Monday, 30 March 2015

The (Very Rocky) road to a CWC Final and beyond.

This journey for New Zealand Cricket started back in 2012 with the appointment of two key administrators of our home game.  David White as CEO and a little later, the much unheralded appointment of a nobody, Mike Hesson from Otago.  White set about setting in motion a plan to improve NZ cricket stakes, more especially the placings in the World Cricket Rankings and he felt Hesson was the man to do that.

Hesson's appointment was seen, amongst cricketing guru's, a temporary failure, more especially when he struck the first blow in culling Ross Taylor from the captaincy and installing his Otago protege, Brendon McCullum.  It is well documented how this split cricketing pundits in this country and the derision that went on (and in some cases still goes on).  But a lost test series in South Afirca followed by a rare ODI series win set in motion the Hesson/McCullum masterplan.  And backed by the appointment of Bruce Edgar as selector, the stone was set in concrete and the race up the rankings commenced.

But back in that South Africa series and Hesson's amalgamation with McCullum as leadership group, were they thinking Cricket World Cup 2015?  You'd have to suspect the planning started back then,  Since that series, especially in both test cricket and ODI's, the Blackcaps have gone about their business succeeding well, a few hiccups, but improving.  And a lot of that improvement came in selection consistency in both forms.  Sure both teams aren't 100% perfect and winning 100% of the time, but the rankings prove that improvement is indeed happening (4th in ODI's {about 8th/9th 2012} and 5th in tests (a deep 9th {almost 10th} in 2012)).  The plan was set, and it's now bearing fruit.

So what of controversy?  There are still those that feel happy to give Hesson a serve about selections (Rutherford in tests, Taylor in ODI's) but to be fair 90% of what Hesson and the Blackcaps have achieved in the past 2 years is bearing fruit across the nation (as can be seen by support at the grounds and the viewing public, in both tests and ODI's.  Cricket is back at the tips of everyone's tongues.

I prefer to call the Vettori/Taylor/Wright years The Dark Ages.  A time when history just stood still, nay regressed, and records tumbled downwards, especially with the rankings.  Sure there are still some dark moments in the current reign (3 zip loss in ODI's in Bangladesh) but as these are few and far between now let's concentrate on the way ahead.  Yes the CWC could be mentioned here before moving ahead, but why, we all have our thoughts.  I will say at the start of the competition I expected us to finish no higher than 3rd or 4th.

Ok so where to from here.  Damp wet England for a two test 5 ODI and a handful of god awful T20.  That's it I think until a short tour of South Africa for ODI's and T20, then a test series in New Zealand in November against Australia..  We are 5 points away from overtaking South Africa on ODI Rankings and a series win against both the Poms and Yarpies should see that achieved.  But for me the more important matter in hand is winning two tests in England and three in New Zealand to help elevate us over Pakistan (once again needing 5 points to surpass).

How are retirements going to affect this team ethic that is growing everyday?  Well it is fair to say the likes of BMac, Taylor and Mills are ready to move on (Dan's already gone).  Ok settle down, yes Taylor isn't all that bad, but for me there is something seriously holding him back from his full potential.  Whether it is the tinkering of his action, his closeness and sad situation with his mentor, or something completely different, the fact remains, Taylor is missing in action.  Sure he's fighting and builds solid innings, but as I see it, he doesn't seem to be buying into the team ethos.

It's now a very good time, post CWC, to get another young up and comer in the frame, to build further on the prowess of our top six.  Guptill, beyond my expectations, cements the openers berth (sorry world I was wrong), Bmac has a couple of more years in him, Kane is the rock and the future,  I'd like to see Nicholls brought into the fold at 4 ahead of Latham (Who should be retained as batting cover more especially at opener).  The rest of the lineup barring Mills is set in stone for years to come.  Except Ronchi!!  One good innings doth not maketh a summer.  I have always said having BJ Watling in the ODI team would be like having a Chris Harris or Michael Bevan at 7.  As seen with his record breaking partnerships in test cricket, he has the ability to not only stick around with the set top order batsmen, but be the anchor at run a ball for the lower order to feed off.

Make of that as you may.  The surety in all that come before us is that Hesson will still set lofty targets for the team, and the leader of that team will motivate and lead by example and bring more gold to the purse that is New Zealand Cricket and it's burgeoning adoring public.In 2012 I said Who?? to Hesson's appointment, I said Yes to Taylor losing the captaincy, and I appluaded loudly Bruce Edgar's appointment.  What I didn't ever get around to saying was Thank You The Blackcaps for the road to the final, sad you had to lose to the old foe, but next time will be a decider yes??

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