Black Caps need to copy Proteas' masterplan

Amateur or professional era, when it comes to cricket South Africa are definitely the "masters" over their New Zealand counterparts.

With 40 test matches completed since the 1931-32 season, New Zealand have won only a miserable four, as opposed to South Africa's 23, a record that suggests this current crew might not be a lot worse than what has gone before them.

Even the poor total of 121 in the first innings of the second test has six totals that have been less, although the 45 in test one will be sitting uncomfortably for a long time with all those involved.

So what makes South Africa so good and New Zealand so poor?

South Africa's environment has made them mentally stronger.

They provide teams with strong personalities and leadership, a cultural togetherness initially and later an immersion which has bonded them together. Successful players are pushed for selection and they have a country who are growing in support of their own. There is also a huge glow of positive thinking around their cricket.

Over the past decade the Proteas have developed these characteristics into an experienced and successful unit with any newcomers having done the hard yards on the domestic scene and not been given international exposure before they are ready.

The consistency of success imitates the consistency in their planning which has them as the top ranked team in test cricket.

New Zealand has few of these traits.

Their leadership both on and off the field has shown itself to be flawed, the cricketers have not built a strong culture over a period of time, there are few quality players and the public support ebbs and flows, depending on results at the time.

If New Zealand is to be successful there is a lot to do.

The longer version of the game appears too tough for our young players who relate more readily to the shorter versions and the more hectic rugby-type scenario.

Batting in partnerships, the importance of batting pre and post breaks, not losing wickets in clusters, backing up, running between wickets, seeing through the tough patches and reaping the rewards later and pushing the field back are foreign ideas, just as a new ball bowler bowling at the top of off stump with catchers in place seems to be a novelty. More could be added.

Players involved in the national under-19 tournament and developing players' tournament work through a whole host of one dayers and Twenty20 games which continues to reinforce the concept that the shorter versions of the game are what is important.

This suggests the high performance programme is not designed to improve our potential test cricketers, while junior coaching is based around players making the big plays and not understanding how the game is structured and developed.

Finally, when players reach the four-day Plunket Shield games, they are often played on tracks so flat that good technique almost becomes irrelevant at the batting crease.

There has been no need to have the ability to play forward and hit the ball when its under the eye line, or play back and play late enough to leave the ball if necessary, a couple of skills that would have been handy in Cape Town.

It also suggests bowlers have a negative mind set and bowl without conviction and energy.

They do not bowl five out of six in the right place, but rather rely on defensively set fields to keep the figures in check.

NZ Cricket needs to take the game by the throat.

Whatever is happening at the moment is not working. The cricket energy in this country needs better direction.

Ian Snook is a former Taranaki and Central Districts captain. He is one of only four men to have played more than 100 games for Taranaki.

Taranaki Daily News