John Buchanan. Photo Getty
Some fateful words were spoken by New Zealand Cricket's
director of cricket John Buchanan during his recent media blitz
to counter the current catalogue of woe: "The cricket World Cup
[held in Australasia in early 2015] is the most important thing
on the horizon because it's only two years away," Buchanan told
"To put our best foot forward in an event in our own
backyard, we need to place that as a priority above the
longer form of the game," Buchanan said - alongside his
catch-cry demanding trust, honesty, accountability and
Whoa, John ... you've got to be kidding (cue cricket purists
hyperventilating). This indicates the state of our cricket
has sunk to such a point that the prospect of 50-over matches
will take priority for two years. Could pyjamas have finally
won the war over whites?
Buchanan's statement reeked of a cop-out; the path of least
resistance; raising the white flag to admit New Zealand's
test incompetence. Cricket might well evolve over the next
generation into a Twenty20 cash cow comprising a plethora of
agricultural shots over midwicket but, for many in the New
Zealand cricket community, test matches will always take
Some still find something captivating in the sport being
played properly at test level. Observing Vernon Philander
bowl in Cape Town or Hashim Amla bat in Port Elizabeth are
exhibits A and B.
The focus on short forms allows cricket in this country
access to more money but plenty of other countries manage all
forms of the game. Why not New Zealand?
People in cricket's major associations insist Buchanan has a
long-term plan in place for the longest form. If anyone
understands the importance of test cricket it should be him,
having coached Australia to one of their all-time greatest
eras from 1999-2007.
Buchanan also has a soft spot for the 50-over form. Even
after his NZC appointment in April 2011, he was quoted on the
country's 2015 World Cup chances: "There is no question New
Zealand punch above their weight, but they don't punch above
their weight long enough and I guess that's the challenge.
I'm targeting 2015 and New Zealand should have the
expectation of going into that tournament and winning it."
It could be time to admit the test game's up and let New
Zealand focus on being one-day and T20 specialists. New
Zealand's test ranking is eighth; below are only Bangladesh
and Zimbabwe. The last time New Zealand rose above eighth was
Can it be mere coincidence New Zealand has not won a test
series against any country other than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe
since beating the West Indies in 2005-06 at home, the first
season of the national T20 league?
New Zealand may not rate test cricket but most other
countries do - failure at that level endangers our status as
a drawcard and opens the possibility of New Zealand being
awarded fewer tests and certainly fewer against countries of
Compounding the problem is a lack of any guarantee New
Zealand's Indian Premier League players will be available for
the two tests in England during May. Both matches clash with
the IPL schedule.
Buchanan should be aware that making another World Cup
semifinal - New Zealand have made six in the 10 tournaments
since 1975 - will have a hollow, fast-food feel if the test
game does not improve in sync. Test purists want to see a
more sustainable solution, over five days rather than one (or
three or four).
- Andrew Alderson