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New Zealand's waning ODI fortunes

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New_Zealand_cricket_ODI_Test_T2024th March 2015: a day all fans of the Black Caps will remember. A place in the final of cricket’s showpiece event, the World Cup, was at stake. Surely the Proteas would not miss out (i.e. choke) again.

But Dale Steyn missed the block hole! With scant regard for his stumps, Grant Elliott went back in his crease and swatted the ball over the long-on boundary and into the stands. “GRANT ELLIOTT!” yelled a testosterone-fuelled Ian Smith, echoing millions watching on TV around the world.  

More neutrals were pumped than Kiwis. That’s a fact. Bangalore’s population is almost twice that of New Zealand.

But why did so many of us lose our voices cheering for the Kiwis? Maybe it was the importance of the stage, or their McCullum-inspired aggressive brand of cricket, or the fact that this was clearly an all-time high for New Zealand cricket. Even a disappointing performance in the final could not stop the masses from anointing them as the darlings of the tournament.

However, a lot has happened in the 20 months since the 2015 World Cup. Make no mistake, New Zealand is firmly in the post-McCullum era. He’s never coming back.

England, South Africa, India, and Australia. Most would agree that these teams - the ‘Big 4’ if you will - have historically been the ones to beat in World Cups. They will be the favorites for the Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup.

New Zealand, who have lost an ODI series away to each of the Big 4 since the World Cup, cannot and should not be considered the best. The Australian whitewash should serve as a warning that the Kiwis are in decline.

 

 

While Brendon McCullum has passed the baton down to a more than capable Kane Williamson, his absence has left the Kiwis with a huge hole at the top of the order. Tom Latham, who averages 28.70 at a strike rate of 75.19 against teams other than Zimbabwe, has not had anywhere near the impact that McCullum did.

The heroic Grant Elliott has been sorely missed in a middle order plagued by injuries and thus a lack of continuity. Ross Taylor, James Neesham, and Corey Anderson have all missed most of NZ’s ODIs in 2016, leaving much of the run-scoring burden on Williamson and Guptill.

With a smaller talent pool and less financial might than the Big 4, producing enough players will always be a challenge. Producing another Daniel Vettori is quite improbable. Mitchell Santner, however, was a shining light during the Australian whitewash, conceding only 130 runs in 28 overs as the faster men travelled the distance.

Let’s talk about these faster bowlers. The indiscipline they showed throughout the series was indeed quite staggering. Heading into the series, it had been 35 matches and more than 1400 overs since any NZ bowler conceded a front-foot no-ball. Lockie Ferguson’s indiscretion spread like a viral plague as the Kiwis gave away 40 needless runs in no-balls and wides throughout the series. This does not take into account the runs scored off free hits, which, let’s face it, was the only way that Mitch Marsh was going to get back into form.

Perhaps we are being too harsh on Boult, who is otherwise one of the best left-armers going around. The problem, however, is that the Kiwis seem unable to bowl as a unit. When one or two fast bowlers have a good day, the third always releases the pressure. Lockie Ferguson is undoubtedly quick, but perhaps the experience of Milne and McClenaghan, who are both out injured (at this point you could compose an XI entirely out of their injured and recently retired) would have been more effective in slowing down the Australian run-machine.

Although the task may seem uphill, New Zealand does have some things working for them. Guptill and Williamson were consistent as ever during the series and if they can find able support in Neesham, Munro or the recalled Nick Broom, they could get back to winning ways.

The three ODIs against Bangladesh starting on 26th December should be a walk in the park for New Zealand, especially when you consider Bangladesh’s reliance on spin in addition to their relative inexperience outside of Asia.

But this is about much more than just the Bangladesh series or even the return series against Australia following that; it is about re-establishing New Zealand as a team to beat by building a squad of players who can take on the Big 4 during global tournaments. Considering recent results, the Kiwis will be dying to prove that they are more than just the hard workers who finish second.

 

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Jay Dansinghani is a freelance writer, researcher, and author based in Hong Kong. Jay got into deep...

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