The only way is up for broken Black Caps

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2013
Martin Guptill
Getty Images
IN DANGER: Martin Guptill has not performed since his winning knock in the final T20 game against South Africa.

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OPINION: Thank the cricketing gods that's over. So ends the most depressing fortnight of covering our national team on tour.

Even snoozing through Inzamam-ul-Haq scoring a triple century, then being jolted awake by Shoaib Akhtar carving through the batting lineup off a short run in Lahore in 2002, New Zealand's biggest test defeat, was soothing by comparison.

This was sustained brutality; a men's team versus the under-15s. The kind of mismatch New Zealand fans giggled about when Bangladesh toured and were making their way in international cricket. Now the Black Caps are mentioned in the same sentence, and ranked on the same rung as Bangladesh.

It doesn't get much lower. Although, being thrashed by England at home probably does. Perish the thought.

Three one-day internationals follow the tests, against a South African team resting some big guns. Under far less heat, the Black Caps may produce some better showings but it's the past fortnight that should see New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White, coach Mike Hesson and director of cricket John Buchanan locked in a room and thrashing out some home truths. Only, the latter is being marginalised, and he's already spoken out against a lack of "integrity, trust, honesty and accountability" in NZC. The top administrators at loggerheads, as well as the former captain and coach. It stinks already.

If the Sri Lanka tour sparked a full-scale inquiry, which led to the sacking of the captain, how will this blood-stained South African safari end?

The mind boggles. A tough, independent review of NZC is probably the only answer, in time.

No one will lose their jobs, but Hesson, who wields far too much selection power for such an inexperienced international coach, will cop some heat.

He'll be constantly in the public eye as Ross Taylor's comeback is charted to the last detail.

Hesson will no doubt front the board that backed him in stripping Taylor of the captaincy. He'll give the same answers he offered the media under the grandstand at Port Elizabeth this week, that his players have never worked harder, they were outclassed by the world's best bowling attack, and couldn't handle the pressure.

Some of that may well be true. This was a terrifyingly good South African attack, led by Dale Steyn whose spells were fast bowling at its purest, and deadliest. But no attack is as good as 45 all out, or 62-9, by an established international side.

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This wasn't a happy team. That much is clear. It's a young side lacking big game players, especially with Taylor and the injured Tim Southee absent. But with the suspicion and fallout from the Taylor sacking, and seeing their top administrators don't see eye to eye, you can hardly blame them for a few anxious glances.

If Hesson knifed Taylor unannounced in Sri Lanka, then what's in store for me, some might think.

Taylor's mate Martin Guptill bellowed angrily in a bizarre reaction to his matchwinning Twenty20 century before Christmas. He's hardly scored a run since and is in distinct danger of being dropped from the test side, such are his struggles.

Brendon McCullum had his game face on the whole tour and very rarely looked at ease. He wanted to impose himself on the captaincy and bat responsibly under intense pressure. But it unravelled right from the time he chose to bat first at Newlands.

It will get easier for McCullum, when he's got his two best players back in Taylor and Southee, and possibly the untainted Luke Ronchi to add experience and cricketing nous.

Things will get better, back in the familiar climes of home, but it's hard not to see gloom and despair after this awful fortnight.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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