Life ain’t easy for a Kiwi cricketer these days. Gone are the times when New Zealand was a competitive ODI unit. In fact, it was only a decade ago that Stephen Fleming’s squad beat India in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy. With the likes of Nathan Astle, Chris Cairns and Adam Parore leading the way, these were heady days indeed. However, in the current ODI series against India, New Zealand are 4-0 down and have barely raised a pulse.
After an impressive test series, the Kiwi’s just haven’t been able to match it with the domineering Indians. This is a little strange as India decided to drop the majority of its top players for the series, leaving Gautam Gambhir in charge of a young squad eager to impress. Led by the experienced trio of Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Kahn, the Indian team is full of exiting new talent. The likes of Virat Kohli and in the last match Yusuf Pathan, have particularly impressed with their fine stroke play and well compiled hundreds. On the bowling front Kahn, Sreesanth and the returning Ashish Nehra have all been constantly challenging, whilst there has been a welcome injection of youth with the off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Another important aspect of this fresh Indian squad is their fielding, led by the likes of Yuvraj Singh. This squad is a window into the future of Indian cricket, as the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman eventually make way in the coming years.
New Zealand on the other hand has been little more than dreadful. In the game overnight they at least broke through the 300 mark, but were still beaten by 5 wickets and with an over and a half to spare. The problem for the Kiwi’s is that they just don’t have any consistency. Players such as Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Tim Southee show that New Zealand can still produce talented cricketers, however they just don’t produce performances that are of a consistently high level. Although a fine cricketer over his career, the fact that Scott Styris (who was part of that 2000 Champions Trophy team) is still one of their top performers is a worry. Also a point of concern is the seemingly resigned attitude of skipper Daniel Vettori. Yes, being captain of New Zealand must be tough, but Vettori has to learn to show confidence and enjoyment as he leads his country. New Zealand, like their opponents must start to show that youthful and exuberant talent can perform consistently. Until that time they will continue to beaten by sides such as India.
With the World Cup just around the corner it will be interesting to see whether India stick with these young players or revert to those who have performed for them over so many years. My feeling is that they must invest in this youth, and that if they do they will see great dividends. New Zealand is also at an important juncture. Although its new talent does not hold as much promise, it is still important that they give them a fair go in the side leading up to the Cup. Perhaps if they do this then there will be a smile on Dan Vettori’s face after all.
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