Cairns: Warrior Wagner proves worthy Black Cap

CHRIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 16/02/2014

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OPINION: The first test victory against India at Eden Park must rate as one of our best and I cannot but continue to heap praise on this New Zealand team, which is led brilliantly by Brendon McCullum.

McCullum's superb second test double century laid the platform but it was the lion-hearted Neil Wagner that epitomised what is becoming more evident within this squad of players and should excite all Kiwi cricket fans.

Leading in to the first test, Wagner was under pressure to perform. There are younger and quicker bowlers than him around. But in what defines professional sport, he performed when he needed to. That to me says everything about his attitude for the game at the top level. Combine that with his fitness and ability to stay on the park and Wagner's name should be one of the first on the team sheet in any New Zealand test side picked.

So we now find the second test being battled upon the green isle of the Basin Reserve and I openly applaud this by New Zealand Cricket. Congratulations to Mike Hesson for no doubt putting his foot down and saying his team needs sporting test pitches. He needs to be commended for this. It's great to see the coach backing his troops and having the courage to push for the direction he wants his team to travel in.

Where we must have patience on these green pitches is with the top order. Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton have the hardest job in New Zealand sport. Knowing full well that McCullum will be losing every toss at the moment, these two men are on a hiding to nothing. They must be given latitude. It can be very demoralising when you practice for hours on end and through no fault of your own a brutish ball can take your wicket. They must remain strong in their body language and understand the wider picture. They must also seize their chance in the second innings of matches and when they do get in, score big. But their role is tough and I do feel for them. The current test is up for grabs but this New Zealand team is without their best player in Ross Taylor and I wish him well for his imminent arrival. If the hosts could sneak a win without Taylor then that would be truly remarkable and cap an unbelievable season.

The World Cup T20 side will be named today. My side in batting order would be Martin Guptill, B McCullum, Taylor, Kane Williamson, Corey Anderson, Colin Munro, Luke Ronchi, Jimmy Neesham, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan. Jess Ryder will be missing because NZC must determine whether they want him to be part of their future plans. I believe he wants to be and will be back. To win the World Cup here next year we need him. In the subcontinent and for this tournament, we should put the best four batters at the top of the order to face the most balls. There is huge firepower in the middle order as well. I am picking another semifinal appearance, perhaps even a final. Interestingly, Sir Richard Hadlee, an NZC board member was asked last week about my situation and he stonewalled the question, saying he could not comment.

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My question to Sir Richard has never pertained to the contents of the investigation; I know full well he can't comment. All I asked him was how he and his father, the late Walter Hadlee, a great man, would feel having their family name being recklessly and violently besmirched, as the Cairns name currently is?

- Sunday Star Times

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