham, with his current average of 50, be in the sperm whale analogy? The skull? And Mark Craig, Mr. Deadbat, who has an average comparable to BMac: one of the tail fins?

    1. We were going to mention Latham, but then it undermined the article, so we just went with “he’s new” as an unwritten excuse.

    2. It’s just the difference between one guy who’s hit three fifties and another guy who’s hit a couple of hundreds being added to three other guys who have already been doing very well. It doesn’t really feel the opening issues are ‘solved’ whereas the middle order seems to have real solidity about it.

      Plus there’s the fact that the whale thing wouldn’t have worked and at the end of the day, sperm whale analogies are what’s important in life. Sometimes it’s best not to scrutinise these things too much.

    3. Agreed, my apologies. When all’s said and done, NZ is definitely a whale with a cracking spine, and it’s churlish of me to quibble.

      Now to move onto whether a “cracking spine” and the accompanying risk of paralysis are thing you want in your whale… 😉

  3. Remember when Two Metre Peter was knocking up runs for fun against England? That was the beginning of the end really, wasn’t it.

    I think it is actually physically impossible to dislike New Zealand. They play the underdog card perfectly, they arent Australia, they simultaneously seem too ponderous for ODI cricket yet too positive for Test cricket, numerous seamers that are ten times better than they look, a wicketkeeper with a funny name. There are so many boxes ticked that even the small things (McCullums punchable face for one) can be easily brushed under the carpet.

  4. Apparently humming birds’ brains are 1/12th their body mass, compared to 1/40th for New Zealanders. Also, the sperm whale has the largest brain of any animal – 8kg, compared to about 1.4kg for New Zealanders. Taking all this into account, it means that the average Sperm Whale is either more or less intelligent than a rabbit, relatively speaking, and the average New Zealand middle order batsman even more so.

  5. Wikipedia tells me that “Spermaceti” is a waxy substance found in the sperm whale’s head that was once mistaken for its sperm. This led me to ask which cricketer couldn’t differentiate between brains and balls and would indulge in a series of incidents that would make any normal person embarrassed to appear in public, but would make said person not feel an iota of shame and maybe even embolden him to offer his opinions on a wide range of topics, like someone’s captaincy.

    Try as I might, I couldn’t find an answer.

  6. “cracking” seems nonetheless an infelicitous choice of adjective when pertaining to the spine, yer maj 😉

    good stuff tho (that thar moby dick aint no slouch neither huh)

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