READER REPORT:

Summer belonged to the Black Caps

WILLIAM MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2014
William McDonald

SLIPPERY WICKET: The pitch may get a bit hard and icy in Fernie, Canada, at this time of year, but William McDonald's still game.

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I am in Fernie, British Columbia. It's a small Canadian ski resort town just west of the Alberta border.

There's snow bucketing down outside. It's an odd enough place for an inner city boy from Auckland, but stranger for the Indian man who lives here.

Talking to him, it didn't take long for the discussion to turn to cricket. It was as if I'd stepped into some parallel universe with snow in February and the Black Caps whitewashing the Indians.

I'd been watching our great summer of cricket from the nosebleed section on the other side of the world and I was enjoying every minute of it.

In years gone by it would've been impossible to stay in touch with cricket back home from this distance, but those days are long gone and now in the age of internet the boys with black caps are just a click away.

The summer of cricket in New Zealand started off like most other summers in recent years – with not much momentum or fanfare. Such is the Kiwi way.

We are (and I hate to say this) a nation of bandwagoners. Apart from our beloved All Blacks, the nation as a collective jumps on and off our local teams like public transporters do on a Stagecoach in Auckland's CBD.

Remember the flavour-of-the-month Breakers team that captured the nation in the Australian NBL? Or how about those All Whites? So just as they have had to before, the Black Caps would have to win over the New Zealand sporting public.

When defending our boys I've always pointed to the fact that our team on paper is better than our performances reflected. The talent has always been there, and we have seen it. No, honestly we have.

Where the Black Caps have often let themselves down is that only one or two players seem to step up from match to match.

Remember those Australian test sides of the '90s and early 2000s? The Waugh brothers, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Ponting and Adam Glichrist. Even the Indians of that same period – Dravid, Tendulkar etc. Those teams could count on a good chunk of their guys putting in a good performance week in, week out.

Cricket is a team sport played by one individual at a time, and the sum of all those parts is what makes or breaks a side. The question this year was: Could the Black Caps find the consistency amongst their individuals to produce a great sum?

By the end of this summer, the answer was a resounding yes. Looking back now it's tough to find a Black Cap that had a poor summer. Even the annual Jesse Ryder foot/beer-in-mouth moment couldn't steal the spotlight.

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The Ross Taylor vs Brendon McCullum captaincy soap opera has been put to bed (for now) with our two leaders doing just that – leading.

In the test matches against the West Indies, Taylor batted at a titanic average of 247.50, reaching triple figures on three occasions and a career high score of 217 not out.

The former captain then transferred that form into the one-day series against the Indians where in five innings he grabbed two 50s and two 100s at an average of 85.75, on the way to helping his team whitewash the world champions.

As for McCullum, he was captain fantastic for much of the summer, particularly in the whites, but he will be remembered for one thing – the number 302.

McCullum becoming the first New Zealander to cross the elusive 300 mark is the greatest innings by a Black Cap. Period.

With that innings (and thanks to BJ Watling and Jimmy Neesham – on debut) McCullum saved the test match, the series and fittingly closed out what has been a breakthrough summer for the boys.

The balance of young and old looks the goods too. Kane Williamson is arguably the Black Caps' most reliable piece of furniture at the batting crease and isn't too shabby with the ball in hand.

NZ Cricket has unearthed a Chris Cairns type of superstar in the shape of record-breaking Corey Anderson, who has with no surprise, cleaned up at the latest internet fantasy league to become a reality in the Indian Premier League.

Tim Southee and Trent Boult are a lethal one-two pace attack, and Martin Guptill might just be the world's best fielder.

Phew, time for a well earned beer after all that. And reflecting on the summer that was, you probably should've grabbed a few during as well. Why? Why the hell not? Made even more poignant by the $100,000 catch.

Fans flocked to the ground by the thousands in bright orange t-shirts hoping for a chance to get their hand on some life changing moola. 

This was obviously easier said than done as we learned from watching fans dive aimlessly, jostle with each other for position, get snaked by non-orange wearers (you know who you are… just get out of the way!!), or just cold drop the money. Through all of that mayhem, two lucky buggers came away with the goods.

Bring it back next year Tui, please. 

In years gone past there was always something special about the New Zealand summer of cricket, but that feeling had been put on hold. Against the West Indies the Black Caps resuscitated the sleeping pulse of the cricketing nation, and by the time they had knocked off the Punjabi juggernaut it was well and truly alive.

Then it was over. Just like that. Their success this summer was so unexpected that if you blinked you might've missed it.

The once ho-hum Black Caps had found their touch collectively – and individually, our boys were in vintage form. From this, the country was experiencing an unfamiliar feeling for our summer pastime. Pride.

So often the poor summer cousin of their winter counterparts – the All Blacks – this group, that had shown so much potential, was finally stepping into the spotlight for all the right reasons, and they stole the show.

Where to next for the boys?

Like all good soap operas the Black Caps have left us wanting more, eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

Normal order will now be restored with the grind of the NRL and Super Rugby seasons getting under way, but this summer belonged to the Black Caps. Just as it should've, and fingers-crossed, will continue to do so.


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