Mark Richardson 's Opinion

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

Mark Richardson: A welcome performance lifts spirits

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Hopefully the tinkering is over now, so what have we learned? More importantly, what has the Black Caps' think-tank learned?

Before yesterday's excellent batting display, I'm afraid things were looking quite negative. By that, I mean the only things that had been learned over the previous four-and-a-bit matches were negatives.

It became clear that Jamie How has not moved his international game forward and unfortunately Kane Williamson is not quite ready. All of a sudden it was apparent that two of the touring party aren't up to standard. If the squad was selected now, I would propose those two would not be in it.

Personally I believe had Rob Nicol been given a chance, we would have found a player capable of covering batting positions one to six and spin bowling cover of quality.

Also that ugly little issue called death bowling reared its ugly little head once more. Tim Southee has one half of the job but questions still remain over who provides the other trustworthy option.

The early bowling options are fine. Kyle Mills appears to be getting back to his usual self with the new ball and Southee is more consistent.

After yesterday's batting effort a few positives have appeared, which is great. The major one so far has to be the continued emergence of Nathan McCullum as a quality allrounder. He could be a sneaky little trump card for New Zealand on the subcontinent.

Surely Martin Guptill must have confidence now that he can be a crucial member of the side at the top of the order and belongs. Now he must learn to take responsibility and bat for longer.

Jesse Ryder is back in the runs but we all know he will score no matter where he bats - but he has ongoing fitness concerns.

Then there is the conundrum that is Brendon McCullum.

I think everyone is still confused over where he should bat - and even if people are clear in their own minds, the debate is as polarising as ever. So as for McCullum ... no change.

This is a major negative for me because to win the World Cup, Dan Vettori, Ross Taylor and McCullum are key. In McCullum we have a major ace that we just don't know how to play. He cannot remain up the sleeve. He must open.

All this said, I actually reckon we may be looking too deeply into this series as a World Cup indicator. Let's face it - because of the way the tournament is structured, the Black Caps will make the quarter-finals. They've only got to finish fourth in the group out of Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe. Then it's just a case of winning three in a row. We've beaten all nations before and we have won three in a row before.

So if we do win this cup from comparatively nowhere - and all it takes is a timely run of form - we can thank the ICC for turning their showpiece of world cricket into a potential lottery by removing the super-8 section.

- Herald on Sunday

Mark Richardson

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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