48 hours: Vettori delivers but Cake Tin disappoints

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New Zealand cricket must be thankful for small mercies and one arrived in the nation's capital, albeit carrying the charm associated with parliamentary debates.

The Black Caps and England were given a pudding of a pitch to play on, and it was England who made a meal of it batting first.

They set a target even the Black Caps couldn't botch. Daniel Vettori's young pea shooters delivered.

You can only imagine what defeat would have meant given the mood of cricket in this land. Victory has offered a little ray of light in a long tunnel although it hasn't shed much on the true, and dubious, ability of these Black Caps.

It is tempting to take the gloss off Saturday night's win by pointing to a pitch that was to cricket entertainment what William Shatner was to opera singing. It's also the sort of track that Kiwi trundlers of the Gavin Larsen ilk prosper on.

All power to Vettori and his men, and congratulations. But this lifeless drop in was a most unwelcome visitor and if the Cake Tin can't get its recipe right, New Zealand Cricket should pull up the one day stumps in the capital and find places that encourage rip-roaring action under lights.

The result though was a godsend for Vettori, whose position at the head of our knee-buckling heroes is enhanced because he missed the Twenty20 debacles.

A reversal of these fortunes - stirring Twenty20 wins followed by a one day collapse - would have put a large and slippery rug under Vettori. A nervous electorate might already have wondered if the cocky, blazing bat of Brendon McCullum might soon be a better conductor for this orchestra.

Whether real or imagined, Vettori's presence has appeared to galvanise the troops and this triumph on home turf could put impetus into the era of his captaincy.

Coaches may swarm over the players' area these days. But cricket is still a game that should be rooted in the power of the captain. More than any sport, cricket eras are defined by skippers because they have so much influence on the field.

The difficult task for Vettori now is to increase the demands on his inexperienced players while giving them a confidence to play at this level, even though most have barely enough in their backgrounds to promote much belief in them as first class cricketers.

It was a very significant win on Saturday night. The Black Caps had one glorious moment in South Africa under Vettori. But it was achieved in virtual obscurity and enthusing the home audience is far more important for a budding captain.

No one gave a tinkers about the series against Bangladesh. Although English sides have never embraced the outright athleticism which marks the finest one day teams, this touring outfit is to be highly respected and the prevailing mood was that New Zealand might be embarrassed in the one dayers, and had no chance at all in the tests.

Imagine if the Black Caps could find victory in both and the confidence it would give this side. Over-confidence though is a killer for New Zealand cricket sides.

We've had far too many glory boys who have been encouraged into failed careers by poncy advertising campaigns, and not enough John Wright, Andrew Jones and Mark Richardson types who made the most of mid-level talent by scratching and clawing their way along the international stage. The instant society is too willing to accept instant heroes who have not lived up to these men's game.

Vettori could do worse than emphasise to his side that there was a large dose of good fortune in Saturday night's win, that another triumphal English cricket side was befuddled by a cake which was flat in the middle.

These are desperate times for New Zealand cricket, especially with Indians offering bags of money knocking on the door.

A new generation of New Zealand cricketers must strive to put a foot on the English throat by invoking the mantras of men like Wright, Jones and Richardson who proudly revelled in a scrap.

* * *

He may be the country's foremost heat pump salesman, but Stephen Fleming is hardly a breath of fresh air in the TV commentary box.

What is it with retired or soon to be retired cricketers and their unseemly haste in taking up the microphone. As this column has said previously, it is unfortunate to say the least that active international players (and in rugby league's case a selector) are being encouraged into commentary boxes. The conflict of interest is so obvious.

It does nothing for the art of commentary or the mana of the sports themselves either. Fleming's morbid mumblings on Saturday were hardly insightful material anyway. Take a break, take the Indian money, put your feet up Flemo. Then give the commentary game consideration in a few years' time.

* * *

What joy. Saturday morning brought the early season pronouncements from Graham Henry, and the heart lifted. Not.

Henry had a hopeless stab at feigning humility by claiming he believed his All Black job was gone after last year's interview with the board. We'll have to take Henry's word for this, although many of us regard him as much smarter in the political numbers game than that.

Having humbled himself before the public, Henry then attacked the media.

How is it that a man can label the media unbalanced and vindictive when he did not read the readily available reports and instead relied on second-hand information.

With no evidence, Henry also implied the public was strongly behind him after the World Cup quarter-final loss. And he suggested that the media had ulterior motives in wanting him replaced.

Henry's tone suggested the public is much smarter than a media which had it in for him.

As for claims that the media wanted to be kingmakers and breakers, Henry was quite happy with a far more obvious example of this four years ago.

Henry got a wonderful ride from large sections of the press in 2003, while John Mitchell was unfairly vilified for all manner of sins.

One of Henry's key selection planks, while working to oust Mitchell, was that he would be more media savvy than the 2003 World Cup coach.

Now he's using one of history's great whipping boys, that very same media, to cosy up to the public. How cute.

The media's general response to the 2007 World Cup was very simple. Henry failed in what he and the rugby union regarded as the main mission, that Robbie Deans had done more than enough to warrant the job, and that it would be a gross mistake to allow Henry's arrogant regime of muddled selections and fitness policies to continue.

A lot of the media will believe that even more so after reading the Weekend Herald.

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