Before the tearful resignation came a frank admission. Embattled and now ex-Australia coach Darren Lehmann believed his side needed to "take a leaf out of someone like New Zealand's book".

And Lehmann was far from alone in that line of thought. In fact, former England captain Michael Vaughan said earlier in the week the Black Caps provided "the benchmark to how cricket should be played".

But how exactly do those ostensibly complimentary comments reflect on our cricketers?

Lehmann and Vaughan's well-meaning pats on the head at once rendered Kane Williamson and his team in an overwhelmingly positive light while also serving as a reminder of where the Black Caps have long stood in world cricket: as the non-threatening nice guys.


It's difficult to envisage, after all, Lehmann or Vaughan would have been so quick to offer their commendations had New Zealand embarrassed Australia and England on the scoreboard this summer.

And while it could be worse, in which position would Kiwi fans prefer to see their team? What's more important, good sports-manship or better results?

It's increasingly clear Australia sacrificed too much of the former in search of the latter. Steve Smith will realise that when he suffers the ultimate ignominy of eating from a box of Weet-Bix without being able to gaze at his own grinning mug.

But set aside for a moment the neighbours' latest transgression and imagine the same question being asked before the three-ringed circus in Cape Town.

Would punters rather watch their side win World Cups while being a bit dickish, or lock away the ICC Spirit of Cricket award?

A balance between both is the obvious desire, and in recent years, the Black Caps have come close to achieving that.

Performances have certainly been positive. And led by Williamson's century celebrations, when the captain almost appears set to apologise to the bowler for breaking up his rhythm, New Zealand are all about playing the right way.

That's assuming, though, their way is right. We may prefer Williamson's approach to, say, David Warner taking a fist-pumping, nostril-flaring, spittle-projecting lap of honour every time he reaches a round number, but that says more about this country's psyche than any objective standards about the right way to behave.


Most athletes, like Warner, are extremely confident in their own abilities; it's something of a chicken-and-egg scenario that leads them to the highest level.

Most, unlike Warner, keep that personality trait obscured behind platitudes designed to bore and deference designed to please.

And in most sports, it matters little — sheer talent wins out. But in cricket, which doubles as psychological warfare with a bat and ball, what Steve Waugh used to describe as mental disintegration can clearly make a difference.

The best players from this century's best team would surely agree. Why else did Australia place such an emphasis on that aspect of the sport as they sought to remain atop the rankings?

Such conspicuous, coordinated ball tampering may have crossed a line but everything else — from "ending careers" to "breaking f*****g arms" — were one part of what made Australia great.

Which isn't to advocate for the Black Caps swapping nice for nasty. But it's interesting to consider whether the balance they've struck is the correct one.

Hail Parker's promoter
As slick as Joseph Parker has seemed this past week, from his Peaky Blinders outfit in London to his press appearances in Cardiff, it's easy to forget how foolish his team were made to look when last under the spotlight in England's capital.

And by team I refer, of course, to promoter David Higgins, whose antics while apparently inebriated when Parker and Joshua first came face-to-face earned more attention than either fighter.

But there's no denying (a sober) Higgins and Duco must be applauded for what the country will pause to watch this morning.

The fact Parker, at 26, is one punch away from becoming a four-belt heavyweight champion of the world is testament to his promoters' plan and foresight.

They remained resolute when criticised for easing Parker into professional life with a series of opponents on a level akin to Boxcar Fred — and they were eventually proven right.

Plenty will undoubtedly like to see what Parker can accomplish once out from under the auspices of Duco. But there's no way he would be walking out at Principality Stadium this morning without them.