The New Zealand Cricket team may not have won many ICC tournaments, but they give tough times to their opponents in these tournaments. This is also visible from their performances in the 2015 and 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup competitions, where they reached the finals on both occasions.
Besides, the Kiwis were crowned champions of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship (WTC) in 2021 after they defeated India in the finals.
However, they couldn’t defend their title in the 2021-23 WTC cycle, as they finished in 6th place with only 4 wins from 13 Test matches. New Zealand even lost a Test match against Bangladesh at home. And this was their first defeat against Bangladesh in their own backyard.
But why did this happen? Are the Blackcaps missing something? Let’s find out.
Blackcaps: What are they Lacking?
If you look at the World map, you will notice New Zealand is a small island country with a population of around 51 lakh. Finding quality players in this small population is a tough task. Moreover, there is less demand for cricket in New Zealand, where Rugby is the most popular sport.
In recent years, the Kiwis have become more or less dependent on their star batter and former captain, Kane Williamson. Even though he gets immense support from the likes of Devon Conway, Tom Latham, and Henry Nicholls, the retirements of BJ Watling, Ross Taylor, and Colin de Grandhomme have left a big hole in their batting lineup.
Having a reliable and deep batting lineup is crucial in all formats of cricket. They need to strengthen their middle order with talented batters to perform well not just at home but in away conditions as well.
The New Zealand team is also grappling with their weakened pace attack, as a few bowlers have suffered injuries. Moreover, their ace bowler, Trent Boult, didn’t sign a central contract to play in T20 leagues across the world.
The absence of big pacers was visible in their recent performances, as they failed to take 40 wickets in Test matches on many occasions. And this is quite concerning, as it shows they are lacking bowling depth and are not able to produce quality pace bowlers.
Furthermore, New Zealand has succumbed to pressure situations in tight games in big tournaments. They need to perform better by handling the pressure in clutch games to get their hands on the elusive trophies.
Can they fill the gaps?
The answer is yes. They need to improve their domestic cricket structure to produce some quality players.
The Plunket Shield, New Zealand’s first-class tournament, has a good standard, but it lacks competitiveness due to a small pool of players. Picking the best players from the limited options can become challenging. However, the tournament plays a crucial role in nurturing talent and provides players with a platform to showcase their skills.
Additionally, New Zealand has the Ford Trophy (50-over tournament) and the Super Smash (T20 tournament). These tournaments provide further opportunities for players to compete, gain experience, and catch the attention of selectors.
Currently, these tournaments feature only 6 teams representing different regions of New Zealand. This means the players also get to play fewer matches.
The New Zealand Cricket (NZC) Board should try to increase the number of domestic teams to increase competitiveness. This will eventually give the players more chances to hone their skills.
If the NZC Board invests more in strengthening their domestic setup, it can help them bridge the huge gap. Moreover, they need to offer better monetary benefits to players so they remain committed to their national team. This will also encourage more players to pick up the sport.
Despite the relatively smaller domestic setup, the New Zealand cricket team has achieved significant success on the international stage. They have consistently been a competitive side and have reached the finals of major events like the ICC Cricket World Cup, showcasing the effectiveness of their player development system.
Now, they have to focus on nurturing young talent who can fill the shoes of their veteran cricketers on the international stage. And if they become successful in achieving this, then no one can stop them from beating top sides at home and away.