You have to have a skin as thick as an elephant's, eternal optimism and endless patience to be a fan of the New Zealand cricket team. And every one of those was tested to the limit in the first test against Australia at Brisbane over the weekend.

The New Zealanders played like a bunch of schoolkids having a knock around in the backyard. It was a disgraceful performance by professional sportsmen and to see team members grinning and joking in the stands while their side was being demolished by a tyro fast bowler was enough to make me squirm.

There is something seriously wrong in the upper echelons of New Zealand Cricket for this sort of debacle to happen. The constant changes in personnel, positions and policies in team management and coaching need to be looked at rather hard.

I have admiration for and faith in coach John Wright but I wonder how much his proven ability (think India for five years) is being undermined by questionable changes in management and selection - and particularly their "scientific" and mind-bending dimensions.


The last thing these young men, all of whom have a natural talent for the game, need is someone getting into their heads and trying to change the way they think. None of this was deemed necessary in the heyday of New Zealand cricket when the likes of Hadlee, Chatfield, Turner, Coney, the Crowes and co provided us with a respected, internationally competitive side.

For a start, Brendon McCullum is not and never has been a test opener and one has to wonder whether he was left in that role as a sop for missing out on the captaincy. He is a slogger who would be much more use at, say, No5 when the bowlers are tiring, the shine is off the ball and the time has come to pick up the scoring rate.

You have to wonder, too, at the deplorable standard of fielding our players exhibited at The Gabba. Because the one thing you could always rely on in recent times is that our side was immaculate in the field. The number of dropped catches, some of them sitters, was enough to make me want to throw something at the TV.

However, all was not lost. The international debut of young Australian-born batsman Dean Brownlie was well worth watching. This poised and patient young man played two careful and profitable innings and, having watched both, I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up (not too soon, please) as an opener. He certainly appears to have the temperament for it.

And young Doug Bracewell, with cricket in his and his family's blood, turned in a creditable pace bowling performance. Given more time and experience - and the luck to avoid injury - he should make a useful contribution to the New Zealand XI for years to come.

But that's enough of that. What follows may be old hat to some, but to my wife and me it has come as a revelation. Last week we gave each other for Christmas a Kindle electronic reader. And what an astounding piece of equipment it has turned out to be.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, an e-reader is a mini computer. Our Kindles measure 19cm deep by 12cm wide, with a screen 12cm deep and 9cm wide, complete with computer-type keyboard and weighing about the same as a paperback book.

And into this little piece of magic we can each load up to 3500 books, enough to fill a small suburban library - on top of the dictionaries and user guides which are preloaded. Our Kindles are tied to, from which we have been buying conventional books for years. Amazon has 950,000 books available to buy, and another million free.

The other night I logged in to Amazon on my laptop (the keyboard on the reader is a bit small for my big hands but can do the job, too), called up a book I wanted to buy and clicked a button on the screen.

I did that three more times for three more books and by the time I strolled back to the lounge from the study, all four books were loaded in my reader via our wireless internet connection at a cost of about $25, charged automatically to my credit card.

To read them, all we have to do is start the device, click on the relevant book and there it is on the screen. Page-turning requires a mere touch of a button. If I am called away the device turns itself off; when I restart it, it will open at the same place I left it.

I could carry on but space is running out. What I do know is that from now on when I go on holiday, I will have to take only one "book".