Cape Town – Well-founded concern about the Black Caps’
ability to be competitive in the Test series against No 1-ranked South Africa
shortly only gathers steam in New Zealand.
Columnist Chris Rattue, writing in major national daily The
New Zealand Herald on Wednesday, suggests the tourists are risking “one
almighty disaster” in the two-Test venture and that “cricket stands on the
brink” in that nation.
The writer also rues once more the absence of the Black
Caps’ best batsman, Ross Taylor, saying that he is “starting to come across as
a prima donna”.
Taylor is in dispute with coach Mike Hesson after being
dumped as captain, and declared himself unavailable for the tour.
It is bad news as much for South African Test enthusiasts,
who at least want worthy contests in the two-Test series beginning at Newlands
on January 2: Taylor is easily New Zealand’s best current batsman statistically
with a Test average of 43.57.
Rattue added: “For sure, (Taylor) is a terrific cricketer
who has been wronged by Hesson’s methods, but he doesn’t have a right to the
national captaincy and there won’t be contract clauses saying he only plays if
everything is hunky-dory.
“He’s been let down, but in turn he is letting the game,
fans and teammates down – big time.”
The eighth-ranked Black Caps, who have also not selected the
domestically in-form but personal problem-plagued Jesse Ryder, look especially
vulnerable with the bat for the task of taking on Dale Steyn and company.
They will place heavily reliance on the likes of new captain
Brendon McCullum (at least a combative character, but Test average a moderate
35), Martin Guptill (average 32) and 22-year-old Kane Williamson (also average
32) for their runs.
It is a formidable responsibility when you weigh such
players up against Proteas crease heavyweights Graeme Smith (average 49.53),
Hashim Amla (50.69), Jacques Kallis (56.92) and AB de Villiers (49.11).
On New Zealand’s last Test tour to these shores, in 2007/08,
they were clobbered 2-0 with defeats at the Wanderers (by 358 runs) and
Centurion (by an innings and 59 runs) despite fielding an altogether more
street-wise line-up then.
The Proteas’ attack has probably only got friskier since
then, whilst the Black Caps have subsequently shed such experienced names from
their midst as Stephen Fleming, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram, Dan Vettori
(injured), Shane Bond, Lou Vincent ... and now also Taylor.
Vincent and Styris, in fact, played their last Test matches
in the Centurion humiliation.
It is not hard to deduce why the portents look so bleak for
them in 2012/13.
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