Mark Richardson is a former Black Cap and current columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Mark Richardson: Moral victory may suffice for confidence

Martin Guptill. Photo / AP
Martin Guptill. Photo / AP

There is an urban legend among players from the mid-1990s that a national coach stood in front the team before they took to the field and urged them not to lose by too much.

It's easy to laugh at that and say "how dreadful", but over the last few years, I can sort of see where this supposedly mythical coach was coming from. There was not much faith in the team he had and public expectation was low, so a decent fighting loss would have been a win in a way.

So what do we expect from our team in this English series? For me, that's a hard question to answer. I mean, what is acceptable?

We know that we can compete in the short forms but do the Black Caps have to win those series? Then, how will the test results flavour the series in general?

What is more important? Is it right to place all the emphasis and importance on the forms that the team is best at and has the most chance of winning - the limited over games? Or, given the convention that test cricket is the most important form, does that carry the weighting?

It's probably a tough schedule from this perspective because the test series comes last. It is the crescendo of the summer. Unlike in South Africa, they won't have the luxury of ODIs to soften the blow should they revert to form in the tests.

So, on my rationale, the tests become vitally important to the success of this tour and the public relations boost this team needs. But is it foolish to pin my hopes on something we're least accomplished at?

The good news is that they can lose every test, closely, and still come out okay. A drawn test would be great but one win would make the pain go away.

I believe the T20s and ODIs will be 2-1 affairs. Whether that scoreline is to England or to us, I don't care too much and can't really predict either. I do know 2-1 to England will be tolerable if, and only if, there is consistent fight shown in the test series. However, the goodwill of a 2-1 result to New Zealand in the short forms will be eradicated should they get three hidings in the tests.

So now start to worry because I am a believer that T20 and ODI cricket, the way ODI cricket is played now, is doing little for our players' test games. Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, James Franklin, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, BJ Watling and Trent Boult are key men in the ODI and T20s but are important cogs in the test team, too.

Guptill and McCullum have technical issues to iron out, as does Williamson around off stump - but they have a main diet of T20s and ODIs to get ready for the tests.

Taylor just needs batting but how much of that will he get in the shorter forms? Watling is going well in tests but I pray he doesn't lose his longer form rhythm.

But that's life. I sure as heck can't pull these guys out of the slog-and-bash for my own selfish test cricket infatuation.

- Herald on Sunday

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Mark Richardson is a former Black Cap and current columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Mark Hunter Richardson represented New Zealand in 38 Tests from 2000-2004 racking up an impressive 2,776 runs with an average of 44.7. The former Black Cap began his cricketing career as a left-arm spinner but soon realised that his talents lay with the bat. The transition from ball to bat was seamless and Richardson soon made his international debut against Zimbabwe at the age of 29. Known as a stalwart opener, Richardson’s intelligent style of hard-grind batting came at the perfect time for New Zealand cricket and provided much-needed stability for the Black Caps. Apart from being an excellent opening batsman, Mark Richardson was well-known among fans and team mates for his humorous off-pitch antics and friendly interactions with the famous Beige Brigade, with whom he formed a strong relationship. An excellent cricketer with a personable quality, Richardson once remarked that his retiring first-class average was only different to that of Sir Donald Bradman by a decimal point. Mark Richardson retired from all forms of the game in 2004 and continues to write an insightful, thought-provoking column for the New Zealand Herald.

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