Posts Tagged ‘Sir Richard Hadlee’

A fitting end for Fleming

March 26, 2008

“Ruing this series” was Stephen Fleming’s comment after his last test innings for NZ saw him post 66. The former NZ captain retires from test cricket after a delayed fit of pique at his sacking as captain, to allow the long-groomed Daniel Vettori to take over.

While several NZ commentators rue Fleming leaving NZ while clearly still one of the better batsmen available, it was ironic that the last innings should see Fleming fall on a trademark score of 66 to spin bowler Monty Panesar; many of Fleming’s innings have ended in the mid-twenties or mid-sixties when he loses concentration after ‘getting set’ or ‘posting his half century’. This accounts for just 8% of his innings tallying to 90 or more.

However, there is no doubt NZ’s selectors will not enjoy trying to find a decent replacement. With his average just getting over the 40 threshold (by 13 runs!), Fleming will be a loss in the batting lineup, particularly overseas where he averages nearly 46.

However, this high offshore average compared to the 33.87 average Fleming had on NZ pitches, hints at the nature of his scores. Beating up perennial losers Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka when they were relative newcomers to test cricket account for his highest scores, and are the only nations against which he averages 50 or more. It was notable that the 2 teams he had lowest average (of 25 and 32) and strike rate (of 40.81 and 40.73) against were world champion side Australia and star studded India. He will also be irked at being the sole test batsmen to get over 7000 runs but not post 10 test centuries…

Despite this, Stephen Fleming brought a solid contribution with the bat on a regular basis. If this sounds like faint praise, it is not. Recall Mark Richardson was lauded for just such a contribution, despite a strike rate worse (37.66) than Fleming’s rate of 45.82. More telling, Fleming’s last season has seen him average nearly 50, which he only topped in 1998, 2004 and 2005/06 (and 2003 where he posted his top score of 274* on tour against Sri Lanka). So he appeared to have plenty of runs in the tank.

One wonders if selector Sir Richard Hadlee quit because of the troubles he foresaw in trying to replace the vast number of players who have quit NZ cricket?

It did irritate to hear Fleming lauded for his weaknesses though. Making a virtue of necessity, Fleming’s sloth-like speed in the field was transformed to a soft pair of hands in the slips (where he was good off quick bowlers). Add to this his reputed ‘great’ captaincy skills (his record does not back this claim, with 28 wins from 80 captained he won just 35% – by contrast, the truly great Australian skipper Steve Waugh won in 51% of his tests)).

 Either way, NZ can survive ‘post-Flem’ if there is no panicked rush of under-19 players into the national team… (think Daniel Flynn, Tim Southee, and the slightly older Jesse Ryder if he can heal, and leave the nurses alone!)

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Finally! Hadlee goes as selector

March 3, 2008

At last the ‘living legend’ Sir Richard Hadlee has moved on as selector for the NZ men’s cricket team. Hadlee’s bizzare selection fantasies have ruined many careers and teams, from his desire to pick a Praetorian guard of players over 6ft tall, to his fetish with picking players straight from age-group teams to the national side, in the hope he would ‘find’ the next Tendulkar. Rationality wept…

And judging by the stupidity inherent in Dion Nash’s comments, so should he. If you’re a selector, you select the side, not delegate the task to the coach and captain. Least of all the captain, who has the obvious conflict of interest – they are up for selection themselves!

Yet according to Nash:

 the final choice was left to coach John Bracewell and captain Daniel Vettori

Aaargh!

Square driving cricket selectors

February 8, 2008

Just so they can never complain that I didn’t furnish them with my humble views on how to convert the Skoda of cricket teams into a Ferrari (well, maybe an Alfa Romeo will do for a start), here are a few pointers on how to select the NZ cricket team:

  1. Pick team members by the position they play! One keeper is required, and bowling typically consists of 4 pace and 1 spin bowlers, leaving 5 specialist batsmen positions. NZ selectors too frequently deviate and pick the ‘best players in NZ’ at the time, meaning they have at times fielded a horribly unbalanced side with only 2 bowlers capable of topping 130km/hr. 
  2. At least 1, and preferably 2 or more, of the batsmen should be capable of bowling a few overs at international level, e.g. Chris Harris, Scott Styris, Craig MacMillan, Nathan Astle are all specialist batsmen who can bowl several useful overs and often take wickets. By contrast, Paul Hitchcock is a medium pacer who is neither batsman nor bowler – an allrounder.
  3. Set a process for players to follow to get selected, even if they are not aware of it. That is, resist the temptation to look for ‘the next Tendulkar’ or child prodigy – I’m talking to you, Sir Richard Hadlee! Age group players should progress from their club to provincial teams, to the A side, then NZ side. They have plenty of time to prove themselves over a few seasons at these levels, and still have a decade or more in the national squad.
  4. The above point requires NZ cricket and selectors to respect the A side, organise a better schedule of training and matches for it. The basic idea should be to pick a joint NZ-A side squad of 25, train together and play against each other regularly in training – perfect chance for comparisons of rival players for a position. Organise A side matches against other good A sides and as warm-ups for touring national sides. This all bloods the next replacement players (for retirement, injury, etc) without the current ‘sink or swim’ model (what was Daniel Flynn picked for 1 Twenty20 match for?@#$).
  5. Weight your selection criteria to allow for strength of competition the player is playing in. In other words, a provincial batsman with 20 average has an effective average of 30 if playing in a competition you rate as 1.5 times harder than the U-19 competition, say. This means you may pick a player with lower stats in a tough competition ahead of a ‘blazing new talent’ in a weak competition.

All this is a good start – the most important point being the first. At one point recently NZ had 3 keepers playing (McCullum, Vincent, Sinclair), meaning we were weak on back-up bowlers.

Point 2 is also vital – NZ is currently weak in back-up bowlers, so even though we have a good 5 bowler lineup, only Styris of the batsmen can bowl at international level. As even the best bowlers have off days (or overs), there is a need to select genuine batsmen who can also bowl (Ryder may now fill this role – though his short-cut selection may see his inexperience lead to typical Kiwi crumbling).

Incidentally, the point about all-rounder Hitchcock does not mean he is useless, or shouldn’t be picked. Just that all players need to be good enough to be picked at international level in 1 area (batsman, keeper or bowler), with skills in other areas being a bonus to be considered in selection. These extra skills are what lifts a good side to be great (the batting of Chris Cairns, bowling of Harris, batting of Dick Hadlee himself).

Final point – obey the law selectors! Do not discriminate against players based on their age!!! This kind of stupidity has seen the still-talented Harris, Fleming, Styris and MacMillan all leave one form of the game or more (Steve Waugh quit after similar whining in Oz that he was ‘too old’ while still scoring heavily). You’re too old when you body starts letting your performance slip, which is what should be focussed on, not the age.

So, a typical team at the moment might be:

  • Keeper – Brendan McCullum
  • Spinner – Dan Vettori (Jeetan Patel for injury at the moment)
  • Pace bowler – Jacob Oram
  • Pace bowler – Chris Martin
  • Pace bowler – Michael Mason
  • Pace bowler – Kyle Mills
  • Batsman – Lou Vincent
  • Batsman – Matthew Sinclair
  • Batsman – Scott Styris (also bowls)
  • Batsman – Jamie How
  • Batsman – Jesse Ryder (also bowls)

Note 3 keepers again – not hypocrisy – this can be done so long as they (Vincent & Sinclair) are genuine batsmen, and there enough batsmen able to bowl a few back-up overs.

McMouthing off

February 6, 2008

It seems Brendan ‘McMouth’ McCullum is a clairvoyant; he said “there is no substitute for getting out…” before last night’s Twenty20 cricket match, and he delivered – with a score of 9 personally, and a few captaincy blunders. Okay, that’s a little mean – his thoughts seemed reasonable, but implementation let him down.

Maligned debutant Jesse Ryder was the only top-order batsman to trouble the scorers to add a second digit to his tally, though he may not care to be reminded that his 22 came behind Jacob Oram’s bludgeoned 61 and … 23 for the extras!

The Kiwi statistics were:

Bowling: K Mills 4-0-43-2, C Martin 4-0-34-2, J Oram 4-0-24-1 (1w), J Patel 3-0-42-1, T Southee 4-0-39-1, J Ryder 1-0-2-1.

New Zealand
J Ryder run out 22
B McCullum c Shah b Sidebottom 9
R Taylor lbw b Sidebottom 0
J How c Pietersen b Mascarenhas 6
S Styris b Mascarenhas 1
P Fulton b Broad 8
J Oram c Bell b Sidebottom 61
K Mills c Anderson b Swann 11
T Southee c Mascarenhas b Collingwood 1
J Patel b Anderson 5
C Martin not out 5
Extras (6w, 17lb) 23

Total (19.2 overs) 152

Fall: 18, 19, 47, 49, 64, 70, 90, 102, 135, 152.

So what lessons can NZ take from this defeat? Perhaps to drop Sir Richard Hadlee from the selectors panel. Hadlee was a clear proponent of pushing young players into the side, and he and coach Bracewell appear to have driven senior players (McMillan, Harris and Astle for a start, and now Styris from tests) out of NZ, and into lucrative ICL hands.

Even former Kiwi wicketkeeper and perennial bad boy Adam Parore has spotted there is something irrational in the latest selections (see ‘maligned’ link above). Even sharper insight is given by recent Black Caps opening batsman Mark Richardson. The verdict – picking young or unfit players and dumping them straight in the national side is dangerous, for both player and team. Let them prove themselves in the provincial competition!