Is Kiwi cricket more advanced than Australian cricket?
Two series, two completely different sets of results and two different sets of wickets. It is a truism of cricket that teams have to accept what is dished up to them in the way of the wicket/pitch, and do their best.
In New Zealand, England would have had no quibbles had they lost any of the Tests they played against the Black Caps, because all three tracks were belters and, while they provided draws, perhaps the weather was the only thing standing between New Zealand and an amazing series win against the Poms.
2-0 would have been a fitting series result, but alas, time, weather and Matt Prior stood between them and victory twice.
It must be heart breaking for Brendan McCullum and his squad to accept they came within millimetres of a series win against the might of England. But equally they know they were the better team in the series.
Okay so the Poms were without Graham Swann and Kevin Pietersen for much of the Series, and yes Tim Bresnan was absent too, but New Zealand unearthed all kinds of stable individuals with bat and ball who handled everything England could throw at them.
Coach Mike Hesson has presided over a turbulent Christmas and pre-Christmas with Ross Taylor relieved of the captaincy, a move John Buchanan fought strongly.
But New Zealand Cricket and Buchanan have weathered the storm, and right now they could justifiably say they are as competitive as the Australian cricket team on their own wickets, and perhaps on ours.
Buchanan is only a much maligned identity in Shane Warne’s mind. New Zealand Cricket CEO David White and Buchanan (and Martin Crowe) haven’t always seen eye to eye either, but compared to Warney’s avalanche lately, it is storm in a teacup.
The Ross Taylor affair split New Zealand cricket, not least because of Taylor’s failure to provide a win in Sri Lanka and because the team totalled 47 in one innings in South Africa on Taylor’s watch.
Watching that match, it seemed a hellishly harsh call to relieve Taylor of his duties, but Hesson, the board and the selectors stuck to their guns, and look what has happened.
Hesson massaged McCullum into the captain’s role, placated Taylor, and the Kiwis have looked like an amazingly resurgent side. Buchanan has gotten used to the idea and Crowe has to eat crow in terms of the results, and they and other prominent New Zealand critics have accepted that Hesson and McCullum have the situation under tight control.
It’s been a wholly liberating and binding Test series for the Kiwis, and a great thing for world cricket.
Interestingly, New Zealand captains are not selectors.
The bowlers have been magnificent. Kane Williamson took 4/44 in reducing England to 9/315 and came within a bee’s proboscis of an historic victory over the Mother Country.
But Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Bruce Martin, Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell have been awesome in this series on flat and largely unhelpful tracks, and the fact there are several other quicks and several talented bats waiting to see action for New Zealand points to a fabulous period for their cricket.
Dan Vettori is close to a comeback. Jessie Ryder is at Weightwatchers. And Buchanan keeps bringing up names that produce on the field, merely by the exposure to Hesson’s no nonsense system. At 38, he is what cricket is – a young man’s game.
Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Williamson and McCullum have provided an absolute welter of runs in this series against the likes of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Monty Panesar and Steven Finn.
Taylor looked great and Dean Brownlie got in behind the quicks with great courage. DJ Watling is more than a fair keeper.
And McCullum led from the front, scored runs, played hurt and did everything a captain should.
Contrast that with the tale of woe Australia left behind from the Indian tour and one can easily see who is on a high.
I can’t account for how much credit Buchanan should get in NZ. Crowe sings his praises and they both wanted Taylor to continue to captain, but the shakeup resulted in the right man taking the reins on the field and the team benefitted hugely as a consequence.
That the identities have accepted the Taylor Affair and moved on is a great thing, and I dare say we will be hearing a lot more about the Black Caps under McCullum.
Under Buchanan, Hesson and McCullum and with the six selectors on the same page, all is rosy, droughts aside.
If an Aussie can get a guernsey in the Land of the Long White Cloud, then surely a South African can coach Australia to a resurgence. We will wait and see!