Mark Richardson on cricket

Mark Richardson is a former Black Cap

Mark Richardson: Time ripe for the leaders to come out and play

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It's early season in South Africa so maybe this Champions Trophy will be won by bowlers.

That's unlikely - but if it is the case then, with three bowlers, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills and Shane Bond, all within the top 10 ranked ODI performers, there's plenty of reason for hope.

That may be false hope because you cannot win enough ODIs in succession if your top five batsmen are failing. The fact we have 30 world-class overs available and continue to slip in ODI rankings proves there are major problems in our batting.

So why do we boast a top five line-up with more than acceptable records and yet fail to win enough games?

Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott all boast averages above 35 with excellent strike rates. In fact they are numerically better or comparable to key players in the 2000 Champions Trophy winning team like Roger Twose, Stephen Fleming, Chris Harris and Craig MacMillan.

Then we have Jacob Oram in the top five ODI all-rounders list but here is when the statistics start to tell the true story.

Two of the most influential ODI players this country has had were Nathan Astle and Chris Cairns.

Their equivalents in the current team are Brendon McCullum and Oram, probably our most highly paid cricketers and thus meant to be world class performers. But they are far from it.

Astle averaged 35 at a 73 strike rate with 16 hundreds; McCullum is 28 at 88 and one century. McCullum is simply not doing what he should. He is not making enough big scores and winning one-day games for his country.

He has fantastic natural skill but it comes to the fore far too infrequently. He has experience and is considered senior so now is the time he should become a catalyst for a win not simply a catalyst for a fast start.

Cairns averaged 29 at a strike rate of 84; Oram is a whole five runs shy of this. Cairns actually under-performed a little, I feel, but one thing he did do was step up on the big occasion. Cairns was synonymous with match winning, Oram is not.

These are our big players and big players must lead the way. Big players come to the fore on the biggest stages, like this very tournament. Astle and Cairns have done just that, McCullum and Oram have not.

From what I have heard, the current players know they are failing to deliver and are talking about being more accountable.

Maybe that talk of accountability is manifesting as fear and hesitancy in stroke play.

If these players are to produce the runs in this Champions Trophy then that sense of accountability must lead to greater organisation in their play. Guptill, Ryder, Elliot are still discovering their games at the top level. McCullum, Oram and Taylor are experienced enough to know what is required.

It is time now for the defensiveness and talking to stop and for these leaders to lead from the front.

- Herald on Sunday

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