20 Feb 2017

Why are we so hard on the Black Caps?

2:03 pm on 20 February 2017

Opinion - Why is it we're so quick to write off the New Zealand cricket side?

Black Caps

New Zealanders are very good at bagging the Black Caps. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Surely it's a defence mechanism; a thick skin developed through years of following a team that promised a lot and delivered only from time to time.

Or even the price the sport pays for being rugby's summer cousin. Since we expect - and normally receive - success from the All Blacks, maybe we set the bar too high for the cricket side and when they don't deliver, we get disappointed.

Either way, New Zealand's second favourite summer pastime behind cricket seems to be bagging the national side.

The 78-run thumping at the hands of the South Africans during Friday's T20 was more ammunition for the glass-half empty brigade, but many had written off the Black Caps for the nine-match tour before the South Africans even arrived.

I overheard two middle-aged men this week discussing whether or not they were going to watch Friday's T20 game. One said he wouldn't miss it while the other said he'd stopped watching them "because they're so s***".

While it's obviously a small sample size and their cricketing knowledge was questionable at best, it did seem to sum up New Zealanders' attitudes to the Black Caps.

We're quick to forget they're actually a very strong side at home and recent results are nothing short of impressive.

Before Friday's fiasco, they'd won nine of their last 10 T20s at home, 26 of their last 29 completed ODIs and lost only two tests since March 2012.

Those numbers are world class and the side is ranked No 1 in T20 cricket and No 3 in ODIs ahead of an Indian side who are near unbeatable at home.

Yes, the South African side is strong - and ranked No 3 and No 1 respectively - but our side are no mugs and are good enough they can (rightfully) drop Colin Munro despite investing plenty in him over recent years.

The South African stars are often talked about and talked up as they should be. AB De Villiers is the second best ODI batsmen in the world and joined in the top 6 by Faf du Plessis (No 4), Quinton de Kock (No 5) and Hashim Amla (No 6 equal) while spinner Imran Tahir is the No 1 ranked bowler in the world and Kagiso Rabada is in a tie for seventh.

Imran Tahir took 5-24 as he helped South Africa to victory over the Black Caps.

South African spinner Imran Tahir is ranked No 1 bowler in the world - but the Black Caps also have their share of high-ranking players. Photo: Photosport

Nowadays there are plenty of Kiwis at the pointy end of the rankings too, though.

Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill are both in the top 10, while Ross Taylor is 16th and is still a match-winner.

With the ball, Trent Boult is only one place behind Tahir in second while Matt Henry shares seventh with Rabada.

And it's not just the fans who are predicting the tourists to be too good, the TAB has them as hot favourites to win the five-match ODI series.

Even the recent Black Cap wins have divided opinion.

The pessimist is quick to point out that Pakistan were poor, Bangladesh wouldn't beat a domestic team in New Zealand and the Australian Chappell-Hadlee team was weak. The optimist will say, "you can only beat who's in front of you" and add that any win over Australia is worth its weight in green and gold.

What we, the fans, think will obviously have no impact on the pitch and thankfully the players pay very little attention.

Either way, the debate will continue. If they beat South Africa the pessimists will find something to moan about and if we lose, the eternal optimists will still keep backing them.

Maybe our beliefs when it comes to the Black Caps say more about us than them.

*Matt Richens has been a sports journalist for more than 10 years and a cricket tragic for more than 30.

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