Thursday, 4 December 2008

The state of the game

Ben tells me that I haven't posted since August. And I suspect it was a long-time between posts before that one. Well, you can hardly blame me. Posting bad news gets pretty tiring pretty damn quickly. And over the past season all we New Zealand cricket fans have had is bad news. Have we reached the bottom of the barrel yet? Does the end of John Bracewell's reign give us a glimmer of hope? I am not convinced on either point. The state of the game here is too fragile, and it is hard to see why any sports-minded young New Zealander would want to become a cricketer. Unless the performances of our national team start to improve, the next few decades could well see the end of the game's status as the nation's favourite summer sport.

Peter Roebuck has already penned an obituary for New Zealand cricket. But he pins the cause of death on a funny thing. He blames "splinter groups" and points to former players who carp from the sidelines without contributing. But it is hard to blame former players when a) so many of them have been forced from the game against their will and b) former New Zealand players have always carped from the sidelines. I mean, what on earth would our commentators talk about if they weren't allow to complain? For goodness sake, we can't all be brown-nosed sycophants like Mark Nicholas. And thank heavens for that.

I largely agree with Roebuck that the New Zealand game is in trouble, but the splinter groups and the complainers are just symptoms of the problem - not the causes. The real blame lies with those who govern and with the elements. It lies with the people who stabbed Shane Bond in the back, who pushed Stephen Fleming, Hamish Marshall, Lou Vincent and all the others away, the people who took money from India in exchange for a summer without cricket and who cowered when they demanded we break our word with our best bowler. And it lies with the ICC for enabling the BCCI's abuses of power. But also with the tsunami and the primal forces of violence which have cost us whole tours, and with the local weather which keeps the grass long enough for sheep and cattle to enjoy, and too long for local batsmen to develop a decent back-foot game.

It is true that green wickets have always been a problem, but good technique seems to have evaporated with good governance. Martin Crowe blames poor technique on new coaching methods and perhaps he has a point. He may be a carper, but he also knows batting.

Anyway. As with any team going through a bad spell, bad luck seems to follow us around. But luck always changes. We are due some good fortune, and I just hope that it arrives in time. Perhaps it will come in the form of a promising youngster? If we want to look for that glimmer of hope, then perhaps the best place to find it is in the promise of Corey Anderson, or Trent Boult, or Kane Williamson. And perhaps we should also look with an optimistic eye to the promise global warming holds for our wickets and for our youngsters' back-foot defense.