Black Caps' top order needs change, says former coach

By Christian Bonnevie

The Black Caps' cricket selectors need to "bite the bullet" and make the tough calls, former coach Steve Rixon said today.

The Black Caps' top order are walking a tight-rope after again folding meekly in the Champions Trophy semifinal loss to Australia in Mohali overnight that saw the team eliminated from the tournament.

The positions of Lou Vincent, Hamish Marshall and Peter Fulton are under particular threat after the trio managed only 52 runs in 10 innings combined during the competition.

However, revamping the side only months out from the World Cup should be a last resort, Sydney-based Rixon said.

"If you're going to set yourself up for a change in your one-day structure you've got to make sure it's for a two or three years down the track result.

"The sides that win world cups are the sides that have a bit of experience on their side, you don't want to lose your experience because a couple of players are out of form," he said.

"But if there's someone who's been scoring consistently then I would be biting the bullet and giving them every opportunity in the forthcoming Sri Lankan series.

"If it means losing a series to get the best possible combinations and the best possible side together ahead of the World Cup then I'd be prepared to do that.

"Though you need to be very careful and ensure you're not just being reactionary to a disappointment in the Champions Trophy."

New Zealand have struggled to cement five specialist batsmen in their top order throughout the years, accentuated by a remarkable 11 different players handed opening duties since 2000.

The lack of consistency was evident against Australia as Vincent, Marshall, Fulton and even Astle looked at sea in the face of a swinging and seaming ball with the Black Caps crashing to 35 for six in the 14th over.

Former Central Districts coach and New Zealand spinner Dipak Patel said NZ had been " experimenting for 12-18 months now and I don't think we're any wiser to be honest.

"It's time to go back to the drawing board and look at other options, particularly with that opening spot, that's a major concern.

"I don't think we need to press the panic button but we need to be a little more shrewd in terms of where we find our answers.

"We need to be more proactive in terms of getting the balance right.

"We need to look at players like Ross Taylor because he's dynamic and it's those sort of players you need at a world cup."

Aside from Taylor, Jamie How and Matthew Sinclair shape as likely contenders for a spot against Sri Lanka when they arrive for two tests and five one-dayers beginning December 7.

The home series looms as the last chance for the selectors to realistically tinker with the one-day side and stabilise a floundering top order before tackling Australia and England in the VB world series next year.

- NZPA

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