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Oct 26

The Curious Case Of Black Caps

Over the years, the New Zealand team has shown plenty of traits that successful teams mostly possess and yet on countless occasions it has failed to cross the line much to the chagrin of kiwi fans. As its series with Sri Lanka is about to begin, the ever pertinent question again brings itself to the fore: Can the kiwis return a contented unit once it leaves the lankan shores?  The saga of shaky New Zealand sides has been painful not only to a kiwi fan but also to a cricket fan in general.

Individual brilliance and team cohesiveness are possibly the two strongest pillars of a robust outfit. It is the paucity of the latter that hurts teams the most. Curiously, though, in New Zealand’s case it has been the lack of former that’s proved the bane. Think of Pakistan and the thought of some outrageously talented cricketers who were unwilling to make sacrifices for their team often leading to infighting and punctured team spirit is quite imperative. NZ’s case is quite the reverse: you can count on fingers the individuals who could dazzle over a prolonged period and be called match winners but disunity would be the last thing on mind talking of a kiwi side. Its difficult to think beyond Sir Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Chris Cairns, Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, Daniel Vettori and Ross Taylor of people who could be bet upon blindfolded to swing matches on their own.

It is ironical that Sir Richard Hadlee, one of the greatest all rounders of the game, played for a side that has been woefully short on individual charisma

One could argue that too many egos also handicap a team and that New Zealand has done fabulously well there as reports of infighting and discordant voices within the team are a rarity. However, it is also true that every team needs heroic players to carry it through. Teams like India, Sri Lanka have been extremely fortunate in this regard possessing players of impeccable caliber (like Tendulkar, Dravid, Sanga, Jayawardane) who were also devout team men.

There have been times when the black caps could be accused of being timidly mellow and of showing unreasonable respect to the opposition rather than focusing on their own bright spots. It isn’t an uncommon sight to see every member chip in with decent contributions but no one going the full distance. In recent times Vettori has shown the will to drag his team along but often he has been left with a little too much and too many things to do.

Not that individual intent and grit has always been missing; Stephen Fleming single handedly won a world cup match for his team in 2003 against South Africa in a chase in excess of 300; more recently, after being grievously down, the kiwis fought back against the very same opposition in 2011 edition of the World Cup to reach the semis. However, such rebellious sparks and passionate intents have been way too few and sporadic. One might also be tempted to attribute the kiwi cricket team’s attitude to a general style of play of all their countrymen. That, however, would be a false impression as “the All Blacks( New Zealand’s rugby team)” are a dreadfully feared lot in the world of rugby.

The present time though is the best for New Zealand to look ahead of its moderate past as most current teams (including the one they will be facing – Sri Lanka) are in a rebuilding phase. South Africa is probably the only side which wears a settled look otherwise every other team is in search of their respective ideal combinations or are undergoing a change of guard. In Vettori and Taylor they also have two inspiring and dynamic leaders who should be emulated both in attitude and skills.

Ross Taylor needs support from established players like McCullum to marshal a relatively young side in Sri Lanka

The need of the hour is that the kiwi squad should express itself freely and take up the onus of grinding through to the hilt and not just be happy with an average performance. Martin Guptill, in recent times has shown glimpses of that. McCullum, for most part of his career, has failed to live up to the hype associated with him. Counted among senior players now, it is high time that he puts his hand up and converts his pedestrian performances into match winning ones. Bracewell has been someone to cheer about for the kiwis having already shown his promise by running through an Australian side in a test match. He needs to repeat his performances and also adapt to the subcontinent for his team to make any sort of mark. Tim Southee was marked by his previous bowling coach (Allan Donald) as the future swing bowler to look out for and although, he hasn’t disappointed, he hasn’t set the stage ablaze either. His performance against India and experience gained of playing in the subcontinent in the recently concluded test series should boost up his team’s prospects ahead. Ross Taylor, like always (probably a little more than usual), needs to fuel the side not only on the field but off it too. His job becomes all the more envious considering he has a young team at disposal and no Vettori(out due to injury) for support. But his team’s experience from playing in India as well as the fact that the kiwis have had a good feel of lankan conditions owing to T20 World Cup should make his job a little easier. If the senior pros can put in substantial and timely shows (which they are well capable of) and if the younger lot could rally around (or even better, take the center-stage themselves) the black caps would return a more satisfied unit after the tour.

It has been an irony and also cricket’s grave loss that the kiwis have always looked threatening but have never genuinely threatened. With a young but talented team at hand and the changing balance of cricket world, time is opportune for them to stamp themselves assertively and not just be the “good boys” of cricket. All they need is perhaps a resolute jolt from within to pull themselves out of this self imposed mediocrity .

About the author

Simply sachin

Ardent cricket lover.. Loves the twists and turns the game keeps throwing.. Big fan of the team of Ganguly era!

Join me on twitter at @Simply_sachin

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