Mark Richardson on cricket

Mark Richardson is a former Black Cap

Mark Richardson: Tests are the priority

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All I can say is thank God the series against South Africa goes from short to long - starting with T20s to ODIs to tests - or I reckon the Black Caps would get a towelling in what should be the defining part of the summer of cricket: the three test series against South Africa.

Zimbabwe have been so poor that they simply are not providing any meaningful preparation. Yes, the new players are getting 'international' experience, but that is really just experience to the peripherals of international cricket, not the difficulty of international cricket. Quite frankly, our older players would be better off playing provincial cricket.

That said, it is a Godsend that when South Africa's nasty-fasties arrive, along with their intimidating batsmen, our players will get to heighten their cricketing senses the right way round.

The shorter the game, the more teams are brought together and the more chance comes into it. One performance can have a disproportionately high effect on the end result.

There is enough potential in the Black Caps to hope one or two have their day in the T20s and those that are caught on the hop by the extra intensity will get a well-timed wake-up call. They can build on that through the ODI series and, come the tests, should be more prepared to deal with the relentless quality that comes with South Africa.

Every game is important but test match results (outside of the World Cup) are the priority for the development of the game in this country. A poor performance in the test series will do massive harm to the game of cricket here in New Zealand.

The international schedule has not helped build support and interest in the game and so much rests on how the summer ends. I'm prepared to lose the T20s and maybe even go down 2-1 in the ODIs if it means our players need those games to get back up to speed to be competitive in the test series. They will need those shorter games too.

Am I being a miserable sod and not giving our cricket the credit it deserves? No, I am not.

Yes, they have been playing great cricket in annihilating Zimbabwe but they have been allowed to play that way. They have never been pressured. Whenever Zimbabwe were getting into a position where they may have been able to compete, they always gave our players an easy pressure release.

Top cricket is not just about playing good cricket - it is also about not letting your opponent play good cricket. Top teams suffocate you; they swarm on you and will attack when you allow them.

At no point have our players been suffocated. It has always been our players swarming and attacking. It will be very interesting to see what happens when the boot is on the other foot.

Because it will be at some points over the next month.

- Herald on Sunday

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