Mark Richardson on cricket

Mark Richardson is a former Black Cap

Mark Richardson: A failed mark but only just

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If the focus of the strategic plan over the last four years was to target the World Cup, then you'd have to say it failed. It only just failed because the regular semifinal finish was achieved - but progress from the 2007 campaign was not made.

If, however, you look into the more recent past, then what happened towards to the end of the Cup showed definite improvement and gave the appearance of a team on the up.

Finally it appears the message is sinking home to the top order that they can't play at the rate they want to and expect to achieve consistency. The more conservative 'old school' method that they seem to have adopted shows awareness in matching their game plan to their skill level.

Unfortunately they struck the one bowling attack in the semifinal that could find holes in that method because lifting the tempo against Murali, Mendis and Malinga usually results in a hefty loss of wickets as a trade-off.

I think the batting has made a small improvement and looks promising for the future. Martin Guptill is making progress and maturing but unfortunately there remains steam in the argument over whether or not Brendon McCullum is an opener.

The more I see of and hear from Jesse Ryder the more I like him. His skill is unquestionable, I like him at three and I'm even going to hazard a guess he's made an attitudinal shift towards his fitness levels.

Ross Taylor made his way through his form slump and will be better for it. Scott Styris is looking as good as ever but how long will he want to play? His super-competitive nature may extend his career but before now and the next Cup we will need to find another number five with the same amount of cricket nous.

That is where the last two innings of Kane Williamson were quite heartening. They were only a 30 and a 20 but he looked every bit the part and went a long way to winning me over for that number five position.

As for the bowling, penetration still is a huge issue in tests and will continue to be for some time yet. But I like what I'm seeing out of Tim Southee.

He is a player who came into the side with huge expectations but failed to quite live up to them on regular basis. He appears to be thriving under Alan Donald

As for Daniel Vettori's replacement as captain, well, you can argue the merits of McCullum and Taylor and how they differ all you like - but if they don't have improving tools, as in the skills of the players they captain, to work with, then I can't see any major change.

Rating: Present 6/10. Prediction for next season: 7/10.

- Herald on Sunday

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