Cricket: Stage set for repeat of massive failure

By Dylan Cleaver

Here's a brief history lesson.

The last time New Zealand toured Australia was 2004.

The build-up to the tour was a two-test jaunt to Bangladesh where they whipped the home side in two horribly lop-sided tests.

New Zealand were then thrashed in Australia. After a promising start in Brisbane, fuelled by a brilliant Jacob Oram century, Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie both posted half centuries against a wilting attack and New Zealand crashed to a paltry 76 in the second innings, the only fight demonstrated by Craig McMillan who engaged in a ill-advised war of words with Adam Gilchrist that ended when he was dismissed next ball.

At Adelaide they simply never showed up with the most hostile spell of the tour being delivered by Ian Butler in the nets.

All-and-all, an ignominious series.

Fast forward four years and New Zealand are again preparing to play tests at the Gabba - the toughest venue in Australia since the WACA lost its sting - and the Adelaide Oval on the back of a two-test series in Bangladesh. Not just any old series but, as a bonus, a watered-down one featuring a Bangladesh team decimated by the recent ICL raid.

There's a term for this and it reads something like "being set up for a fall".

None of this is New Zealand Cricket's fault. They are not India and cannot pick and choose what bits of the FTP they want to adhere to.

They were hurt too, by the fact they lost six weeks of cricket in Pakistan, mthough that would have been of the limited overs variety.

But surely NZC could have arranged more than one warm-up first-class match in Australia - oh, that's right, New Zealand's best players see warm-up matches as optional extras, to be playedonly if they can be squeezed in around IPL schedules (and we saw how well that worked in England).

Here's another parallel they would do well to remember: New Zealand played just one first-class warm-up before the 2004 test against New South Wales in Sydney. Snap.

So their on-field preparation will be sketchy - all the more important to get their off-field prep spot-on.

According to multiple sources who have spoken to the Herald on Sunday, that has not happened.

Due largely to a massive and, in fairness, long overdue restructure of NZC, there has been a high-performance vacuum of sorts this winter.

What staff there are left have been pre-occupied with the Emerging Players and 'A' teams, leaving the full internationals pretty much to their own devices. Batting coach Mark O'Neill, who should, quite frankly, be the most over-worked man in New Zealand sport, said that last week's clinics with the batsmen in Christchurch and the bowlers in Auckland was his first contact with the team since the tour to England.

Tim Southee, the most exciting cricketer produced within these shores for some years, had until last week had one session with a high-performance staffer.

Now these guys are pros, albeit in Southee's case a very green one, and do not need their hands held, but this lack of hands-on coaching simply would not be happening in other top-tier cricket nations. England wouldn't do it, South Africa wouldn't do it, Australia wouldn't do it.

Australia - New Zealand are playing them in less than two months.

Has anybody told you what happened the last time New Zealand toured there... ?

- Herald on Sunday

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