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Resurrecting the Trans-Tasman cricket Trophy

Brendon McCullum, a leader. (AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE)
Roar Pro
30th December, 2014
8

The Australia-New Zealand Test cricket rivalry has fallen by the wayside in recent years, largely as a result of mismatched oppositions. New Zealand cricket’s recent re-emergence means that now is the perfect time to resurrect this once-fierce rivalry.

This is because rivalries are what make sport the tribal warfare is it, and the more intense the rivalry the more passion and interest it produces. There are many examples around the world; the Red Sox against the Yankees, Manchester United and Liverpool, Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics among many of the most famous.

It’s something the A-League has realised and hence there are now Melbourne and Sydney derbies creating natural rivalries and creating massive interest and anticipation when they are played.

In Test cricket there are historic rivalries between Australia and England, forever fighting to either defend, or to regain the Ashes urn. Considering there are only 10 Test playing nations there should be some intense rivalries that are played on a regular basis.

It would appear that television dollar once again become king, and with the future tours program not being adhered to, there is a virtual two-tiered Test playing competition.

A case in point is England’s upcoming home season which encompasses a five match Ashes series, preceded by a tour by New Zealand’s Black Caps in May. Playing Test cricket in England in May is the ultimate curtain raiser, and has a very high chance of being curtailed by rain. Ironically it could be to the Black Cap’s advantage as their swing bowling tandem of Trent Boult and Tim Southee will be virtually unplayable with a Duke ball in England in May.

At least however the Black Caps are given the opportunity to play in England. The last time New Zealand played Australia was in December 2011 in Hobart, in a classic Test that the Black Caps won by seven runs.

The next scheduled tour is next summer over three Tests in Australia. Four years between tours and no reciprocal tour of New Zealand is not maximising the rivalry and seems ridiculous considering the closeness of the two teams.

The best way for the Black Caps to show they are worthy of more regular contact is to not only compete competitively but to win the series. The win in Hobart in 2011, New Zealand’s first Test win in Australia since 1985, gives the Black Caps the belief they can win the series.

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The 2014 season has been one of the Black Caps most successful ever, with five wins from nine games against India (1), West Indies (2), Pakistan (1) and Sri Lanka (1). Another successful year of winning performances and the Black Caps will be a team in high demand worldwide.

Australia are currently in the midst of beating India, and look to have a fairly settled team, although it will be interesting to see the composition of the XI after the Ashes tour where the elder statesmen of Rogers, Haddin and Harris will consider retirement. The development of Steve Smith as captain and possible reintegration of Michael Clarke are further potential challenges Australia may face in 2015.

The Black Caps side is fairly settled itself, and importantly has some world-class players now. In Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum they have a middle order averaging over 40 with the bat and in McCullum’s case, averaging 50+ as captain.

The bowling unit is also world class now, with Tim Southee and Trent Boult superb swing bowlers who are averaging under 30 with the ball, and are disciplined in their bowling plans. Mark Craig is similar to Nathan Lyon in age and is also developing as an off spinner who can take wickets. While Lyon has vastly more experience Craig has some excellent variations, a case in point was taking a 12 wicket bag against Pakistan, an environment in which Lyon struggled.

Both teams do have some gaps in their team, for Australia it is in the batting with long-term question marks over Chris Rogers, Shane Watson and Shaun and Mitchell Marsh. For New Zealand it is finding an opening combination, ensuring the No.6 is contributing with bat and ball, and the third seamer role.

The World Cup is obviously on the immediate horizon; however come October the Trans-Tasman trophy should be meet with huge expectations. It is up to the Black Caps to justify this and by doing so could demand more consistent competition against Australia, both in Australia and at home.