New Zealand Cricket must be devastated by the national team's performances in their completed test series in Australia. If the administrators of the game are not as devastated as the fans, they should be.
The Black Caps embarked on a rare opportunity to play Australia in Australia — including the celebrated Boxing Day test — rated No 2 in the world on their recent results. Many thousands of Kiwis crossed the ditch to support them. The MCG was like a home stadium in the stands though not, of course, on the hallowed turf.
At Melbourne, as at Perth, the New Zealanders were batting on pitches more lively than those here. They were facing a battery of fast bowlers about 10km/h quicker than most. But at Sydney, a wicket more favourable to spin, our batsmen fared no better.
We were not just white-washed, 3-0, in the series, we were barely competitive. All three tests, scheduled for five days, were won in four days and it might well have been three days if Australia had enforced follow-ons. Our batters could not survive a full day and our bowlers could not dislodge the Australians before they had run up winnable totals on their first innings. Batting and bowling, their figures were at least twice as good as ours. We looked out of our league.
The team was certainly under-prepared for Australian conditions. NZ Cricket must have known the pitches it would play on and the pace of bowling it would face were very different from those the players are accustomed to. It knew its only successful tour of Australia previously gave the players good warm-up matches before the tests.
Why were none arranged this time? Why, as a member of that previous tour, Jeremy Coney, has asked, were the team not given at least some nets under the guidance of Australian ex-internationals who know the way to play in Australia?
But a better build-up might not have changed the result. Post-mortems should not ignore the quality of the current Australian team. It went through a low phase after the ball-tampering incident in South Africa but with Steve Smith and David Warner now back from suspension it is firing on all cylinders.
After a clean sweep against Pakistan and New Zealand this season it must soon be restored to its rightful place behind India in the international rankings. Australians meanwhile must be wondering how New Zealand got to No 2.
The lasting cost of this series may be that it is again a long time before a New Zealand team gets an opportunity to play in Australia. Our only hope of an early return now may be owed to those thousands of Kiwis who went to the Boxing Day test. The crowd at the MCG was said to be the largest for test cricket apart from Ashes matches. The disappointed fans were good spirited to the end.
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If Cricket Australia want them to come back it may need to help NZ cricket by offering our players more opportunities to compete in Australia.
More experience on hard wickets may be all the Black Caps need.