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

Mark Richardson: Pool rounds ideal time to fix failings

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Tim Southee. Photo / Getty Images
Tim Southee. Photo / Getty Images

At the risk of ending up with a lot of egg on my face, don't worry about tonight's game against Kenya, the Black Caps will win.

They will also beat Canada and Zimbabwe and so will reach the quarter-finals. Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, every game of the group stage is nothing more than practice.

It may help, however, if they knock off one of the major teams in their group in the hope of meeting perhaps the West Indies or Bangladesh in that quarter-final.

So the job over the next six games is to get their horribly out-of-order game in order.

The areas of major concern are obvious - the second half of the bowling effort and their ability to be clinical in runs accumulation and wicket retention through the middle overs in their turn at bat.

I expect against the minnows to see no problems in these areas if Brendon McCullum's recent comments are to be believed - that the team are lacking confidence when put under pressure.

The minnows simply won't pressure this team like the top teams do. However, regardless of who they are playing, the Black Caps must look beyond the result for the time being and assess how accurately they are carrying out their game plans.

The best way to handle pressure is to have a process that you believe works and focus on that.

The problem could be, however, that in the middle overs of batting and the death bowling, the team have either yet to find the process they believe in or lack the ability to carry out the ones they have set.

Whatever it is, the most important thing is that all the players find something they believe in - pronto.

Even if they are not at the point of being able to effect it flawlessly, belief that what they are trying to do is correct and appropriate is the only way this team will find belief in themselves. That's the way to halt the inappropriate play we are seeing to date.

Allan 'White Lightning' Donald in tow or not, no one in this team is going to bowl searing yorkers at 150km/h at the death but the problem is no one is consistently bowling yorkers at any pace. That method seems too difficult for our lads, with the exception of Tim Southee but even he does not do it consistently.

So more slow ball and variation guile is required and some clever field sets too. This will take courage; more courage than simply to run in and try to hit the blockhole.

One way to minimise the damage at the death will be to take wickets in the middle. Daniel Vettori will make a difference here because I believe him to be a very good ODI bowler and it is also the reason that I would still persevere with Hamish Bennett - but use him through the middle in two spells.

As for batting through the middle overs, I say: "Basics, boys". Propel the ball into gaps and have total clarity and confidence in the pressure release boundary option. Single taking is still a major basic of ODI cricket and something lacking in our batsmen.

In short - basics with the bat, inventiveness with the ball.

- 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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