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Cricket: Black Caps facing batting predicament

New Zealand's captain Kane Williamson, right, reacts after India's Axar Patel, left, dismissed him during their fifth and last one day international. Photo / AP
New Zealand's captain Kane Williamson, right, reacts after India's Axar Patel, left, dismissed him during their fifth and last one day international. Photo / AP

Kane Williamson and Mike Hesson don't deserve this cricketing predicament.

The architects, as the best player and the innovative coach respectively, of New Zealand's resurgence in recent seasons are now faced with resolving the side's batting frailties over the home summer.

The test issues of the specialist batsmen against India were well-documented, but this morning fans were subjected to a similar crisis in the one-day international ranks as the Black Caps capitulated to lose by 190 runs at Vizag in the deciding match of the series.

Any fan who took the time to set the alarm and stumble out of the scratcher for the New Zealand innings barely had time to put the kettle on or drop the handle on the toaster before the game was over.

New Zealand were 63 for two chasing 270 in the 15th over; 16 runs, eight wickets and 51 balls later, the match was complete as Amit Mishra offered a leg spin master-class of five wickets for 18.

The total of 79 is New Zealand's fifth lowest score in 670 completed ODIs. The 23.1 over occupation is the least time they have batted before complete dismissal in 43 years of the format.

To underline this outlier, no team had scored less than 259 runs in 10 ODI innings at the venue before this match.

Williamson and Hesson looked stunned as the dressing room became a turnstile of contagion.

"Win or lose, we expect to put out a tough performance. Today we were terrible," Williamson said.

"We expect more fight. There were a lot of soft options. It was unacceptable."

The gulf in batting skill between New Zealand and India was evident once the top scorer - Williamson, naturally, with 27 - was caught.

Tom Latham and Ross Taylor both made 19 and Martin Guptill was removed in the first over for a duck. The rest of the order from Nos 5-11 read like a telephone number: 3-0-0-4-0-0-1. No New Zealand cricket operator wants to take that collect call in the middle of the night.

It's not the fault of Williamson and Hesson that the professional cricketers they lead lacked application in an age where playing spin on the sub-continent is mandatory to international success.

No one is saying it's easy, but being paid to play the game is about finding solutions that make a difference over a period.

Few coaches in New Zealand sport would be more meticulous planners than Hesson.

His key theme has always been about building players capable of independent thought; instilling a sleeper cell of belief which can awaken when it matters. By investing that autonomy he hopes to ignite match-winners.

But you can't coach 'want'.

Similarly, Williamson holds up the batting reputation of this team like Atlas stooping under the weight of the sky. Sometimes when he gets out cheaply, the prospect of doing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom or putting out the rubbish become more appealing than bearing witness to another surrender.

Tom Latham, on his first international tour of India, provided admirable support, but the expectations heaped on Williamson are a worry.

Conversely, seeing a world-class batsman and fielder like Ross Taylor drop crucial catches and fail to make a half century in 11 international innings was mortifying.

Perhaps it is unfair to single out individuals - because Taylor is not alone and will be his own harshest critic - but he is the side's senior pro. He must accept more of the responsibility to lead the team back into batting form and to improve his once flawless catching when Pakistan arrive next month.

The well of kudos this New Zealand team has built of late is evaporating. Rebuilding their credibility presents a stern task in the coming months.

- NZ Herald

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