Samuel Scott takes his mind off the Black Caps’ humiliating defeat by thinking about their uncertain future.
Day 2: A day in hell
As New Zealand’s hopes disappear, so do the crowds. For the first time this whole match I can sit where I like. Shade or sun, stench of burger or stench of espresso, this is my silver lining: seating variety. To be honest the crowd is pretty fun today. There’s lots of banter between New Zealand cricket die-hards and Australian tourists. And when Southee and Boult are hitting sixes, it’s almost nice to be here.
An innings defeat inevitably brings questions, but this defeat opens a floodgate of conjecture. What shape should this team take after McCullum leaves? How do you replace a wildcard like McCullum anyway?
The New Zealand selectors have two big problems. Firstly, how can we possibly beat Australia in Christchurch. Secondly, looking beyond Christchurch, what the hell are we going to do?
SOMEONE CALL THE CAPTAIN
With the best winning percentage of any NZ captain and big era-defining successes in ODI’s and tests, McCullum ends his tenure with the team in pretty good shape. There are rumours that Taylor still harbours captaincy aspirations, but those seem to be coming from the same people who drew a line in the sand over the way Taylor was fired, and could never warm to Macca.
Kane Williamson is the next captain. It is his destiny. His form may be in a slight slump, but that will surely pass. He has a clean slate, no baggage, and he’s level-headed cricketer; as adept in old- school technique as he is fluent in the manic language of the modern game. He’s a shoe-in.
Henry Nicholls is fitting into the Black Caps well and it’s clear he’s a big part of the post-McCullum plans. But Ross Taylor’s absence through injury has been worrying. Without his class, there is simply too much pressure on Kane Williamson to perform. Guptill is a wonderful cricketer and I like him opening in tests. He deserves a little more time in that position, but he’s clearly a wildcard, and his technique against spin is ultimately what cost him his wicket at the Basin, and that unforthcoming lucrative IPL contract. With short-form specialists like Anderson and Guptill in the side, the team feels unbalanced if you don’t also have some proven test experience. Don’t be surprised if Hamish Rutherford makes it back into the test side. Also don’t be surprised if he continues to underperform. George Worker and Ben Smith are both encouraging batting prospects for the near future.
Mitchell Santer has been a revelation with the bat but I think it’s fair to say his bowling is a work in progress. Ish Sodhi, at 23, will definitely get more time in white for the Black Caps. Mark Craig, while a stoic lower order batsmen with some excellent technique, will probably be dropped for Christchurch. He nabbed a couple of wickets sure, but something feels off about his place in the team. He is too smashable. If Santner’s batting keeps going the way it has, he may well be the long term replacement for McCullum and if he’s batting at five or six New Zealand can think of him as more of a batsmen who can bowl a bit and allow us to carry four strike bowlers or a second spinner if conditions demand it.
ATTACK! ATTACK! BOWLING ATTACK!
There is no need to panic in this department. We have one the best bowling attacks in the world. Boult and Southee are both still young. Bracewell is threatening to become really good. Waiting in the wings, we have Matt Henry and Milne. Henry especially seems destined to make the transition to test level. He’s got wicket taking fever and that can’t be ignored. Oh yeah and don’t forget Wagner, he’s worked hard for New Zealand in the past and the selectors won’t forget that in a hurry. We may need a fourth seamer in Christchurch (Anderson’s flip-catch aside I mean a real strike bowler). Can we field a team of 12 to even things up?
So McCullum won’t win a test series against Australia. That’s off the table. But as much as I feel like a great wave of Australia vomit has spewed forth upon my soul, I think this team is tougher than me. They will come back with a plan. They will adjust. Despite the tiresome op-ed pieces droning on about McCullum being overrated, the one thing we know he doesn’t do is stop fighting. And despite being under scrutiny from day one, the one thing we know Hesson always does is adjust the plan to suit the side. It feels like we’ve bounced back against every other side in the world. Now we have to bounce back against our mortal enemies. The good thing is we have so far contained Warner and Smith. The bad thing is Warner and Smith have so far been contained and we still lost. By an innings.