As a child of the 1980s, I grew up in a world in which New Zealand were a very competitive side, and usually stronger than England. In 1980 they beat the mighty West Indies, who wouldn’t lose another test series for the next fifteen years. Mid-decade, they beat us home and away in consecutive series. Martin Crowe was at the peak of his powers, and Richard Hadlee sent a shiver down the spine of test batsmen the world over.
Nowadays, it’s a different story. We might be used now to seeing the Kiwis struggle in test cricket, but at least they always had their traditional strength in the limited overs game to fall back on.
Which is why Black Caps fans will be aghast at today’s news of their side collapsing to an ignominious 3-0 ODI series defeat by Bangladesh.
Amidst all the fearful talk of the future of cricket in Pakistan and West Indies, everyone seems to have forgotten about New Zealand. Their game seems in real peril.
To illustrate the point, albeit superficially, how many current New Zealand players can you name off the top of your head? Apart from Daniel Vettori.
Personally, I blame their decline on helmet colour. In those glory days of the 1980s, NZ’s batsmen uniformly wore white lids – most famously, Martin Crowe’s imperious crash-helmet number seemingly borrowed from Graham Gooch. Then they switched to black, and the rot set in. Coincidence?
From an England point of view, we can only hope the Kiwis can muster a recovery. English cricket needs New Zealand, partly because we usually beat them but mainly because they’re the international side who, by far, are most like us. Unflamboyant, workmanlike, and often a bit crap – just like us. They’re our closest cricketing cousins. I’ve never been to the land of the long white cloud, but when I’ve seen it on TV during England tours, it always seems just as wet and windy as here.
It would be interesting to hear from some New Zealanders about this. Are we exaggerating? What are the problems facing your game? And the solutions?