down the other side

'I told you so'.
It is such an ugly phrase, isn't it?!

I told you so.

In the midst of the mess over Ross Taylor being pushed out of the captaincy and then the debacle in South Africa after Brendon McCullum took charge, I posted a piece entitled, black caps at midnight?, in which I opened with these comments:
Things are looking  bleak for the NZ cricket team. It feels like the darkest of midnights, with a long time until dawn. Dismissed for 45 and losing by an innings and 27 runs? Sounds pretty bad. But people are over-reacting in their criticism of the team. Here are five reasons for the darkness and why it could still prove to be 4am, rather than midnight... (5 January 2013)
And it came to pass that it was 4.00am, not midnight. The dawn came quickly. Soon the people of New Zealand were lost in a sunny euphoric forgiveness as the team climbed from the bottom to #3 in the world in both Test cricket and One Day International (ODI) cricket. A truly stunning achievement.

But maybe our peak has been reached. Elliot's six. It did take me awhile to enjoy the view. My plane took off from Dubai just as the final over of the semi-final started. A row of Indian lads was keeping me updated. 12 off 6. Not looking good. I waited 4+ hours for the result. On arrival in Bangalore, as the seat-belt sign went off and I stood up, the news came through that we had won, and the entire cabin stood up (I suspect they were intending to do so anyway) in a moving standing ovation in response to my boisterous exclamation of victory.

But I fear that Grant Elliot's six will mark New Zealand cricket's high noon...
'C'mon, Paul, why the pessimism?. NZ cricket usually brings out your optimistic side.'

The Everest in every cricketer's career starts tomorrow. A Test match at Lord's in London. New Zealand is woefully unprepared. This post has been building for some time, but what drove me over the cliff are some headlines from the incomparable Sir Richard Hadlee. Everything happening around the England team will make them focused and determined to prove themselves at home. They are anything but ripe for the picking. Meanwhile the core of the NZ team has been flying around India for six weeks, masquerading as IPL cricketers, but not doing much at all.

There are other things on my mind which, when taken together, leave me concluding that altitude sickness is an ailment unlikely to afflict this NZ cricket team.

The tactics
Much though I love him as a captain, Brendon McCullum's innings in the World Cup final was some of the dumbest cricket I've ever seen. And the dumb cricket continued with Grant Elliot down the order. He decided to go beserk, with two handy wickets and numerous overs still remaining. But everyone knows that while it is OK to go beserk at the end of a Test match innings, you do not do so at the end of an ODI innings. You play out the overs. NZ's ultra-aggressive approach, in the final, was a poor tactical decision. I said so before, during and after the game. The Aussies would be too smart and in their home conditions they would have too much skill for NZ aggression. They'd come out ready for it. And so it came to pass. Plus, in order to scale the highest peaks in professional sports, you gotta give more innovative attention to defense, not just offense.

[LATER. JUNE 8. Although I seldom agree with this writer, on this occasion I think he has it right. Ignore the headline. Read the substance of the article. In wanting to be ultra-aggressive, McCullum is on occasion - rather too regularly, for my liking - being reckless and careless. It is dumb cricket].

The administration
New Zealand Cricket has let Bruce Edgar go from his role in selection and talent identification. The more I read, the more I reckon he had a lot to do with the team's success. Plus he was handled so badly. A poor decision carried out poorly. Not a good sign at all. And how it is that Messrs McCullum, Boult, Southee, Williamson and Anderson can be allowed to stay in the IPL until two days before a Lord's Test is beyond me... Who is running this game anyway?
Then there is the small matter of the administration of the international game by the International Cricket Council (ICC) - now controlled largely by India but with England and Australia as its lap dogs. If New Zealand is to stay competitive with these types of teams (and therefore improve their standing), a tight FIFA-like administration will be needed. But the Indian administrators tend to be too greedy, too powerful and too corrupt for that to happen any time soon.

The media
Goodness, deary me - what has gone on while I've been away from New Zealand? Where is the sober critique and the balanced evaluation? Maybe I've missed it - like I missed the euphoria of the World Cup weeks (which has possibly left me bitter and twisted, providing the real reason for this post!). Too many journalists have slipped into an over-heated, drooling sychophancy with this New Zealand team. For example, as I travel, moderate Kiwi performances in the IPL keep filling my NZ Herald and Stuff apps with gushy headlines. And it's not just Sir Richard's comments yesterday - what about this piece on Kane Williamson this morning? Saying Kane is 'prepared' is not the same as him being prepared. How on earth can he be prepared? Who is writing this stuff? He hasn't played a proper innings for weeks and weeks ... and tomorrow it is Lord's of all places.

All this to say, I hope I am wrong. I hope I have to eat my own words, spiced with intolerable chilly. I hope those of you who disagree with me will let 'I told you so' rain down on me (although you will need to say so in the next 24 hours, or you will lack credibility) - even as the late English spring rains probably pour down on this little two Test series. Just two?! Yes, only two! Why? Did I mention India, Australia and England...

nice chatting



Paul Windsor said…
well, that one is going well ...
Paul Windsor said…
Well, Rhett - I stuck my neck out before the Test started and now I pull my head in, still muttering 'I told you so' quietly (and humbly, of course) under my breath. I remain convinced that the issues raised contributed to losing a game we should have won...but at least Arsenal performed well on the last day (speaking seasonally, not eschatologically).
Rhett said…
I guess we both spoke too soon. I just wanted to let you know I was reading!

I mostly agree with you.

I suppose the biggest consolation is that at least we're not Liverpool fans.

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