Mark Richardson 's Opinion

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

Mark Richardson: Provincial form deserves shot

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The performances of Colin Munro, Mitchell McClenaghan and Grant Elliott in South Africa show that performances at provincial level in New Zealand cannot be overlooked.

There is a noticeable gap between international and our provincial cricket but if performances are overlooked because they are undervalued, then that will only exacerbate the culture of mediocrity.

Cricket ability must be judged over time. The game involves too much regular failure and making constant selection changes will, I concede, lead to a team constantly chasing its tail.

But current players must understand they cannot hide under the protection the lack of respect for the provincial game allows them.

This England tour is close enough to the South African one to warrant change after just one game if individuals continue to fail to front - and I urge the selectors to make that very clear. Now is not a time to be soft.

I've also no problem going back to former national players who are scoring runs and in form. It's not backwards progress because success in the present has to be the priority. I'm sick of continuing to describe players as having potential; they've been living off that tag for a decade.

For the best chance of success, players performing at their best must be used.

So I'm excited about the selection of young Hamish Rutherford who could be a player for all forms. The hit-and-miss nature of T20 makes it the less-than-ideal proving ground for a new player but he does come from a culture of consistent success following the Otago Volts stunning 10-wins-in-a-row performance in the HRV Cup.

I desperately hope he performs because it would be another shot in the arm for the New Zealand provincial scene. It's all we have when change to the national team is needed. Faith in the provincial standard would mean the selectors won't need to take punts but can select upon consistency - not glimmers of potential.

That said, won't it be nice to have the money the ICC has granted to help New Zealand Cricket develop an A team programme? If used well, this will certainly help bridge the gap. But A team games must be just that - not practice games for incumbents or glorified youth teams.

It's good to have this money but something doesn't sit well with me about our cricket becoming a charity case. It feels as if money has been sucked out of our system at the expense of performance and, if I was an incumbent from the past five years, I would be just a little embarrassed about that.

- 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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