Mark Richardson 's Opinion

Mark Richardson is a former Black Cap and current columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Mark Richardson: There's a crisis of confidence in Black Caps

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It is hard to say how much effect the tragic events of the past week had in the Black Caps' poor showing against Australia - but surely they had a hand in such a wayward display.

I doubt whether the emotions; the touching minute's silence; the linking of arms at the start of each innings were conducive to the mental state required to take on Australia.

That said, though, what we saw was more of the same from our struggling cricket team.

To analyse that performance in isolation of the distracted build-up, seems a bit unfair - but nevertheless a game was played and once more it was played poorly on our behalf.

I was completing a survey on New Zealand cricket the other day and one of the questions asked whether I agreed or disagreed with the statement that the Black Caps are inconsistent.

I didn't know what to answer because the term inconsistent comes with negative connotations when in reality our team is quite consistent at this time ... consistently poor.

Ignore performances against minnows like Kenya. Our cricketing heritage demands we benchmark against quality test-playing nations.

Consistently, over the past couple of years, we have come up short.

Recently against India and Australia we have looked no better than a minnow nation ourselves.

I have a vested interest in cricket and so what I am seeing right now makes me very worried indeed.

The same mistakes seem to be made over and over again. Techniques do not appear to be moving forwards and errors of judgment continue even when time and time again we hear the team acknowledge those mistakes themselves.

Is it that they have reached a skill level so low that they do not have the ability to put right what they have identified as substandard?

I hope not.

I still believe in the ability of many of our senior players but that belief has been modified to expecting a quality performance once every five games.

Averages, records and experience suggest no different.

The good news is that they can continue to play the way they did on Friday night for the reminder of the group stage and, in five games' time, if they put in a good performance they're in a world cup semifinal. Ridiculous!

For the first time on Friday night, I actually bought into the reported confidence crisis the Black Caps are suffering.

For much of the recent past, I have blamed over-confidence or, more accurately, a lack of personal understanding of what key players are actually capable of. But on Friday I saw indecision, inaccuracy, hesitancy and recklessness, all symptoms of doubtful minds.

What also changed my mind was a selection that I saw as an insurance policy for top order failings at the expense of a balanced team.

Jamie How playing at seven at the expense of a key bowling option in Jacob Oram because he supposedly plays fast bowling better is selection based around a negative - top order failure.

Let's try to end on a positive to cheer up. I liked Daniel Vettori opening the bowling.

It showed initiative and a willingness to personally take the game by the scruff of the neck. But, really, at seven for 121 the damage was done.

- Herald on Sunday

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson is a former Black Cap and current columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Mark Hunter Richardson represented New Zealand in 38 Tests from 2000-2004 racking up an impressive 2,776 runs with an average of 44.7. The former Black Cap began his cricketing career as a left-arm spinner but soon realised that his talents lay with the bat. The transition from ball to bat was seamless and Richardson soon made his international debut against Zimbabwe at the age of 29. Known as a stalwart opener, Richardson’s intelligent style of hard-grind batting came at the perfect time for New Zealand cricket and provided much-needed stability for the Black Caps. Apart from being an excellent opening batsman, Mark Richardson was well-known among fans and team mates for his humorous off-pitch antics and friendly interactions with the famous Beige Brigade, with whom he formed a strong relationship. An excellent cricketer with a personable quality, Richardson once remarked that his retiring first-class average was only different to that of Sir Donald Bradman by a decimal point. Mark Richardson retired from all forms of the game in 2004 and continues to write an insightful, thought-provoking column for the New Zealand Herald.

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