Mark Richardson on cricket

Mark Richardson is a former Black Cap

Mark Richardson: Batting first requires skills we don't have

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You can't plan for what you don't have and expecting our batsmen to grit it out on the first morning of a test in conditions that might offer something to the bowlers was doing just that.

Brendon McCullum's decision to bat first, a decision that ultimately doomed the Black Caps, was founded on an unrealistic belief in what his team was capable of.

It was a decision that reflected the way he has conducted his career and why he has been dogged by inconsistent results.

You simply can't play cricket that is unsustainable and expect to gain consistency in the long run. You will be consistent all right - consistently inconsistent, which sums up our team and McCullum.

Positivism is fine. Dare to dream big - yes, I get all that. But overconfidence is not being positive; overconfidence is just plain dumb. A good dose of realism is what this team and its leader needs right now. Hopefully the past few days have drummed that home.

Perhaps some good other test teams could have made it work, batting first and aiming to win by bowling last on a dry, up and down pitch. However, this team is not one of them and is not geared up for that style of play.

There is no harm in acknowledging that.

It is not negative to acknowledge that you lack skills in one department, so maybe your best chance to avoid exposing your weakness is to emphasise another department, even if that means going against the norm. It's called playing to your strengths.

However, you must always be looking to improve your weaknesses so you can expand your game planning ability. For our team, that means the top order has got to tighten up their defensive work.

They still fail to move their feet appropriately, play with hard hands and defend too wide. But they know that, don't they? So why is it taking so long? The answer to that lies in how much time they can put into improving their test games. 'Not enough' is the answer to that.

It takes months to change a technical flaw and not months of playing; it takes months of training to drill the right habits before they will hold up under match pressure. Our top order don't get that time under the congested schedule that sees them playing Twenty20 series and tournaments at every opportunity.

A practice game and, if they are lucky, a couple of first-class games are not going to change the techniques and approaches that have been letting them down for many years now.

Therein lies the challenge for New Zealand Cricket if they are serious about improving our test fortunes. It's worth doing because test cricket is not going away any time soon and there is the opportunity to go up the rankings because we aren't the only nation whose test game has been badly affected by the money of T20.

Somehow New Zealand Cricket has to find six batsmen who can devote enough time to developing and maintaining techniques and approaches that will be sustainable at test level.

- Herald on Sunday

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