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

Mark Richardson: Think rowing to improve cricket

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson. Photo / Getty Images
Black Caps coach Mike Hesson. Photo / Getty Images

Once again I sit down to write about the Black Caps latest performance not knowing the result at the end of day three because of deadline constraints - but with a familiar feeling. This one may have gone the way as the others of late after just two days' play.

Right now I feel our cricket team is like an athlete who can run alongside the champion or even get in front but ultimately doesn't have the goods to stay when the pace gets hot. They are like the Warriors who look in the game but, because they lack skills in crucial areas, will eventually be broken down and beaten.

The team could hide behind the 'positives' and think, "we're not too far away" but that will only lead to a misguided appreciation of their ability and more heartbreak for fans.

The simple fact is they sorely lack the skills that will make them consistent winners at the highest level.

So now it's time for me to find something to hold on to make myself more hopeful about New Zealand cricket. In yesterday's New Zealand Herald, I saw a quote from new Black Cap coach Mike Hesson. He said he is putting players under pressure at training and making sure they can perform there.

That made me think of an excellent interview with Rowing New Zealand CEO Simon Peterson, who was, incidentally, a hard working former Auckland batsman. Peterson spoke of a high performance culture that treated every rower equally, demanded they all follow the high performance programme to a T, with no exceptions. They benchmarked training against world class times. New Zealand rowers train at the world class level and as result win gold medals.

This is the culture Hesson must bring to his team and that must filter through all levels of New Zealand cricket. Somehow, they must set up training scenarios that mimic facing the world's best bowlers because facing their own bowlers in the nets is not world class practice.

Errors cannot be tolerated at training if the plethora of errors in games are to be cut.

The current players can improve their performance with smart training but, for a real turnaround in New Zealand cricket and the game in this country, the next level of Black Cap hopefuls must also buy into this 'world class' training ethic. It's not good enough to benchmark your abilities against your New Zealand peers because, from what I can see at the domestic level, all players would founder at test level.

When I was young, I wanted to be a Black Cap but I hope our youngsters don't think the same way because that's not good enough. Our youngsters need to want to be better than Black Caps - they have to want to bowl and bat like the very best players in the world.

- 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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