Cricket’s a funny game. Neville Cardus
By Roger Childs
Most Americans and many other people are totally baffled by cricket. They can’t understand why many grown men, and some women and children, can be absorbed by a game that may last for five days and then not even have a result.
They are also bewildered and bemused by the rules and terms of the game and fielding positions like
- fine leg, long leg and square leg
- first slip, second slip and leg slip
- silly mid on and silly mid off
- point, cover point, cover and extra cover.
How about bowling a maiden over?
Many would endorse Rudyard Kipling description of cricketers as the flannelled fools at the wicket.
However for the aficionado, cricket is the prince of games. It has more records than any other sport and devoted followers love to study and discuss them.
They are absorbed by the changing fortunes of five day test cricket (“true cricket” for the purist), rise to the excitement of the unpredictable one day contests when over 700 runs may be scored, and thrill to the crash and bash of 20/20 games.
Black Caps on a roll
Long suffering Kiwi cricket fans could be forgiven for approaching the Indian test series with trepidation. Often in the past, a New Zealand test win would see punters racing to the TAB to put money on the opposition, in the near certain knowledge that the Black Caps would be hammered in the next match.
But has that all changed? Are we starting to show some much needed maturity? The jury is still out. After a test series win against the West Indies followed by a drawn ODI (One Day Internationals), series, then a totally unexpected unbeaten sequence of five ODIs against the Indians, fans did wonder if the rising sandcastle of confidence would come tumbling down.
It looked like it. Losing the toss in the first test, the Blacks Caps were put into bat and at 30 for 3 a first innings collapse was on the cards. However, this time the troops rallied and the consistent Kane Williamson and captain Brendon McCullum put on over 200 in a fourth wicket partnerships and each scored centuries in the process. McCullum went on to get a double hundred and pilot the team through to a score over 500.
Let’s not get carried away!
The Windies are the “easy beats” of world cricket and are a far cry from the powerful Caribbean sides of the past. Teams that included superstars like
- batsmen: Sobers, Richards, Lloyd, Kanhai, Weeks, Worrell and Walcott
- fast bowlers: Hall, Griffiths, Holder, Holding, Roberts, Walsh and Croft
- slow bowlers: Ramadhin, Valentine and Gibbs
- captains: Lloyd, Sobers and Richards.
However, it seems that young athletes in Jamaica, Trinidad and other former British Caribbean territories are more attracted to athletics and American basketball, football and baseball these days.
India has been one of the great international sides in recent years and won eight out of ten tests played in 2013. However, they are in a rebuilding phase now that their superstar line up of batsmen: Gambhir, Sehwag, Dravid, Laxman and Teldulkar, have retired from test cricket.
Captain M S Dhoni is a class batsman with 81 tests under his belt and the younger, less experienced Dhawan, Sharman, Kohli and Pujara have impressive batting averages in the few internationals they have played so far. The Indian bowling attack however, seems to hold few terrors for the New Zealand batsmen.
Nevertheless a series win over India would be a big feather in the black cap. The men from the sub continent are the second ranked test team in the world. They are also the second in the ODI rankings, so the recent New Zealand series win is the: Best one day series performance by a NZ team that I can recall ever! according to Melbourne-based cricket expert, John Smith.
Back in November 2012, New Zealand had suffered a humiliating ODI series loss in Bangladesh and the Black Caps best batsman, Ross Taylor (pictured alongside), had been sacked as captain. The NZ Cricket Council made one PR blunder after another and many in the media, including KIN, were calling for the resignation of coach and chief selector Mike Hesson. Furthermore the finances weren’t looking that flash.
But that’s all changed now and with the good results coming, Hesson is well regarded. There have been some astute selections and positive developments which have paid off.
- Ross Taylor, without the burdens of captaincy, has had a rich vein of batting form over the last three months
- Kane Williamson has matured as a middle-order batsman and in the words of Waikanae authority, Mark Fouhy, he is incredibly consistent and his shot making has really developed.
- Fast bowlers, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Mitchell McClenaghan and the experienced Tim Southee have showed their class
- Corey Anderson has emerged as a fine all rounder. He scored a maiden test century against Bangladesh last year and recently smashed the fastest ODI century of all time, against the backdrop of The Remarkables, in Queenstown.
- Former stars Guptill and Ryder have returned to the one day game and have had some success. (Ryder however was recently back on the booze and his future is once again under a cloud.)
- A pool of talented younger players is emerging in the ODI and 20/20 matches.
So the Cricket Council is now smiling on the back of recent successes and the prospect for a successful ICC Cricket World Cup tournament here (and in Australia) in a year’s time.
They are also laughing all the way to the bank with broadcast rights from this year’s Indian tour understood to be worth in excess of $35 million. Simon Plumb, Sunday Star Times
Cricket is a funny game.
Black Caps on a roller coaster but get home
New Zealand cricket teams down the years have been well known for two failings
- batting collapses
- squandering strong positions.
They have been true to form in this first test against India. 300+ ahead on the first innings, what do they do? Bat disastrously in the second innings and generously give the Indians a chance to win the game.
The Indians took up the challenge and a swashbuckling partnership of 126 between Dharwan and Kohli had the visitors on a roll. At 222 for 2, only another 185 was needed to gain an unlikely victory. Fortunately for the Black Caps, the pace trio of Southee, Wagner and Boult picked up regular wickets to give the home side a win by 40 runs.
So the embarrassing second innings collapse didn’t prove disastrous this time, however in Wellington’s words, it was a near run thing. Hopefully it won’t happen again in the second test at the end of the week.