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High On Potential, Low On Confidence

Sir Richard Hadlee throws light on New Zealand's strengths and failings

High On Potential, Low On Confidence
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Confidence will be the key. During the 1980s, New Zealand cricket witnessed a ‘golden era’. Wean unbeaten record at home in Test cricket during the decade, besides winning an away series against Australia in 1985-86. We had achieved international credibility.

But between 1987 and 1990, New Zealand lost a number of veterans. Lance Cairns, Jeremy Coney, Ewan Chatfield, John Bracewell and I retired, leaving gaps to fill and opportunities for younger players to prove their ability.

Since the start of the 1990s there have been some humiliating defeats, which suggest that our emerging players have yet to attain consistency and realise their potential.

As a lead-up to the 1992 World Cup, New Zealand played England in a Test and one-day series at home. Martin Crowe, the then New Zealand captain, suffered an injury which affected his performance. Our form was poor and the team lost confidence in itself. And that cost us dear.

However, in the 1992 World Cup, New Zealand won their opening game against Australia, with Crowe scoring 100. This good form continued and New Zealand won seven of their eight preliminary matches. But one bad day against Pakistan in the semi-final did us in.

When teams are in the process of rebuilding, public expectations add to the pressure on players. A number of New Zealand players have been axed over the past 12 months following the disastrous 1994-95 tour of South Africa. Coach Geoff Howarth and captain Ken Rutherford were sacked. Three players were suspended because of drugs, while others were dropped because of poor performance. As many as 33 players have been used in the past 18 months. No wonder, the team lacks cohesion.

New coach Glenn Turner is tactically very organ-ised and disciplined. He was the national coach in 1985, when we won against Australia. Turner has remained close to the game and demonstrated his analytical abilities in his role as a commentator for television. He is respected by the players.

 New Zealand, like some other teams, will encounter some difficulties in adapting to the conditions in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But Australia’s win in the 1987 World Cup in India and Pakistan suggests that these are not insurmountable odds.

The New Zealand tour of India late last year could stand us in good stead. The Test loss in three days at Bangalore was a disappointment, but two excellent one-day wins restored the team’s confidence. Though India won the final encounter and the one-day series, this was a positive sign for the future.

The bad news is that Martin Crowe has retired. Dipak Patel couldn’t be included owing to an injury. Much will, therefore, depend on the all-round skills of Chris Cairns, the bowling experience of Danny Morrison, and the success of two promising young players, all-rounder Nathan Astle and Stephen Fleming, a talented and versatile batsman.

Dion Nash is emerging as a strike bowler of some quality. Lee Germon, although new to captaincy at the international level, has a proven record as captain for Canterbury in the domestic competition. With Turner guiding the team, New Zealand could cause many an upset during the next few weeks.

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