Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Australian is NZ's field marshal

The New Zealand cricket team's fielding practices are like watching a circus; a demonstration of acrobatics and nerve as players dive, catch and back-up in high-intensity drills that concentrate on the business of saving runs and taking wickets.

The Black Caps have been one of the better fielding sides, if not the best, at the World Cup.

It has partly compensated for a batting order that has let them down at crucial times. Restricting Sri Lanka to 265 in Mumbai was the best example. They saved at least 40 runs sweltering in temperatures pushing 40 degrees. Then they capitulated for 153.

A more specific example was the run out of Canada's John Davison.

He flicked a ball off his pads into the leg side and trotted off for a single. Brendon McCullum's throw blew his bails off just in time.

It was naive on Davison's part but the wicket had been set up by three sets of hands before the ball reached McCullum.

His brother Nathan had chased it towards the boundary and flicked it to Martin Guptill who relayed it to Jacob Oram. Oram got it to McCullum while Ross Taylor backed up in case anything went awry.

Gone are the days when poking a foot out on the fence at fine leg was deemed acceptable.

New Zealand has been a consistent fielding side for years but the latest performances have set a formidable standard.

The ringmaster behind this fielding circus is Australian Trent Woodhill.

He comes from New South Wales where he played first grade at Sydney's Sutherland club under his mentor, former New Zealand coach Steve Rixon - another fielding buff.

Woodhill was recruited in July as Black Caps' performance analyst but upgraded to assistant coach when John Wright took control.

The 40-year-old also assists Delhi Daredevils coach Greg Shipperd with analysis.

"I worked there with the likes of AB de Villiers, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, David Warner and Ashish Nehra," Woodhill says.

"It gave me confidence in the dressing room around world class players and my voice was being heard."

That is where he caught New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori's attention: "Trent brings a lot of energy and he's pretty uncompromising. He has got a bit of Steve Rixon about him in that he tells you exactly what he thinks.

"He's trying to produce a hard-nosed attitude to help us field for 300 balls and stay on top.

"I think we've seen improvement, particularly in the likes of Martin Guptill who was already an outstanding fielder.

"Trent's managed to lift him to a higher level. Guys who are a little bit behind are lifting their standards as well."

"Dan and I were close at Delhi," Woodhill says.

"I'm sure he wouldn't mind me saying he doesn't suffer fools gladly because respect's not about what you've done on the cricket field; it's about who you are and how you react.

"I've never been in awe of anyone. You can't compromise your values. Dan thought that approach would be good for this team.

"I think he likes the fact I'm prepared to get into a scrap and make players realise they're never playing gods; they're always playing fallible men. Once this team actually realises how talented they are, they'll be a lot better."

Woodhill wants to be the head coach of a major team one day but for now, is focused on fielding. His methodology is simple: use it as a weapon and hunt as a pack of 11.

"Take Tim Southee as an example. He's a great cricketer in an athlete's body so it was about letting him know what his team-mates need when he wanders to fine leg at the end of an over. He still needs to contribute rather than having a total rest. Now he's backing up the in-field or stopping boundaries"

- Herald on Sunday

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