Its clear that the approach we have used thus far in our nation reviews would be utterly inappropriate in New Zealand’s case. Any progress that occurred over the last twelve months has been gutted by the insane actions of New Zealand Cricket and the Ross Taylor affair. In fact even regarding to it as an affair barely does it justice. Debacle or fiasco would be more fitting. But like every other person who doesn’t sit on the New Zealand Cricket board, we have absolutely no idea why the rug was pulled from under Taylor’s feet in such an alarming and damaging manner. But it’s consequences have been widely recognised. Cricket in New Zealand is now in a precarious state. And that makes us very sad.
While we hold little love for the men who run the game in the Shaky Isles at the moment, we do, as anyone who has happened to listen to one of our podcasts should know, possess a collective bottomless well of affection for New Zealand cricket here at 51allout. We love it. From their old limited overs kits, to fatty Mark Greatbatch, Martin Crowe pummelling Australia in the opening game of the 1992 World Cup, Shane Bond, Dan Vettori’s beard, and caught Guptill bowled Martin. Such is our admiration of the little cricketing nation that could that some of us even don’t mind Danny Morrison’s commentary. In fact, we bloody love the Kiwis so much we are prepared to even forgive them Jacob Oram and James Franklin.
Which is why the current state of affairs has us so worried. After their battling Test win against Sri Lanka, hopes were high that the Kiwis had finally hit on something special. We deliberately even went out of our way to avoid talking about the Test at all in the fear that we might otherwise jinx them into another poor result. But that hope is dead now. We have more faith in Shane Warne making a successful return to Test cricket then we do of New Zealand putting up a decent show in South Africa. The last time the Kiwis visited South African shores they played two Tests, and didn’t pass 200 in any of their four innings. Even that seems an impossible standard to reach now [Editor’s note: current score 219/4]. They are going to get annihilated (particularly since Tim Southee is injured), and that is bad news for cricket in New Zealand.
What New Zealand needs more than anything is more Test cricket. Yes, that’s even more than they need stupid T20 tournaments. With what looks to be the guts ripped out of their Test team, and an utter humiliation looming, more Test cricket isn’t something Kiwi cricket fans might necessarily be able to stomach right now. As others have pointed out, if this state continues for too long, it could be the death knell of cricket in New Zealand, as it will gradually but inevitably recede into becoming a backwater of the cricketing world, along the likes of Scotland, Afghanistan and India. When Bangladesh are seriously considered a more viable cricketing nation than you, you have serious problems. Which is a worry as, again as has been stated elsewhere, Kiwi cricket can’t afford too many troughs like this. At some point too many fans will simply give up on the sport as being hopelessly administered, and decide they are better off getting behind some of New Zealand’s other great sports. Like sheep dog trials. And, er, wood chopping.
Admittedly the loss of New Zealand would not hurt the quality of Test cricket too much (with Jeetan Patel gone it would probably improve actually). It’s true New Zealand haven’t produced a top class batsman since Martin Crowe, but that doesn’t mean another couldn’t be out there somewhere. Kane Williamson looks a fantastic prospect, and Ross Taylor, before his unfortunate demise which kickstarted all this, is a brilliant batsman on his day. We needn’t remind anyone of the qualities of Pune legend Jesse Ryder either. And obviously with the ball they have another man who needs no introduction. James Franklin. Sorry, no, we meant Tim Southee. Sort out a few of the other spots, and the Kiwis have the making of a decent Team, one which, before all this mess began, we thought could give England a run for their money when they visit. Well, one of us thinks they could. Everyone else thinks I am an idiot.
And Test cricket doesn’t deserve to lose Kiwi fans, who are probably the best out there. They react to success and failure (admittedly there is rather more of the latter than the former) with an even keel. There is none of that hyperbole mixed with utter depths of despair that other supporters regularly trawl through. Yes, that means you England fans. None of this wish listing about how many millions of runs Alastair Cook will score before he retires, or how many Tests you will win in 2013. You remember what happened last time you got carried away like this? That’s right: Richard Dawson. Everyone could, in truth, learn something from Kiwi supporters. Although they could do with getting over that underarm thing. Been a while now fellas. Time to move on and all that.
So whilst we should have been looking back on a steady year for New Zealand, at least in Test cricket since they were rubbish elsewhere, and holding out strong hope for future growth, we instead have been forced to wring our hands in nervous apprehension of the demise of one our favourite cricketing nations. Hopefully we are just over-reacting, and all will be well in time for Tim Southee and co to rub the smug smiles off the faces of the touring English in a few months.