It’s that time again when the national pastime is picking at the carcass of the New Zealand cricket side. The media, talkback callers, and most of all ex-players have been having their say.
The reasons for the woes of the team are varied, but it now seems impossible for the ex-player component of analysis to drop in some reference to the IPL, along with the subtext of how much these cricketers are earning playing in the IPL
New Zealanders have not really warmed to the IPL, and with reason. It is not the favoured form of the game to the cricketing purist, and symbolises the growing power of the BCCI with reagard to more traditional cricket.
The franchise system has not grabbed the casual observer. New Zealand players are not alone in having player for a range of sides in its five year existence. The time zone is not NZ TV friendly, the avarice of the host broadcaster came through for one season which meant the only coverage we got was via hand held phones, and it was in the mix in the bizarre case of Shane Bond being unavailable for the national side at the peak of his career.
And let’s face it; it’s pretty tacky.
However, the detrimental effect it has had on NZ cricket’s fortunes is being massively overstated, especially by that group of ex-players Stephen Fleming fondly referred to as the “80s Mafia”. For a start, it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest NZ cricket was problem free prior to 2008.
Much was made earlier in the year when Martin Guptill decided to stay away from the IPL and opt for an English County contract instead. He was held up as an example of a player who had his priorities right, and this was the future.
But what has happened subsequently does not really support this. His form in the three away series over the last 5 months has been patchy, and he missed the ODI series in Sri Lanka, and the chance to acclimatise to those conditions because he needed a rest.
And look at South Africa who over the last month have uncovered the new Jacques Kallis batsman who can bat through an entire day to save a test in Faff Du Plessis. Where did he make a name for himself? That’s right; the IPL.
Probably the biggest factor in the New Zealand’s poor performance in test series in 2012 has been the lack of any meaningful build-up first class matches. In three tours there has only been one three day match in the West Indies. When players are being shunted around the world and are not playing any other cricket you cannot really expect them to find form in tests themselves. The reason for this was cost-cutting from NZ Cricket; nothing to do with the IPL.
The coaching situation has been a mess. John Wright left after the West Indies tour due to differences between him and John Buchannon. And then there is the curious case of Kim Littlejohn, the Australian lawn bowls expert who has the ambiguous title of “High Performance Manager”, and who seems to base all his decisions on spreadsheets.
It is no coincidence that NZ’s more competitive performances in series abroad over the last year has come in the second test, and that is not confined to Hobart and Colombo. It’s a shame our test series stop at two these days.
Then there is the on-going fallout from the unnecessary Presidential Campaign for captaincy last year, which made the recent Labour Party Leadership spat look like a minor squabble at the pub.
You have to feel for Ross Taylor. Such a process would have made him feel semi-elected, and all those distracted dropped catches emphasise that.
Add into the mix the misuse of BJ Watling; the most consistently performed batsman of the year, the shuffling of Kane Williamson around the order and the idea that separating Doug Bracewell from his bowling coach when his action needed some work, and you have a litany of issues that cannot be blamed on the BCCI.
The state of the national side is in crisis, and warrants critical analysis. No-one is disputing that.
But let’s focus on the issues that are having the biggest impact, and take the chip off the shoulder and put it back in the coffin. Jealousy never did anyone any good.
For the printed version of this try Page 37 of this week’s NZ Truth