OPINION: The sound of summer: a whisper of feet, or in the case of Tino Best, a shout, the sound of ball hitting pad, and the somnolent "not out" of the umpire.
The first ball of New Zealand's test summer fell on non-existent ears. Dunedin's lovely University Oval was a deserted village.
The only movement behind the bowler's arm came from a redundant steward in a fire-engine-red tunic, but there wasn't even any apathy for him to douse before it got out of hand.
New Zealanders have fallen out of love with test cricket in this country. There are plenty heading overseas for the Ashes, but they have been let down too often by their own team.
The current XI haven't won a test match under Brendon McCullum's captaincy. Not even against Bangladesh. Heavens, even Zimbabwe managed to win a recent test against the Bangles by more than 300 runs.
That dismal record has to change if the fans are to return and the change should start this month. The bowling attack that this West Indies team has brought to the country is laughable.
Tino Best, the spearhead without a point, averages a tick under 40 per wicket in test cricket. Shannon Gabriel has 11 test wickets, six of them Zimbabweans. Captain Darren Sammy has one test wicket this year. The spin bowler's action is under investigation.
There isn't even much fire about the West Indian attack. They looked more likely to fall over the heap of sawdust than kick down the stumps as Michael Holding famously did all those years ago. Ian Bishop, condemned behind the microphone, could probably still work up a bigger head of steam.
With Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul, even Fidel Edwards, and Chris Gayle all absent, the teeth of this West Indian side is sitting in a jar of water back home.
Surely New Zealand can at last win a test series again. The home bowlers are good enough and the opposition doesn't have anyone to bowl out their batsmen. Certainly that is the view of the bookies.
But I would contend that the future should not be determined by the result. Should New Zealand beat the West Indies, should Brendon McCullum continue to score runs on the sort of meek tracks where he can hit through the ball, then slap the man on the back, say thank-you for everything and move on.
McCullum is a cheeky chappie, he can be most engaging, but he can no longer put his back into test cricket. His average on overseas tours as captain, against South Africa, England and Bangladesh, is 15.
This is unlikely to get better because he has irreversible technical deficiencies. He is a hitter, and when McCullum can biff through the line on New Zealand's lifeless pitches, he is a champion. But against some pace, swing and seam, he is second-rate.
THERE is no shame in that. McCullum is a very fine one-day player and yesterday's century falls into that category. Let him continue that job, even bring all his focus to it, but there are too many compelling reasons why he should no longer lead the national side, especially against India at the start of next year.
The Indian tour is grubby. The Indian Board recently pressured South Africa into sacking their chief executive officer by threatening not to tour.
It really was a case of: "we don't like your bloke so we're going to
take our bat and ball home unless y ou discriminate against him."
In order to pull off their version of one man apartheid, India needed the connivance of New Zealand Cricket in shifting around some tour dates. And of course chief executive David White was ever so obliging, although he repudiated the suggestion that he knew the background to the request.
It all looks even more sordid when you consider the business interests of a company called Quality New Zealand Ltd. It says in its blurb that it "is delighted to have both Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum as shareholders in its business and these two will play a large role in the marketing and promotion of Quality NZ and its products."
QNZ sells high-end New Zealand goods to India. Its chief executive is Geoff Allott, who sits on the board of New Zealand Cricket, and pretty much controls 90 per cent of the company with Fleming and McCullum.
Cricket is used to promote the brand. It matters not that there has been no wrongdoing, the obvious conflicts of interests do not allow for objectivity on any side.
Of course McCullum will want to play against India at any cost and continue his profile in the IPL. He effectively has a financial stake in Indian cricket.
Of course Allott wants to give priority to the forthcoming Indian tour, as a director he is beholden to his shareholders to do so.
It is unacceptable and just one more compelling reason why McCullum can no longer captain his country before the eyes of the world. Let him lead New Zealand to victory in this series, hopefully. Let him depart with the grace that was not afforded to Ross Taylor. And then let's move on.
Kane Williamson is a young man, but Graeme Smith was 21 when he first skippered South Africa and he is the game's most successful captain.
Williamson was head boy at school. His cousin is a journalist, so he has a free insight into the media. And he cares, really cares, about cricket.
It is no bad thing he is not one of the lads, not part of the drinking culture. The great captains rarely are. I suspect Jesse Ryder will be a lot better off with Williamson than McCullum. Time for a fresh start. Time for the future. Time for some decency.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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