OPINION: We do seem to enjoy flogging our test cricketers. Often they deserve it.
Sometimes they get carried away with the publicity they receive and don't show the grit and determination we expect from our national teams.
But when they do put in a good effort, as they did recently in beating Sri Lanka by 167 runs in Colombo, the praise is often still muted.
The cricketers were rightly hammered for their appalling capitulation in the first test in Sri Lanka. But fair's fair: they deserved a pat on the back for fighting back so well to level the series.
I listened to some radio talkback the day after the win in Colombo and was surprised to hear callers chiding the Black Caps for their slow scoring rate, failure at the top of the order, lack of a great spin bowler and erratic results.
Equally, the players could have been praised - for the fantastic double by captain-for-now Ross Taylor, who answered his critics by scoring 142 and 74; for the gutsy century by the commendable Kane Williamson; for Daniel Flynn's plucky half-century at a vital time; for the test debut of Todd Astle, who batted promisingly and gave New Zealand a wrist-spinning option; and for the fine pace bowling of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell.
It may not have been a stellar past 12 months for the team in test cricket but within that time they beat Zimbabwe at home and away, beat Australia in Hobart by seven runs, and had the victory in Sri Lanka. That's four test wins. In the entire decade of the 1970s, New Zealand had three test wins, all at home. Graham Dowling, Glenn Turner, John Wright, Bruce Edgar, Geoff Howarth, Bevan Congdon, Mark Burgess, Vic Pollard, Jeremy Coney, Ken Wadsworth, Richard and Dayle Hadlee, Richard Collinge, Bruce Taylor, Lance Cairns, Ewen Chatfield, Hedley Howarth and Jack Alabaster, among others, played for New Zealand during that decade, and they're regarded as among our finest.
During the past year, New Zealand were poor in the West Indies and mediocre in India.
But they had their test wins, put in a brave effort in three home tests against South Africa last summer, and reached the semifinals of the Twenty20 World Cup, so it wasn't all gloom.
I was particularly pleased for Taylor. There's talk he is not the captain he should be and that Brendon McCullum may be about to take over.
Taylor has a test average of 43.5, not much below the master, Martin Crowe. Since he became captain, his average has been 50 runs an innings.
He doesn't rush about waving his arms and shouting, but I like the way he leads, and his captaincy is improving.
With a few determined batsmen, and possibly Jesse Ryder to return, with four or five genuine test-quality pacemen, and with Astle having dipped his toe in the water, I don't feel as negative about the team as some.
They won't be No 1 in the world, and may not scale the lofty heights of the New Zealand team in the 1980s, but they'll put together enough good results - between the let-downs - to allow their supporters to keep the faith.
Joseph Romanos is a Wellington sports writer and broadcaster.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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