Cricket can’t afford to have a weak Black Caps side

2013-01-04 00:00

IRRESPECTIVE of how the first Test pans out, New Zealand’s lack of fight has me worried.

Test cricket cannot afford a weak New Zealand team, but there is more reason to be upset this week with the news that the sport has lost another valuable voice.

I never had the chance to meet Tony Greig, nor can I hold an opinion about commentators and their differing styles, because a number of them, if not most, have actually played the game extensively.

Greig was in a league of his own and as Queenians come, when they were on top of you, they always reminded you who was boss.

He was as cocky as the kudu crest on the Queens College school badge. My bias against the school that I was never able to beat in either rugby or cricket aside, Greig was the reason I could tolerate the well-informed but brainwashed Australian channel nine commentary team.

His willingness to travel away from Australia and provide crucial and balanced analysis, especially in Asia and Sri Lanka, was a breath of fresh air.

I will never forget how he immersed himself in the epic second Test in Kandy between Sri Lanka and South Africa 13 years ago, a game in which the Proteas should have lost, but they somehow got themselves out of trouble. The cricket world will miss his distinctive voice and game-telling skills.

He also deserves credit for promoting the cause of players to be remunerated equitably for baking in the sun or dealing with extreme elements. His work has left the game in a better state.

New Zealand have always been a team I have enjoyed watching, except when they pulled the wool over South Africa’s eyes, especially with that gutting Mirpur World Cup quarter-final loss — the cherry on the chokeberry cake.

That defeat was a bitter pill for South Africa to swallow, but it was New Zealand cricket at its best: the sum of its parts being greater than the whole of their opposition.

As meticulous and methodical as South African cricket may have been, in the heat of the knockout phase it is those sides who’ve built themselves as craggy fighters that I admire.

It was an attitude that scared sides whenever they faced New Zealand, and with their meagre resources, it carried them through and earned them worldwide respect.

I have a deep respect for Jack Russells and their tenacity to fight on when the world is against them. It is akin to the respect I have always given New Zealand’s cricket.

The size of the fight in them was apparent just recently in Sri Lanka, when, after a first Test clouting and a long spell without winning, they bounced back in the best way possible at the P. Sara Oval, admittedly not Sri Lanka’s most favoured Test venue.

I don’t know if the first Test will be over by the time this column is being read, but the first innings collapse left more than a lump in my throat.

This is not the New Zealand team I have grown to admire. It is not the New Zealand side that was one of only three teams not to lose a Test series in Australia between 1994 and 2008. Others were India and South Africa.

It is not the New Zealand team that gave Australia as good as they got in 2001, even having the temerity to declare twice in the third Test of that series and denying Shane Warne a Test century in the process.

They have the ability to bounce back. We all know what they did to Australia in Hobart after a sound thrashing in Brisbane, but then again, either you get beaten or escape with a tail-between-your-legs draw there.

Cape Town happens to be SA’s abattoir for the New Year’s Test, but some fight will be appreciated in Port Elizabeth.

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