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

Mark Richardson: Rushed test prep is bound to fail


When I watched the Black Caps comprehensively beat England in the first ODI, it was clear that these players are a lot more comfortable executing the skills required for limited overs play.

Sure, they have not been totally dominant in this form in recent years but, when they go into a contest of this nature, I feel safe in saying they have a fair chance of winning. In test matches, I cannot say the same.

I disagree with New Zealand Cricket's immediate agenda prioritising the 2015 World Cup. The improvement of our test game should be the priority. This country needs cricketing respect and they won't gain that on a diet of short form success alone.

However, I fear that test improvement may never come from the current players, not because they don't want to play better test cricket but because they can't invest the time needed to make the changes required.

What frustrated me the most during the ugly batting displays in the tests in England was the continuation of mistakes that have plagued batsmen for too long.

The really frustrating thing is they are aware of them but appear powerless to eradicate them.

On the outer, it appears they think the tempo they want to bat at is the issue in tests - but it's not. The issue is technical flaws. Too many of them get stuck on the crease, defend with their hands too wide and too square or play around their front pads. These are basic, fundamental mistakes. To the spinning ball, well, defensive techniques are all at sea there, too.

The problem is technique takes time to hone. You won't improve it in game time. In fact, for most you have to go right back to drills and slowly build up to the point that the changes hold up under bowling and then finally under the pressure of quality competition.

This can take months of dedicated and systematic training. There is no way this team will improve their test batting on the back of a few net sessions, couple of warm-up games and then a few nets between tests - but that's all they get.

You'd be an idiot in the modern world to let your ODI and T20 game slip and, let's face it, you'd also be an idiot in this country to focus your attentions on the test game - unless, of course, you want to be one of the financial 'have nots' who give years of service to New Zealand cricket at the highest level and walk away from the game with little other than a record to be proud of.

Enough dedicated time to train and develop the techniques needed to survive at the crease and absorb pressure is the biggest issue facing New Zealand test cricket. Until this technical foundation is established, we will continue to see the current trend continue: occasional success, regular losing.

- Herald on Sunday

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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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