Cricket: Hesson safe, test future shaky

BJ Watling, one of the few New Zealand players to perform well in the test series against South Africa. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
BJ Watling, one of the few New Zealand players to perform well in the test series against South Africa. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
Mike Hesson is safe as coach for now, but the test capitulations in South Africa could have far-reaching consequences for the make-up of New Zealand's future tours.

Hesson's men were crushed by innings defeats in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth by the Proteas, the No1-ranked test team, and while New Zealand Cricket's director of cricket John Buchanan said a change of coach wasn't the answer, he admitted the Black Caps' reputations had been harmed and they could play fewer tests in future.

The International Cricket Council's Future Tours programme has outlined touring activity for the major test playing nations until 2020. New Zealand are slated to play two or three tests for all tours - the ICC minimum is two - but it would be no surprise to see them lose a test as a result of the embarrassing recent run of results.

Few countries will see a test against New Zealand - ranked 8th ahead of only Bangladesh - as a major drawcard, especially given it could be over early.

"Certainly, performances such as this and what we have experienced in recent times are not going to enhance our reputation as a test-playing nation, that's for sure," Buchanan said.

"Any major changes to be made to [Future Tours programme] requires a vote at the ICC and I would suspect that's not going to change too much but I would suspect our capacity to play longer test series or longer tours, in other words more games, is somewhat impacted I would think."

New Zealand could find themselves playing more ODIs and T20s at the expense of tests, which could tip the balance even further from the longer form of the game.

New Zealand, under new captain Brendon McCullum, were found badly wanting in South Africa. The low point was the 45 all out in the first innings of the first test before they rallied somewhat in the second innings with a 275. However, there was more of the same in the second test with scores of 121 and 211.

The batsman were poor against one of the best attacks in the world and Buchanan admitted technique was an issue. However, he said the deficiencies were fixable but would take time.

"South Africa is a very good side, the No1 side, they, Australia, England and to some degree India, are really creating a bit of a gap between themselves and the rest of the field at the moment and that's a bit of a concern, test-wise anyway," Buchanan said.

Of Hesson, who is contracted until the end of the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Buchanan said: "He's a young coach, he's learning, and one of the things that I think we do need to establish as quickly as we can is to put some stability in and around the Black Caps, whether that be on the field, or off the field with support staff. I think that's critical.

"We can't just keep changing things because we don't get the results we want. Obviously there still needs to be that accountability, no question, but I don't think it's time to say the team hasn't gone well since Mike Hesson has been at the helm for three or four months so it's time for another change.

"[However] I can understand New Zealand cricket supporters and stakeholders being disgruntled at the moment, definitely."

New Zealand now play three ODIs in South Africa, starting at Paarl on Saturday night NZT, before returning home to prepare for the three-test, three-ODI and three-T20 visit of England.

One glimmer of hope was the suggestion by former captain Ross Taylor - on a self-imposed exile after his axing as skipper - that he could make himself available for Central Districts at the end of the month and then be in the frame for England in February and March.

"The first thing he has to do is make himself available for CD and once he's there I think it's all systems go," Buchanan said.

- Patrick McKendry

Fewer tests?

Hard to see how our cricket can improve with fewer tests. I would think we need to play more tests, and 4-day first class games to allow our players to gain skills and confidence.