Richard Boock: Fruit-loop Black Caps continue their wacky ways

By Richard Boock

If prizes were to be awarded for the most hare-brained ideas in world sport, it's a fair bet the New Zealand cricketers would already have their thank-you speeches written.

Seldom in the field of sporting endeavour has a team gone to such lengths to prove their nuttiness, or to show their outright disdain for anything that might smack of the conventional or - even worse - common sense.

It was bad enough last year when Hamish Marshall gave us his no-net practice idea, and when Scott Styris trumped him a few weeks later with his views on footwork.

But since then we've had Jacob Oram and his curious slant on form and the media, Stephen Fleming and his rash attack on Kumar Sangakkara and, to top it all, the bizarre sight of a softball player fielding in a test match.

It's as if the aliens who once resided in Michael Campbell's mind have relocated to more vacant premises. Nobody's suggesting the idea of hiring former Black Sox-turned-baseball player Travis Wilson as New Zealand's fielding coach wasn't without merit, especially as American Mike Young (now back with Australia) filled the same role last year.

But the sight of the beefy Wilson - with no history of playing cricket at any level - substituting on the second day of the test has lent weight to the theory that the New Zealanders have been eating too many fruit-loops.

Wilson, and Wellington grade players Sam Fairley, Stu Mills, Dave Rankin and Jamie Tong were all used at different times at the weekend as replacements for the injured Oram and Brendon McCullum and the temporarily indisposed James Franklin and Shane Bond.

Comforting is it not, that, at a time when New Zealand have been emphasising the value of exploiting any slight advantage possible, they can only rustle up an overweight softballer and a quartet of club players as substitutes?

Even more weirdly, the suggestion on Saturday evening was that, if anyone else had been caught short, the next substitute was going to be the 48-year-old coach, John Bracewell.

Call me old-fashioned, but whatever happened to the idea of keeping the twelfth-man, in this case Wellington paceman Iain O'Brien, with the team and, if more subs are required, bringing in the best provincial fieldsmen?

When England needed a substitute during their Ashes win last year, they didn't look to pluck a rabbit from the hat but instead drafted in crack fieldsman Gary Pratt, who covered himself in glory by running out Ricky Ponting at Trent Bridge.

But we received Wilson, whose claim to fame is nearly becoming an Atlanta Brave, and who probably knows as much about the laws of cricket as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa knows about non-ferrous welding.

It simply beggars belief that a team who took themselves seriously enough to be hard-nosed and ruthless during last week's controversial run-out can then play someone who has never fielded competitively without a glove.

You could understand it more, perhaps, if it occurred on tour, such as when the retired Jeremy Coney and TVNZ reporter Ken Nicholson found themselves fielding for a desperately ill New Zealand side at Bangalore in 1988.

But you'd think that, when New Zealand are playing a test match at home, there'd be better fielding options available than an assortment of club leftovers and a man who has no more right to be in the field than Shrek the Sheep.

It makes you wonder what will come next? Psychologist Gary Hermansson being included in the line-up so he can counsel New Zealand's shell-shocked batsmen between overs? With this team, nothing would surprise.

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