* This post was originally published at Backward Point, after writing match reports for the website during the NZ tour of the West Indies.
There are certain teams in sport who doom their fans to a cursed life of hope, followed by disappointment. Supporters of the English football team know what this is like, as do fans of the consistently inconsistent Australian rugby team. When it comes to cricket, there are two words that sum this phenomenon up. Black Caps.
I am a partisan supporter of the Black Caps, and whenever they play I want them to win. When I started writing about this tour for Backward Point, I firmly expected to be extolling the virtues of the plucky Kiwis. To be blunt, leading into this tour the West Indies had been struggling terribly. The Black Caps normally feast on weaker teams, bullying them around the park. I really wanted to gloat that New Zealand was my team, through and through.
Suffice to say, it was not to be. It is very possible that the West Indies are finally set to start rising up the rankings again. Their team has a settled look in all formats, along with stars who can singlehandedly break a game open. Players like Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine and Marlon Samuels have plenty of able deputies. Darren Sammy almost always contributes something in a match, more often
than not with the bat. Chanderpaul still knows how to bring a chase home, like he did in the second Test. Pollard, Powell, Roach and Best are all names it would be worthwhile remembering for the future.
Compare that to this current Black Caps side. Barring Jesse Ryder, this is pretty much the strongest squad NZC could have sent on tour. Some players did okay. Guptill will be happy with his three half centuries in the tests, and the bowling attack generally looks alright, if a little tame. However, if there is one word that could define this current New Zealand squad, it would be mediocrity.
Mediocrity in the sense that our star players have no temperament or appetite for the fight. The backup players often seem overawed by the occasion. There are not many credible options in the domestic game. This squad is both literally and figuratively the best we can come up with. The decline of New Zealand cricket is starting to look terminal. It is futile to advocate a cleanout of the deadwood in
the squad, because someone has to take the field. You can’t replace somebody with nobody. Besides, we had a cleanout reasonably recently and ended up with players like Southee, Taylor, the McCullums, Ryder, Guptill and Flynn. Out of that bunch, who has gone on to bigger things?
To conclude, the West Indies deserved this comprehensive set of series wins. They were without a doubt the better side, in both talent and temperament. None of this Black Caps bashing should take away from their achievement, and I hope they can keep this momentum going. It is undeniable though that sterner tests will await them, and they will need to learn to beat teams who don’t meekly surrender.
Man of the Tour – Sunil Narine, followed by Chris Gayle.