Half-cocked doesn't cut it, fumes McCullum
HAMISH BIDWELL IN CHITTAGONG
An overhaul of methodology and, perhaps, personnel is in the offing, following New Zealand's inglorious exit from the Twenty20 World Cup tournament.
Frank captain Brendon McCullum was not amused by the attitude, play or departure of his team from this event in Bangladesh, following a 59-run drubbing at the hands of Sri Lanka yesterday morning.
From a position of needing just 120 to finish top of Group One and secure a winnable semifinal against the West Indies or Pakistan, the Black Caps ended up being put out early - along with the rest of the tournament's rubbish.
Being down among the dregs of world cricket is not where McCullum wants himself, or the side. But that's where he believes they'll remain until some players get real with themselves.
''I'm pretty filthy about it because if we look back at the opportunities we've had in this tournament and if we were a tougher, more desperate - and that's one thing I'll be certainly be asking the questions of later on - then who knows where we could've got,'' McCullum said.
''But we can't turn up half-cocked and 80 per cent and each individual has to look at whether they were 100 per cent into this tournament, because if you want to play for this team you need to be - otherwise it's not acceptable.
''Guys just played, there wasn't enough desperation and cricket intelligence coming out at key times. Look, guys drop catches and guys play aggressive shots and get out, but it's more the reading of the game and the understanding of where the game's going and what's unfolding and what you have to do to adjust your game to what's required.''
Aside from opening batsman Kane Williamson, who made 146 runs at 48.66 in the tournament, McCullum didn't have a good word to say about the batting unit.
With the ball, Trent Boult, Kyle Mills and Natham McCullum were praised, while the captain said he could accept the mixed performances of Corey Anderson and Jimmy Neesham, because they would get better.
From the outside, Martin Guptill, Luke Ronchi, Colin Munro and even Tim Southee would be guys who've made themselves vulnerable to the selection axe. None could say they measured up to the yardstick their captain talked about.
McCullum said a similar malaise had afflicted the team's test and 50-over cricket. Changes were made in those formats and the results have been pleasing, particularly during this summer's home series against the West Indies and India.
But, for whatever reason, there's been no discernible method about their Twenty20 play. The batting, especially, seems hit or miss and McCullum himself and Williamson were the only guys to demonstrate any sort of game awareness during this tournament. Otherwise guys seemed to revert back to the old thinking of, this is the way I play, take it or leave it.
The problem for them is, after being bundled out here, McCullum sounds he might well leave it.
''I thought we were close to nailing it, but we've seen here that there needs to be some adjustments and changes to what we're trying to do,'' he said.
''That's just the realty of trying to build a team which is successful and some people won't like it, but that's just unfortunate because the public want us to win and we need to do it and we've seen that we get success when we do things properly. So we need to do this with the T20.''
More than anything, McCullum seemed a bit spooked after losing to Sri Lanka. Beating India at home, and in the style with which those results were achieved, gave him a confidence that he'd never felt in this team before.
He's been on record several times since, as saying the Black Caps really could be crowned World Cup champions in a year's time. But the way the team surrendered winning positions here against South Africa and Sri Lanka appears to have shaken him a bit.
''I felt like we were 90 per cent throughout the entire tournament and we're not good enough to be 90 per cent. We've got to start closing out games like this and we better do it at home [next year].''
We keep saying, and thinking, that they can. We like to believe this is a developing team, that there's still untapped potential and that someone's going to have one of those special days and, all of a sudden, the Black Caps will be champions of the world.
That might yet happen, but not on the evidence of this Twenty20 tournament.
PITCH QUESTION MARKS
But in the aftermath of New Zealand's 59-run loss to Sri Lanka and elimination from the World Twenty20 tournament came questions about pitch preparation and why there was no dew.
Batting second under lights had become like taking candy from a baby, at Chittagong's Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium.
With the dew making the ball skid on to the bat beautifully and bowlers struggling to grip the ball, games had become entirely skewed in favour of the side chasing.
That was until New Zealand set off in pursuit of the 120 they needed to qualify for the semifinals, yesterday morning.
Afterwards, the state of the wicket and outfield was among many things Black Caps captain McCullum was left shaking his head about.
''I found out halfway through the game that the outfield had been sprayed and obviously there was anti-dew put down, so there was no dew,'' McCullum said.
''Our philosophy of winning the toss and bowling first was in anticipation that the dew would skid the ball on a little bit later.''
An ICC representative later confirmed that an anti-dew agent had been applied to the outfield but couldn't say why.
But that doesn't really explain why a wicket that previously had pace and carry became a Bunsen burner.
''The pitch was a lot drier, once the game started unfolding, than what we first thought,'' McCullum said.
''Yes, you could say we misread the wicket but when every game has played like that on it, you have to wonder if the conditions were changed a little bit. But that's certainly not the reason we lost.
''We weren't good enough and we made some poor errors and that's the honest assessment.''
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