Cricket: Changing the skipper won't solve problems

Ross Taylor. Photo by Reuters
Ross Taylor. Photo by Reuters
OPINION: Putting a band-aid on a war wound doesn't stop a soldier from bleeding to death and changing the captain of the New Zealand cricket team won't gloss over the numerous holes in the side.

Forget the test win over Sri Lanka last week. Sure it was great, but it was a flash-in-the-pan effort.

New Zealand's problems run deep and it seems preposterous to think that so much attention is being given to one of the side's most minor issues.

Ross Taylor's field placements and bowling changes have never lost New Zealand a cricket test.

This is also a team who slipped to ninth overnight in the one-day rankings - below Bangladesh.

What is chiefly responsible for the side's downward spiral in recent seasons is their inability to bat for long periods of time in the whites and face up to the fact that taking 20 wickets without a genuine test-quality spinner isn't easy.

They've also employed a roulette wheel selection policy with their wicketkeeper and keep mucking Kane Williamson around in the batting line up.

All of these things are bigger problems than Brendon McCullum's ambitions to captain the side.

New coach Mike Hesson is a well-known supporter of McCullum, which is fine.

But the fact remains that McCullum's ongoing inclusion in the test side as a specialist batsman is only brought about by the lack of depth on the New Zealand domestic front rather than his glistening statistics.

Since November, 2010 - spanning 35 test innings - following on from when McCullum finally got his wish to bat at the top of the order he has made just one test hundred.

During the past 15 tests he has averaged 30.92 with the bat.

If there's an issue that Hesson needs to look in to fixing its getting his favourite pupil to fire with the willow.

Hesson should also find a magic formula to get Martin Guptill to turn his starts in to centuries and find more reliable options at No 5 and 6 in the test line-up or somehow coax Jesse Ryder back to the international fray.

The spin bowling is another aspect that needs to be worked out before Hesson worries about his skipper.

Daniel Vettori wants to keep playing test matches and his retirement from the shorter forms of the game at international level to prolong his career is admirable in theory but flawed in application.

Following his numerous back injuries and action changes, he has become far less efficient as a wicket-taking test bowler.

During the past three years he has taken 49 wickets at an average of 40.81 (his career mark is 34.42), while his strike rate has ballooned to one wicket per 102 balls compared to his career figure of 80.

Vettori's numbers in the one-day game were actually on the improve before he pulled the pin after the 2011 World Cup and you'd be a brave coach to cut the champion left-armer loose but his desire to be the side's premier test spinner is holding the team to ransom.

The 33-year-old could make the test side - at a stretch - as their second spinner and bat at No 6 but if he is unavailable for the upcoming tour to South Africa due to injury more time needs to be put in to Todd Astle; Jeetan Patel isn't the answer.

Williamson also needs to be given clearer direction about what he should be contributing to the team.

Having him in the Twenty20 line-up as an insurance policy to steady the ship if the top order fails is flawed logic and he should be left to concentrate on his ability to bat at No 3 in the test side and play from No 5 in the one-day unit.

As for the wicketkeeping debacle, Kruger van Wyk's days must be numbered. Pick BJ Watling and stick with him.


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