The start of this home summer in New Zealand marks the beginning of a new era. The likes of Finn Allen and Glenn Phillips are things of the future, and Trent Boult and Tim Southee are things of the past.
Team from the future
Well before Allen and Phillips, there was Lance Cairns. Power hitting wasn’t even a thing back in 1983. At the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) with his side tottering at 44 for 6 while chasing 303. Not against Dennis Lilly, who had earlier sprung one into Cairns’ helmet. The response that followed from the batter became part of Kiwi folklore.
Cairns extended his long levers to hit six gigantic sixes. Javed Miandad had the previous best, with five boundary launchers in an inning. ODIs had been around for a while by now, and yet sixes were rare.
In the 1990s, another Cairns had emerged, and this one could bowl fast aside from hitting sixes. In the 1992 World Cup, they even opened the bowling with spin. So they had a history of hitting big, they could bowl fast, and they were innovative as well. Weren’t they always the team from the future?
Future of the changing landscape
Strangely enough, the future is far from certain for New Zealand cricket. Their exit from the T20 World Cup was met with the kind of gasp that is equivalent to losing the cap of a ball pen. It was good while it lasted.
Hosting India for six white-ball games is a fine prospect to start their cricketing summer. Surely it can’t be as good as seeing eight runouts in a single one-day international. which did happen when they played India in Napier back in 1999.
Next to the newspaper stall, in a queue of many, daily-wage labourers sit on the Burns Road. They want to make it to the construction site when the first lights hit the ground. They can clearly hear the bustle from the neighbouring eatery, which has a mural that reads Nashte Wala Mahol.
Winter mornings in Karachi are busy. New Zealand will be there in December for the first test, then move north to Multan for the second one. Kane Williamson will definitely be on that trip. And who else?
Thirty – The attitude and the number
If you believe Ross Taylor, and you must believe him if you’ve ever stuck your tongue out for anything, Taylor feels that a lot of the current Kiwi players who played in this T20 World Cup won’t be around for the next one. He’s right. Eleven out of that squad of fifteen are 30 or older. That ratio is even more skewed in the ODI squad that is facing India. Eleven out of thirteen players are not quite young anymore.
To be thirty as an international cricketer, not in India but anywhere else like New Zealand, and if you are fit and performing consistently. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be playing franchise cricket all over the world. If you’re not doing that, then either you don’t like getting paid or you have a bad agent.
People who are really young, like Will Smeed of England, who just turned 21, gave up on red-ball cricket and retired even before making his first-class debut. He has signed a white-ball-only contract with Somerset and is hoping to fuel his ambitions in limited overs cricket.
It is not just Smeed; a generation of young cricketers around the world are going through this red-and-white pill test. So, the experienced lot is heading down the franchise cricket route to make the most of their remaining playing years. And the young ones want to start on the same path right from the beginning.
Dealing in boundaries
The fact that most international cricket boards can no longer afford serious white-ball skills, whether that is experience or a prodigy, when they are up against a wealthy private entity
Allen and Phillips are regarded as the next batting stalwarts of the country, but sooner or later a financial deal might come their way that will be significant enough to make them pack their bags with ten to fifteen bats and leave.
The Australian Cricket Board acknowledged the world we are living in by picking the version of Tim David that was purely a product of the several T20 leagues in the world. which is perhaps the only way to deal with a changing cricket landscape where players have a clear pathway with or without the national cricket board on their side.
What about Guptill though?
For smaller countries like New Zealand, the challenge is even tougher because they are less likely to have a talent pool worth quality and quantity at any given point in time. To then be able to find backups for several multi-format specialists is indeed a tough thing to do.
With Martin Guptill now being dropped, and that news came in as a shock to Colin Munro. Munro felt that a player like Guptill, who could have easily gone around the world and picked up contracts, decided to stick around and play in the World Cup for the team and deserved their support after the tournament.
Guptill, who has been left out for Allen, can still play wherever he wants. There are enough veteran franchise cricket leagues out there that would love to have him on the list. That is a great option for professionals who are on the wrong side of thirty.
Diving with the devil in the talent pool
Rather than accommodating Guptill, the bigger challenge for New Zealand cricket is to develop another Allen. Former U19 New Zealand all-rounder and Irish passport holder Luke Georgeson had earlier decided to switch his alliance and had ambitions to play at the highest level for Ireland. He changed his mind. As a 23-year-old batting all-rounder, he has regained his central contract with Wellington.
Investing in players like Georgeson and creating a pathway that identifies and nurtures them will strengthen the talent pool. Another way to do so is to have a high-quality franchise-based league that allows your domestic players exposure to international standards before they get on the team. If this feels like a deal with the devil, then that is what it is.
A domestic T20 system that ticks despite not packing a punch
According to noted cricket analyst Freddie Wilde, an average match in the Super Smash T20, which is the domestic T20 tournament of New Zealand is of a lower standard than an average T20 international game. Thus, bringing in high-skilled international players will increase the overall standard of the league and also serve as a rich learning experience for the youngsters.
With Kane Williamson talking about rethinking his future as a multi-format player, New Zealand cricket must reinvent the wheel in managing its players in an ever-changing cricketing landscape.