The Government Should Legalise Cannabis For The Rugby World Cup

Kiwis are rejoicing at the news that our owners have permitted us extended hours to drink alcohol on licensed premises while Rugby World Cup games are on this Spring. It’s true that anything that facilitates New Zealanders coming together in a spirit of goodwill is a good thing, and VJM Publishing applauds this move for the sake of the nation’s mental health. The really great move, however, would be to legalise cannabis for the Rugby World Cup.

A famous half-truth about New Zealand culture is that rates of domestic violence spike every time the All Blacks lose. The full truth is that domestic violence rates spike when the All Blacks win, too, because every time the All Blacks play, men get together and drink alcohol. When they do this, a certain proportion of them will end up bashing their wives and girlfriends (or kids, parents, brothers/sisters etc.).

Alcohol is great fun, and the value it has in facilitating socialisation and enjoyment of life cannot be measured. It’s impossible to quantify the quality of life improvements that follow having a really excellent time partying with alcohol, or the warm memories that come from having a great time drinking with friends, or the value of the friendships made because alcohol broke the ice.

On balance, alcohol is a good thing – but the negatives of it are considerable nonetheless.

As mentioned in Chapter 12 of The Case For Cannabis Law Reform, alcohol is present in an estimated 30% of domestic violence incidents that the Police attend, and is believed to be responsible for 3.9% of all deaths in New Zealand. Including sicknesses caused by it and lost work days to hangovers or other alcohol-related conditions, the monetary cost of alcohol use runs into the billions.

Again, in no way is this to make the argument that alcohol is bad or should be further restricted. The problem is that there is no recreational alternative to it. You’re not allowed to go into town and watch the All Blacks at a cannabis cafe, and you’re not allowed to sit in a town square and watch a public big screen while smoking a joint. You’ll get arrested and put in a cage.

If you want to socialise with other people this Rugby World Cup, you get the same deal as at all other times. Drink alcohol or just fuck off back home.

Imagine a Rugby World Cup where Kiwis could come together without being pressured into consuming alcohol in order to socialise. This would finally mean that there was a recreational alternative for all those people who knew that they weren’t good on alcohol (arguably some 20% of the population).

It’s not a secret that the participants in most of those 30% of domestic violence incidents will be people who already know that sometimes they don’t behave well on alcohol. Imagine if these people were able to use a recreational substance that allowed them to be part of the festivities but which did not have the side effect of inducing them to get violent or aggressive. Many of them would take it – to everyone’s benefit.

Liberalising drinking hours for the duration of the Rugby World Cup might lead to more violence, sexual assaults and people killed in car wrecks, but it need not do so. If the purpose of liberalising such laws is to create a festival atmosphere for the duration of the tournament (and nothing can bring the country together like a Rugby World Cup), then it is possible for us to have our cake and eat it.

The way to achieve this is to legalise cannabis for the duration of the Rugby World Cup.

This would not mean a repeal of cannabis prohibition, at least not yet. What it would mean is a moratorium on arrests for public outdoors cannabis use for the duration of the tournament (or at least for as long as the All Blacks are still in it). We could pass a law that said, while the World Cup was in progress, Police would ignore public possession, use and personal trading of cannabis (although commercial enterprises would still be illegal).

This would mean that people could smoke cannabis in public as they can now smoke tobacco. They could meet in bonds of love, and share good cheer with a smile and a laugh, as alcohol users are permitted to do.

One can confidently predict the result of such a move, because one can observe how people behave in places where cannabis is already legal. Making cannabis legal for the duration of the Rugby World Cup would serve to create a relaxed, convivial, celebratory atmosphere for what is arguably the Kiwi nation’s most cherished quadrennial religious festival. It would create many good memories.

This will have several benefits over and above creating a festive atmosphere. It would also show New Zealanders that they don’t necessarily have to shit and piss their pants in fear at the thought of cannabis law reform. If cannabis users were given the opportunity to show that their behaviour was preferable to drunks they would probably take it. It would allow for a much better-informed cannabis referendum debate.

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The Black Caps Can Win The World Cup If They Summon The Spirit of The Crusaders Team of 1999

Some say that you need to lose a final before you can win one, and therefore the Black Caps should win Sunday’s Cricket World Cup decider since they lost the final in 2015. Others point out that their opponents, England, have already lost three finals and are playing at home. The 2019 Black Caps, as Dan McGlashan writes, need to take their inspiration from the champion Crusaders team – of 1999.

The 1999 Super Rugby season followed a similar format to this year’s Cricket World Cup. The twelve teams all played each other in a round robin league, and then the top four played in semifinals, with the top team playing the fourth-ranked one and second playing third. The final would be played at the home ground of the highest-ranked finalist.

The Crusaders started the season with wins, but the wheels fell off the campaign in later rounds and they limped into the semifinals in fourth position. Their semifinal was away against the Queensland Reds, a team that had beaten them by 13 points during the round robin stage. To the surprise of many, the Crusaders won the game 28-22.

The lesser-favoured team also won the other semifinal, with the Otago Highlanders taking down the Stormers in South Africa. This meant that the Highlanders were the highest-ranked finalist, having been third at the end of the pool stage to the Crusaders’ fourth. The final would therefore be at Carisbrook, Dunedin.

Despite having qualified fourth, and despite having to win away, the Crusaders were able to overcome. They won the final 24-19 despite the hostile Otago crowd and the gallant efforts of the Highlanders.

The Black Caps have had a similar campaign this year. Their World Cup started with a number of wins against the easy teams, and then some very tight games, and then some losses. Consequently, they limped into the semifinals in fourth place.

India was heavily favoured to win the semifinal, having only lost one game during the round robin. However, vulnerabilities had been exposed in the Indian win against Afghanistan, and the Black Caps took advantage to win the fixture by 18 runs.

That the Black Caps have not been favoured to win is an understatement. Smarter media pundits, such as VJM Publishing, have been reporting for years that this Black Caps unit is an excellent side: their players stack up statistically to the world’s best, they’re better man-for-man than the 2015 side and we believed years ago that they could be the No. 1 ODI side in the world.

The mainstream media, by contrast, has been spewing out pessimistic garbage. They don’t simply remember the sporting landscape of 1999 – they’re stuck in it. Hence, they write as if the Black Caps were still as unfavoured as the team of 1999.

This garbage, however, could be used as fuel to spark a fire, the kind of fire that inspired Andrew Mehrtens to give a one-fingered salute to a raucous Bulls crowd on his way to leading the Crusaders to the 1999 title.

It’s true that the English team is probably the favourites. Not only are they the No. 1 ranked ODI team in the world, but they also beat the Black Caps in their pool stage encounter. This isn’t a bad thing from the Black Caps’ perspective – it just means that they have to do two things.

The first is to go to the final with an attitude of defiance. It’s probably fair to say that the 2015 Black Caps side were a little overawed by the occasion of a Cricket World Cup final. They were playing in the 90,000-seat home stadium of the five-time world champions. The Black Caps looked, and played, nervously that day. Those nerves may have led to incorrect decisions being made.

The 2019 side shows no sign of this. Kane Williamson has been a colossus of silk and steel who plays with the self-belief of a prophet of God, and his lieutenants all have experience from playing in the last final. Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult and Matt Henry have all played multiple World Cup knockout games by now, with Guptill and Henry even winning Man of the Match in two of them.

They need to take this newly-won confidence into the final, then double down on it. Let them rage coldly against their doubters, against the sheep-like mockers. Let them take the field with the belief that they’re not there to do well or evenly merely to win, but to write their names into history.

For a second thing, they have to do something new that England isn’t expecting.

That something unexpected might be swapping Guptill and Tom Latham in the batting order. If Latham opened the batting with Henry Nicholls, the Black Caps would have their two best leavers of the ball to see out the first six overs. So far this World Cup, the ball has not swung much past the six over mark, and so surviving this period becomes crucial (as India found out to their dismay).

Opening with Guptill makes sense if the bat dominates the ball, as it has done for most of the past four years. If the ball dominates the bat, however, as has been the case for much of this World Cup, Guptill tends to nick off or miss a moving one early and get out. Better to have Latham and Nicholls deal with this, then to have Guptill come in at 5 once Williamson and Taylor have seen off the main danger.

Nothing needs to change in the bowling department. The Black Caps produced one of their greatest ever bowling performances in the semifinal, with lethal accuracy up front and then a dogged refusal to give away bad balls as the innings progressed. If they can bowl that well again, or even close to it, England will have to play extremely well to score 270 or more.

The Black Caps need to summon the iron-willed spirit of the 1999 Crusaders team. Then they can go into an away final against a favoured opponent with the attitude of sticking it up all of them, their crowd and their media. This need not mean they go against their established culture of goodwill and fair play – it just means they have to play with a bit more steel in the spine.

Summon the spirit of the Crusaders side of 20 years ago, and the Black Caps could be world champions on Monday morning.

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Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan and published by VJM Publishing, is the comprehensive guide to the demographics and voting patterns of the New Zealand people. It is available on TradeMe (for Kiwis) and on Amazon (for international readers).

The Black Caps ODI Bowling and Batting in 2019 Compares Well To Great Players of the Past

The 2019 Black Caps are arguably the best ODI side that New Zealand has ever produced. But how good are they in comparison to their historical peers of other nations? Numbers man Dan McGlashan, author of Understanding New Zealand, looks at how our bowling and batting compares to some great lineups of the past.

Some people call Trent Boult the ‘White Akram’ for his relentlessly accurate line and mastery of seam and swing at 140km/h. If you compare Boult’s numbers to Akram’s, Boult comes out looking very well indeed.

Wasim Akram’s ODI career stretched from 1984 to 2003. Over these two decades, he racked up a truly phenomenal 502 wickets at an average of 23.52. Compared to the bowlers of his era, Akram had a bowling average 24% lower that the average of all bowlers from those same years (the overall bowling average between 1984 and 2003 was 29.19).

Compared to the bowlers of his era, however, Boult’s bowling average of 24.80 is 28% lower (the overall bowling average between 2012 and 2019 is 31.92). This is extremely impressive if one considers that it means that Boult is even more of an outlier in comparison to his international ODI fast-bowling peers than Wasim Akram was.

Despite the memories of him as an outstandingly destructive bowler, Akram’s strike rate is not as impressive as his economy rate. Akram’s strike rate of 36.2 is only 6% better than the average strike rate of his era (38.5). His economy rate of 3.89, however, is a full 16% better than the average economy rate between 1984 and 2003.

This is not so much true of Boult. The Kiwi paceman’s strike rate of 29.3 is 23% better than the average strike rate during his career, and his economy rate of 5.06 is 5% better than the global economy rate of 5.31 during this time. He is like Akram in that his accuracy allows for both economy and strikepower, only Boult has more of the latter and Akram more of the former.

If Boult is the White Akram, then Matt Henry is the White Waqar Younis. As Younis was to Akram, Henry is more expensive than Boult but also more destructive with the ball.

Compared to the bowlers of his era, Younis had a bowling average 23% lower than the average of all bowlers from those same years (the overall bowling average between 1989 and 2003 was 29.40). This is roughly similar to Akram, but where Younis was really impressive was his strike rate of a wicket every 30.5 balls. This was 26% better than the 38.4 average global strike rate during Younis’s career.

Compared to the bowlers of his era, Henry has a bowling average 29% lower than his peers (the overall bowling average between 2014 and 2019 is 32.27). Incredibly, his strike rate of 27.2 is 32% better than the global average of 35.9 during his career. This means that, statistically, Henry is an even more destructive bowler than Waqar Younis was – even after you account for the fact that strike rates are lower nowadays.

Some of Henry’s detractors claim that he is hittable, but this is no more true of Henry than it was of Younis. Younis was 1.8% more expensive than the average of his era; Henry is 1.7% more expensive. These are very slim margins compared to the average bowler, and more than compensated for by the vastly superior strike rate.

If you’re surprised that the Black Caps’ ODI opening bowling duo has stats that back up well when compared to arguably the best new-ball pair of all time, get ready for another surprise. Their top-order batting trio of Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor have stats that back up well when compared to those of Mathew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn.

Guptill and Hayden have almost identical batting averages: 43.87 vs. 43.80. For Guptill, this represents being 40% above the average cost of a wicket over the years of his career (31.28). For Hayden, it represents being 48% above the average cost of a wicket over the years of his (29.66).

When it comes to strike rate, Hayden’s 78.96 was right on the average strike rate of his time (79.28), despite his reputation as a massive hitter. Guptill is worth an extra couple of runs per 100 balls, with a strike rate of 87.99 compared to the global average of 86.96 during his career.

For Guptill to have roughly equal stats to those of the Australian opener from their greatest ever batting era is amazing enough, but there are two others in the Black Caps lineup who compare just as favourably to their counterparts in that great Aussie side.

At No. 3, Williamson’s numbers come out looking very good compared to Ponting’s. The Kiwi captain’s average of 45.85 is 45% above the average wicket during his career. The former Australian captain’s average of 42.03 is slightly behind this benchmark, at 40% above the average.

Ponting’s strike rate was relatively better, however: his 80.39 is right on the era strike rate of 80.66. Williamson’s 82.32, by contrast, is 6% slower than the average batsman of his time. In Williamson’s favour, though, he is still only 29, and therefore only just now entering the peak of his career. His numbers might well be even more impressive in six years’ time.

At No. 4, Taylor has fashioned a record that compares well to players in any time and era. His average of 48.55 is 56% higher than the average batting average throughout his career (31.05). Martyn’s average of 40.80, while much higher than the 29.66 global average during his career, was only 38% higher.

That means that, as much as Martyn was a rock at 4 for Australia, Taylor is even more so for New Zealand.

Overall, when one compares the statistics of some of our current crop of Black Caps to their contemporaries, the distance they are ahead of the average compares well to some of the great players of days past. Not only is this a highly underrated Black Caps side, but they have an entirely realistic chance of winning the World Cup this year.

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Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan and published by VJM Publishing, is the comprehensive guide to the demographics and voting patterns of the New Zealand people. It is available on TradeMe (for Kiwis) and on Amazon (for international readers).

Matt Henry Is Now The Most Underrated Player In The Black Caps

In 2017, numbers man Dan McGlashan explained how Ross Taylor was the most underrated player in the Black Caps. In 2018, he explained how that mantle had passed to Henry Nicholls. This year, as McGlashan will show in this article, the most underrated player in the Black Caps is Canterbury’s Matt Henry.

Trent Boult is undoubtedly the hero of the Black Caps bowling attack. In ODIs, he has taken 148 wickets at an average of 24.83. Currently ranked No. 2 in the world for ODI bowling, many would go as far as to argue that Boult was the Black Caps’ most influential player. Everyone knows that his opening spell is crucial to the team’s success.

Few such accolades fall on Matt Henry. Far from being considered the spearhead, his place in the side seems far from certain. Many fans appear to prefer Tim Southee or even fringe candidates such as Scott Kuggeleijn or Hamish Bennett. However, much like Henry Nicholls a year ago, Henry has put up some excellent numbers that, if considered in context, mark him as a potentially world-class option.

If one looks simply at the numbers, Henry is not far behind Boult. From 44 games, he has taken 81 wickets at an average of 25.60. He hasn’t had as much gametime as many think he deserved, but this has kept him hungry and injury-free, and I’m predicting we’ll see some New Zealand records broken by him in the future.

He’s been especially good against the Asian teams, with 20 wickets against Pakistan at 20.25, 21 wickets against Sri Lanka at 18.38, and 11 against India at 19.09. Considering that the 2023 Cricket World Cup will be hosted in India, that marks him out as one to watch.

Henry doesn’t just threaten records on the smaller scale. He is also threatening Shane Bond’s record of 54 matches for the fastest Black Caps bowler to 100 ODI wickets. Henry has taken 81 wickets in 44 games, meaning he has to take 19 in nine to break the record and 19 in 10 to equal it.

At his current rate of 1.84 wickets per match, Henry will reach the milestone in 55 games, one more than Bond and one fewer than Boult.

Another Shane Bond-related stat is that Henry has a better strike rate – Bond took 29.2 balls per wicket compared to Henry’s 27.9. Bond took four wickets or more 11 times in 82 matches, while Henry has already done so 8 times in only 44 matches. Bond did it once every 7.5 matches, Henry has done it once every 5.5 matches.

In fact, Henry has one of the ten best strike-rates of all time for a bowler who has taken 50 or more ODI wickets. Measured by strike rate, he’s ahead of Waqar Younis, Brett Lee, Shaoib Ahktar and Allan Donald.

The only criticism that one might level at Henry, in comparison to Bond and Boult, is that he is hittable. When people make this argument, they refer to his economy rate of 5.50, which is expensive in comparison to the 5.07 of his contemporary Boult (let alone Bond’s truly excellent economy rate of 4.28). Henry has yet to earn the respect of opposition batsmen playing him out as Bond, Boult and Vettori had.

In any case, I’m not arguing that Henry is an all-time great just yet. Despite the stats and despite his excellent lines and seam movement, he’s certainly not above criticism when it comes to mastery of length. His predictable hit-the-top-of-off approach, while difficult to play effectively, makes it possible to premeditate slogs down the ground or over midwicket.

However, I’m certainly not arguing that Henry is the finished product just yet either. Being only 27 years old, he still has plenty to learn when it comes to canniness and cunning. Although a weapon with the new ball, his bowling at the death has exposed his lack of variations. I am predicting for him to learn these variations and to become a great.

In the end, the fairest way is to rate Henry is according to the standards of his peers.

Since the last Cricket World Cup, Henry is 15th on the list of bowling averages for players from the major nations (minimum 40 wickets). Weighing more heavily is his current ranking in the top 10 of ODI bowlers, reflecting the large proportion of top-order wickets he has taken. If one considers that he was as high as 4th in 2016, the last time he got a consistent run in the side, then it’s already apparent that he’s underrated.

But there’s more. Henry currently sits 43rd on the list of all-time lowest bowling averages for players who have taken 75 or more ODI wickets. His average of 25.60 puts him ahead of Shane Warne, Dale Steyn and Pat Cummins. This century, his average puts him 25th. That’s an excellent return for a player who some think doesn’t deserve a spot in the Black Caps’ starting XI.

By any meaningful statistical measure, the performances that Matt Henry has delivered in the ODI jersey are almost as good as Trent Boult’s. If one considers that Henry’s role in the team is to take wickets with the new ball, then the danger he represents is roughly equal.

All of this is enough to declare him the most underrated player currently in the Black Caps side.

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Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan and published by VJM Publishing, is the comprehensive guide to the demographics and voting patterns of the New Zealand people. It is available on TradeMe (for Kiwis) and on Amazon (for international readers).

Are the Black Caps of 2019 Better Than The 2015 Cricket World Cup Team?

The last Cricket World Cup is considered by many Black Caps fans to be their team’s finest moment, having made it as far as the final for the first time ever. Numbers man Dan McGlashan, author of Understanding New Zealand, thinks that this 2019 team might be an even better side than that one. This article compares the Black Caps side that will contest the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England with the side that played in the 2015 edition of the tournament.

First opener: Martin Guptill vs. Martin Guptill

The 2019 Martin Guptill has averaged a cracking 50.01 since the last CWC, at a strike rate of 94.70. He’s scored nine centuries in those 61 games, more than in the previous 108 games of his career. This is good enough to see him ranked 8th in the world. What’s more, he appears to be getting better and better.

Before the 2015 CWC, Guptill had a career average of 37.11. He was known as a very good player, with five one-day hundreds, but was not considered excellent. Having played 99 matches, this was about one century per 20 innings, compared to one century per seven innings since then. His century in the last pool match of the 2015 CWC was the start of this hot streak.

It’s the same player, only the 2019 version is more professional, making much better decisions, and making them with more authority. Because the pitches are expected to be flat during this World Cup, there is a good chance that Guptill will play another innings of 180+. He remains the most likely Black Cap to win the match with the bat.

2019 Black Caps 1, 2015 Black Caps 0

Second opener: Henry Nicholls vs. Brendon McCullum

Henry Nicholls has been outstanding recently in Tests, but opening an ODI is different to batting No. 5 in the white clothing. It’s not easy to tell how well he will do as opener, other than to guess based on well he has gone so far, mostly batting in the middle order: 41 matches since the 2015 CWC, averaging 35.48.

Brendon McCullum was on an outstanding run of form leading up to the 2015 tournament. Across 20 matches in the 2014/15 season, he scored 636 runs at an average of 33.47 and an astonishing strike rate of 140.70. This strike rate was so high it meant he scored his runs in fewer than four overs on average, leaving plenty for the other teammates.

Nicholls might have a better average than McCullum, but his role in the team is different, and he will not get the Black Caps off to the same starts as McCullum. However, he is less likely to put Williamson in early either. Perhaps it could also be said that Nicholls was more likely to score a century, but a strike rate of 140 cannot be fully compensated for.

2019 Black Caps 0, 2015 Black Caps 1

No. 3: Kane Williamson vs. Kane Williamson

Williamson averages 47.01 since the last CWC, which is good enough to see him ranked equal 11th in the world. Although he hasn’t been as spectacular as Guptill and Taylor, he has still been extremely solid, scoring five centuries in that time. One feels that it has only been the bounce of the ball and good bowling that has prevented him from scoring bigger.

The 2015 Williamson did not perform well in the knockout stages of the 2015 tournament, his highest score in the three matches being 33 against the West Indies. Although he averaged 45 at the time of the tournament, and had definitely come of age, he was not able to play many truly dominant innings in 2015.

The 2019 edition of the Black Caps captain is even calmer and more professional than the 2015 one. Also, thanks to his IPL experience, he is much better at hitting, and no longer simply relies on being hard to get out. He is, therefore, a more complete player, despite his numbers not showing a significant difference.

2019 Black Caps 1, 2015 Black Caps 0

No. 4: Ross Taylor vs. Ross Taylor

The 2015 Ross Taylor already had a claim to being New Zealand’s finest one-day batsman. At the start of the CWC that year, Taylor had 12 ODI centuries at an average of 41.75. This was a better record than anyone except for Nathan Astle. He had carried the batting for some years before McCullum, Guptill and Williamson came along and was by now the senior pro in the side.

Post eye-surgery Taylor has been something else. Since the 2015 CWC, Taylor has averaged a phenomenal 68.85, with eight centuries. His position as the greatest Kiwi one-day batsman ever is now certain, with Williamson the only possible challenger. His career average is now over 48, and if he continues in anything like the same form it will soon be 50.

One gets the feeling that, with Latham injured for some matches and replaced by the inexperienced Tom Blundell, Taylor might play the last line of real defence before the hitters come in. If that is so, his cool and professional approach will make his efforts at 4 crucial to the success of this campaign.

2019 Black Caps 1, 2015 Black Caps 0

Keeper-batsman: Tom Latham vs. Luke Ronchi

At time of writing, it still isn’t clear how many matches Latham will miss on account of his finger fracture, however it’s assumed that he will be back for the later pool games and any eventual knockouts. Although Latham is still a junior player in the side, he has averaged 37.86 since the last CWC and has cemented his spot at 5. He has shown that he can both rebuild and hit from the middle order.

Since hitting 170 against Sri Lanka just before the 2015 CWC, Ronchi was poor, averaging only 15.13 for the remainder of his career. Although this came at a strike rate of just over 100, it wasn’t enough runs to make an impact. His duck in the 2015 CWC final underlined this.

Latham might lack the big hitting ability of Ronchi, but is much more likely to score runs. Latham’s strike rate of 86 since the last World Cup is perfectly fine anyway. This is another clear win for the 2019 side, whose batting is significantly stronger overall.

2019 Black Caps 1, 2015 Black Caps 0

All-rounder: Jimmy Neesham vs. Corey Anderson

Jimmy Neesham has been in and out of the team in recent years, but his latest performances suggest that he has found a good vein of form. In the eight matches he has played since his comeback to the side, he has averaged 68 with the bat and 22.90 with the ball. Incredibly clean hitting has been a feature of his presence in the middle order.

Corey Anderson has had rotten luck with injuries, but at the time of the 2015 CWC he was putting up some good numbers with both bat and ball. He played a number of good hands in the 2015 tournament, most notably scoring a half-century and taking three wickets in the semifinal. Although a dynamic player, he was a loose one.

On balance, Anderson wins this because Neesham has not played many games recently. But chances are high that we see at least one spectacular innings from Neesham this World Cup, on account of that his hitting ability will find good use on the flat English decks. Whether Neesham can achieve Anderson’s consistency remains to be seen.

2019 Black Caps 0, 2015 Black Caps 1

Batting all-rounder: Colin de Grandhomme vs. Grant Elliott

Colin de Grandhomme is still a bit of an enigma in this Black Caps side. Although capable of massive hitting and incisive bowling, he remains a distinctly hit and miss player, especially with the ball. He has only spent three seasons in the team, but has scored over 400 runs at an average of 29 and strike rate of 110.

Elliott is known for playing the starring role in the greatest game in Black Caps history, the semifinal of the 2015 CWC. His inclusion in the Black Caps side was patchy up until the season of the tournament, but after the start of 2015 he averaged over 40 with the bat at a strike rate of almost 100. He made a reputation for himself as a batsman who could play any role.

It’s not certain that de Grandhomme has the skills to cope with a truly top-level attack, whereas Elliott scored 80s in both a World Cup semifinal and final. Moreover, de Grandhomme averages 46.33 with the ball and is unlikely to play much of role in that discipline in England. De Grandhomme could play some good innings in England, but he won’t be expected to star.

2019 Black Caps 0, 2015 Black Caps 1

First seamer: Trent Boult vs. Trent Boult

Boult was an unknown in the Black Caps one-day setup until shortly before the 2015 CWC. He had only played 16 ODIs for New Zealand before the tournament began, and was regarded by most as a Test specialist a year beforehand. Many pundits thought that his nagging medium-fast bowling would prove easily hittable.

By 2019, he is solidly established as New Zealand’s premiere new ball bowler. He is rightly ranked 2nd in the world, behind only Jasprit Bumrah. Since the end of the last CWC he has taken 107 wickets at an average of 24.59, which, if one considers the high-scoring nature of this era, is almost as good as the best years of Hadlee and Bond.

The 2019 Boult is getting some of his deliveries up to 145km/h, without losing any of the accuracy that he is known for. This makes him even more dangerous than before. As with Guptill, Williamson and Taylor, Boult is simply a more skilled and more professional version of the player he was at the time of the 2015 CWC.

2019 Black Caps 1, 2015 Black Caps 0

Second seamer: Matt Henry vs. Tim Southee

Since the 2015 Cricket World Cup, the conditions of the game environment have changed. Pitches are much flatter, especially in England. Naturally, bowling averages have gone up. This means that it has been much harder than before to take wickets cheaply.

Nevertheless, Henry has taken 55 wickets since the last CWC, at an average of 29.72. Southee has taken 54 wickets, despite playing 12 more matches than Henry, at an average of 41.46. Many will be surprised to hear that Henry has taken more wickets since the final against Australia, on account of that he has played so many fewer games, but that only underlines how effective he has been.

Henry is currently ranked 14th in the world in ODIs, notably ahead of Dale Steyn (16th) and Mitchell Starc (22nd), and was in the top 10 last time he had an extended run in the side. Southee is languishing at 40th. At the start of the 2015 CWC, Southee was ranked 21st, but it’s doubtful that he was as good as Henry is now.

2019 Black Caps 1, 2015 Black Caps 0

Third seamer: Lockie Ferguson vs. Adam Milne

Ferguson is the latest addition to the Black Caps seam battery. Over the past two years, he has been impressive, taking 38 wickets at an average of 23.76. Those are good enough numbers to have seen him climb to 21st in the world rankings, higher than even Mitchell Starc. Although he is still raw, some of the deliveries he puts down would have made Shane Bond proud.

Milne has been bedevilled by injuries, since even before the 2015 CWC. Because of this, he has never been able to get a good run of form going, and as such has only taken 41 wickets in 40 matches, at a career average of 38.56. Despite being economical, Milne has struggled to do real damage with the ball, and at the time of the 2015 tournament was not considered a major strike threat.

Although Milne was just as fast, Ferguson is a much more incisive bowler. Without much precision in either line or length, Milne’s raw pace was hittable. Ferguson has both of those qualities as well as a greater ability to swing the ball. He makes an excellent change of pace for the times when Boult and Henry cannot break through.

2019 Black Caps 1, 2015 Black Caps 0

Spinner: Mitchell Santner vs. Dan Vettori

Santner has cemented a place in the Black Caps ODI side thanks to frugal spin bowling and big hitting from the lower order. Early last year he had an ODI bowling ranking of 7th, thanks to a truly miserly economy rate of 4.68 over his last 50 games. He also averages a handy 27.53 with the bat, and a more than handy 32.30 over the past two seasons. At his favoured position of 8 he averages 37.73.

Vettori, however, was rated as one of the world’s best ODI bowlers before his 2015 swansong. Although he was only 14th in the rankings at the time, he had been ranked as high as 1st, on account of his fiendishly tight fingerspin bowling. By 2015, it was accepted worldwide that the way to deal with Vettori was to just play him out. Hitting him out of the attack was all but impossible.

Santner might well be as good as Vettori at the 2023 CWC, but this is probably one tournament too early for the peak of his career. He certainly has potential to play some decisive roles with both bat and ball this season, but Vettori was a proven performer who was once ranked No. 1 at his chosen discipline.

2019 Black Caps 0, 2015 Black Caps 1

Total – 2019 Black Caps 7, 2015 Black Caps 4

For all the hype around the 2015 Black Caps, and for all the hype around England and India in 2019, few appear to realise quite how strong the 2019 Black Caps side is. Not only will it field three batsmen with higher career averages than Ricky Ponting, but it will also have three seamers with averages below 29, which are fine numbers in this era.

This means that the 2019 side has three of the Black Caps’ best ever batsmen, all in career-best form, as well as a guaranteed 40 overs of world-class bowling, compared to 25-30 at the last tournament. In all, they should be at least as strong a contender as at the 2015 CWC, and must be considered one of the favourites for the title.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

The Tao of Rugby

The Tao is in everything. More fundamental than words, more fundamental than forms, the eternal interplay of yin and yang is one powerful way of understanding the reality we are presented with. As the Super Rugby season begins, and in a year of fixtures that contains a Rugby World Cup, we take a look at the Tao of rugby.

The flowing blitzkrieg of an All Blacks backline move is often the first thing a person sees when they are new to the game. It’s impressive because it’s high skill executed at high pace. It’s all very yang and masculine, because it’s fast and dynamic, but there’s another side to the game, because the backs can’t do anything without the ball.

The forwards might be slow, but without the ball the team can only really go backwards. So it doesn’t matter that these players are slow, as long as they are strong, because strength is the main factor that determines who wins a contest for ball possession. The forwards are therefore like the yin: underappreciated, but just as necessary as the rest.

In this sense, a rugby team is like a taijitu. The backs as yang, and the forwards as yin. Both are entirely necessary for the correct operation of a rugby team, because the backs can score points but have trouble winning the ball, and the forwards can win the ball but have trouble scoring points. Neither is superior to the other, and neither can be complete without the other.

There is a deep spiritual truth in this. One solution to the question of the meaning of life is just to play one’s role, whatever that should be. A prop might envy the fitness and speed of the backs, and a winger might envy the strength of the forwards, but at the end of the day all either can do is just to play their role.

The rugby ball, being shaped in such a manner as to prevent it being passed along the ground soccer-style, represents the very centre of the taijitu. This is the position that Taoists refer to as the “unwobbling pivot”, on account of that the rest of the system revolves around it. Without a ball that can bounce in unpredictable ways, there is no game of rugby.

This ball is a very chaotic element, as can be seen on every occasion when a high ball is allowed to hit the ground (and often when it isn’t). In this sense, it also represents Fortune. For a New Zealander of the 21st century, instead of saying “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh”, we say “That’s just the bounce of the ball.” The sentiment is precisely the same.

These patterns within patterns are part of the reason why rugby is now more of a religion in New Zealand than religion is.

The purpose of religion is not anything to do with any spiritual insights that it may confer. This is merely a ruse. The real purpose of religion is to bind a society together by bringing all of the disparate groups together in a state of equality before something absolute. God knows no division of class or race, and therefore all are equal before God, whether rich or poor.

Coming together in the name of God is an extremely powerful tool for creating social bonds, but New Zealand can no longer attempt to do this in the name of Christianity. That tradition is dead, but it’s not the only way that Kiwis can come together as one.

Rugby also serves this purpose. Rugby serves to bring Kiwis together in a way that no religion or Government enterprise can. At an All Blacks game, one sits in the stand, and it doesn’t matter if the person next to you if of a different class or gender – you are there for the same purpose, to give your energy to the same spectacle. You are all equal before something greater: the ritualised warfare that is rugby.

All of this goes double for those who actually play the game. Because mainstream religion is not inspiring to New Zealanders, we have to learn our moral lessons elsewhere – and historically this has been on the sports field.

On the sports field, we learn that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Sometimes you play well and lose, and sometimes you play poorly and win. We learn that arrogance usually leads to a comeuppance of some sort. We learn that a hard tackle is no less hard because the person delivering it was white or brown, or because the person receiving it was rich or poor.

We learn that the bounce of the ball favours neither the international superstar nor the 8-year old. All are equal before the whims of the prolate spheroid, which is, to the Kiwi, the form of God, distributing blessings according to a pattern that cannot be understood by mere mortals. We learn to adopt the humility that is the only correct response to such an almighty force.

So when people say that rugby is a religion to Kiwis, they’re more accurate than even they might realise. Rugby is to us what Taoism was to the everyday folk of ancient China, both bonding the community together and instructing its members about the mysteries of life, luck and death.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

India in New Zealand 2019, First ODI Preview

Having defeated the victorious finalists of the previous World Cup in a 3-match ODI series in Australia earlier this month, the Indian cricket juggernaut now sets its sights on the Black Caps. They will contest a 5-match series beginning tomorrow at 3pm in Napier, which will tell us a lot about how the respective teams match up before the World Cup in England this winter.

The market is expecting a close encounter, with the Black Caps currently paying $2.34 on BetFair to India’s $1.72. India and New Zealand are ranked 2nd and 3rd in the world respectively in ODIs right now, so the series promises to be a heavyweight clash. Both sides will be looking to fine-tune their XIs before the World Cup.

For the Black Caps, there are three major questions to be settled.

The first relates to the form of Colin Munro at the top of the order. The Black Caps have persisted with Munro at the top in the hope that he could replicate his T20 form there. In that format he is one of the world’s best openers, but in ODIs he only averages 26, and 23 from his last 30 matches. In T20Is he averages 33 at a strike rate of 161, and the plan is for him to do what Brendon McCullum did in 2015.

If Munro stays, the Black Caps have a settled top order of Munro, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. This will be a good enough top order to mount a serious challenge at the World Cup. If Munro is not selected, they might bring in another hitter such as Glenn Phillips, or (more likely) move Latham up from 5, which would bring with it its own questions.

The second question relates to the middle order, in particular positions 5, 6 and 7.

To some extent, the answer to this question depends on the first. If it is decreed that Munro is good enough as Guptill’s opening partner, then Tom Latham bats 5 and keeps wicket. The question then becomes whether the Black Caps choose a hitter like Henry Nicholls at 6, or an all-rounder like Jimmy Neesham. Nicholls’s blazing 124* off 80 in the Black Caps’ last outing against Sri Lanka may have secured him this spot, because such innings will be necessary in England.

If they choose Nicholls at 6, then it becomes necessary to play an all-rounder at 7. This will be either Neesham or, more likely, Colin de Grandhomme. If Munro is not favoured at the top of the innings, then Latham will move up to opener, with Nicholls moving up to 5 and then probably Neesham and de Grandhomme at 6 and 7, which would give captain Williamson a range of bowling options.

The third question relates to Trent Boult’s new ball partner. That Boult is the premier bowler in the country is not contested: he has taken 89 wickets at an average of 26 since the 2015 Cricket World Cup. He will lead the attack in England and the only question is who will partner him.

Until recently, Tim Southee had a lock on the position. This was a combination of incumbency and reward for his outstanding performances in the 2015 tournament. But he has averaged 44 with the ball since then, having only taken 48 wickets in 43 matches. He seems to have fallen out of favour with the selectors as well, having seemingly been dropped for recent matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The position of Boult’s partner now appears to be a two-horse race between Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson. Until recently, Henry would have had a solid grasp on the position. He has 71 ODI wickets at just under 27, and was once ranked as high as the 7th best ODI bowler in the world. He only played 6 ODIs in 2017 and 2018 combined, however, and some feel that Lockie Ferguson has already surpassed him.

Ferguson continues to impress as well – he only has 45 ODI wickets but has taken them at an average of 24. Either he or Henry would be hot for the position of Boult’s partner, with Tim Southee’s variations possibly enough to see him take the third seamer’s spot. It might be that Henry is the better new ball choice and Ferguson the better choice in the death overs, so they might both be selected.

Predicted XI for tomorrow:

  1. Guptill
  2. Munro
  3. Williamson
  4. Taylor
  5. Latham
  6. Nicholls
  7. Neesham
  8. Santner
  9. Henry
  10. Ferguson
  11. Boult

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Dan McGlashan is the man with his finger on the pulse of New Zealand culture. His book, Understanding New Zealand, is the comprehensive guide to the demographics and voting patterns of the New Zealand people. It is available on TradeMe (for Kiwis) and on Amazon (for international readers).

The Case For Four Specialist Seamers in the Black Caps

A recent article argued that this is the best ever Black Caps Test side. Even so, there’s scope for the Black Caps to get even better. There is plenty of talent on the sideline as well, and finding a way to find some of it in the run-on XI might make the team stronger – as this article will examine.

The Black Caps have never had a batting foursome as good as Williamson-Taylor-Nicholls-Watling. The first two stand alongside Martin Crowe as the best the country has ever produced. Watling has been world-class as a wicketkeeper-bat and Nicholls has already broken into the top 10 Test batting rankings. Moreover, our two openers in Latham and Raval are as good as any since John Wright and Bruce Edgar.

The Black Caps aren’t lacking the ability to build big innings, and they already have Nicholls and Watling as batsmen capable enough to rebuild after a top order failure. There is therefore no need for an insurance batsman at 7, especially if this means that a good chunk of overs have to be bowled by a non-specialist.

With batting that good, we can afford to lose a bit of extra batting at 7 for the sake of strengthening the bowling. In other words, we could consider not playing an all-rounder in that role, but rather a bowling all-rounder like Mitchell Santner or Matt Henry.

The Black Caps could field a team of:

1. Raval
2. Latham
3. Williamson
4. Taylor
5. Nicholls
6. Watling
7. Santner
8. Henry
9. Southee
10. Wagner
11. Boult

This would allow us to field an outstanding pace battery without having a weak batting unit. Probably we would open with Boult and Henry in such a situation, with Wagner playing his usual role as third seamer. Southee’s bowling would be much more dangerous than the alternatives for fourth seamer.

Such a composition would make for an exceptionally pure Black Caps side. There would be five specialist batsmen, one wicketkeeper, and five specialist bowlers.

A critic might argue that choosing such a side will increase the chances of being bowled out cheaply. The counter argument to that is to say that a pace battery of Boult, Henry, Wagner and Southee would wreck opposition teams so regularly that we would get away with a tiny extra chance of a batting collapse if it meant more overs from a truly dangerous bowler.

In any case, all four of them can bat a bit. Henry (19), Southee (17), Boult (14) and Wagner (12) all average in the double figures. A tail with Mitchell Santner at 7, who averages 25 and has the promise to average 30, would be just as good batting-wise as one with an all-rounder at 7, Santner at 8 and one fewer specialist seamer. Bowling-wise, four seamers would be superpowered.

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Dan McGlashan is the man with his finger on the statistical pulse of New Zealand. His magnum opus, Understanding New Zealand, is the complete demographic analysis of the Kiwi people.

Is This New Zealand’s Best Ever Test Cricket Side?

If the Black Caps win the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka 2-0 – and they should – they will go to No. 2 on the ICC team rankings. The rankings go back to 2003 and New Zealand has never been higher than 3rd before. This article asks the obvious question: is this the best Test cricket side that New Zealand has ever produced?

It seems sure that this is the best Black Caps Test side since Sir Richard Hadlee was in his prime. So this article will compare the current first choice Test team (in New Zealand conditions and assuming no injuries) to the team that beat Australia 2-1 in Australia way back in 1985. The way we will do this is by comparing all 11 players as if it was a boxing scorecard.

The prime difficulty with making a comparison is that the careers of the 1985 team are completed, and so their legends are established. Some of the 2018 team are yet to play many games. This means that their total level of greatness has to be extrapolated out from what they have achieved thus far. By the same token, the 1985 players are rated according to how good they were at the time, not according to how good they may have been earlier or later.

First opener: John Wright vs. Tom Latham

The dour John Wright was the first New Zealand batsman to 4,000 runs. At the time of the 1985 Tour of Australia he had played 41 Test matches and averaged 30.91. Wright had 2,000 runs after 39 matches, whereas Latham has already scored 2,503 runs in that time, so it seems like Latham will go past him.

Tom Latham has already scored six centuries in only 39 matches, at an average of 36.27. This is similar to Wright’s career average, despite that Latham has still been learning the game. Wright was 32 years old by the time he scored his sixth Test ton, whereas Latham did so by age 26. This suggests that Latham will have a better career than Wright.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

Second opener: Bruce Edgar vs. Jeet Raval

Bruce Edgar had a first-class average of 40, but was in and out of the Black Caps over the course of his 39-Test career. He averaged 30.59, with three hundreds, and a highest-ever batting ranking of 8th, achieved in August 1983. He was ranked around 30th at the time of the 1985 Tour to Australia, making him a solid backup to John Wright.

Jeet Raval is new on the scene, having received a chance at opener only after several others had been tried, but has been dependable in his limited opportunities. He is yet to score a century in his 14 Tests, but has six half-centuries already, at an average of 33.86. His first-class average is slightly lower than Edgar’s. A world ranking of 8th seems unlikely, so this one will have to go to Edgar.

1985 Black Caps 10; 2018 Black Caps 9

First drop: John F Reid vs. Kane Williamson

John Fulton Reid was an excellent player whose finest moment was a not out 158 in Auckland in 1985, leading the Black Caps to an innings victory against a Pakistani side containing Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir. He averaged 46 from 19 Tests, and was ranked 10th at the time of the tour of Australia, having been as high as 3rd earlier that year.

Captain Kane Williamson is currently ranked 2nd in the ICC Test batting rankings, on 913 points, behind only Virat Kohli. It is the first time any Kiwi batsman has passed 900 on that scale, and reflects the fact that Williamson averages 65 over the past five years. At age 28, and with Williamson still refining his game, it seems like the best is still to come.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

No. 4: Martin Crowe vs. Ross Taylor

Martin Crowe was widely regarded as New Zealand’s greatest ever batsman, until this was challenged in recent years by not only Williamson but also Taylor. Like Reid, Crowe achieved a highest world ranking of 3rd, but Crowe was only ranked 32nd in the world at the time of the 1985 Tour to Australia – although he was good, he was yet to peak for another two years.

Ross Taylor also achieved a highest world ranking of 3rd, at least so far. He is currently ranked 16th and established as the Black Caps’ senior pro, holding several records, one of which is the highest Test score by a visiting batsman to Australia: 290. Much like their careers as a whole, comparing Crowe and Taylor at these particular points in time is too close to call.

1985 Black Caps 10; 2018 Black Caps 10

No. 5: Jeff Crowe vs. Henry Nicholls

Jeff Crowe was ranked 31st with the bat at the time of the 1985 tour, one higher than his younger brother Martin. Unlike Martin, this was as high as Jeff ever got. Henry Nicholls has climbed up to No. 9 in the world Test batting rankings, averaging 50+ over the past two calendar years, which means that he’s currently ranked higher than Ross Taylor.

Jeff Crowe managed three centuries and six half-centuries from his 39 Tests; Nicholls has three centuries and seven half-centuries from 21 Tests. At best it could be said that Crowe was a serviceable No. 5, whereas Nicholls shows every sign of becoming a genuine force there. This one handily goes to Nicholls.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

All-rounder: Jeremy Coney vs. Colin de Grandhomme

The stylish Jeremy Coney was a redoubtable batsman and a tidy medium pacer. He was ranked 13th in the world with the bat at the time of the 1985 Tour of Australia, which made him the second-highest ranked batsman in the side after Reid. He only scored three hundreds in his 52 Tests but he also scored 16 fifties, averaging 37.57.

Colin de Grandhomme is more of a 21st-century player, with incisive bowling and big hitting. It’s hard to see him averaging 37 with the bat, but he does average 35 at first-class level. Both players took 29 Test wickets, although de Grandhomme got his in a quarter of the matches. In the end, Coney’s batting is better than de Grandhomme’s batting by more than de Grandhome’s bowling is better than Coney’s bowling.

1985 Black Caps 10; 2018 Black Caps 9

Wicketkeeper: Ian Smith vs. BJ Watling

Ian Smith was a solid performer for the Black Caps for a long time. He played some great innings, most notably a 173 off 136 against India, but his Test average was only 25.56. At the time of the 1985 Tour of Australia, Smith was ranked 48th in the world with the bat, playing in a time when wicketkeepers were not expected to bat as much as they are now.

BJ Watling, however, has been world-class with both bat and gloves. He is currently ranked 22nd in the world with the bat, averaging 38.11 from 57 Tests. Although their glovework has been of a similar high standard, Watling is able to play proper innings: he has six hundreds to Smith’s two, and 16 fifties to Smith’s six, which puts him clearly ahead.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

First seamer: Sir Richard Hadlee vs. Trent Boult

Sir Richard Hadlee is comfortably ensconced as the greatest cricketer New Zealand has ever produced. Not only would he be the first name chosen for an All-Time Black Caps XI for his 431 wickets at 22.29, but he would be the only real chance of a Kiwi getting included in an All-Time World XI. He was ranked 2nd only behind Malcolm Marshall at the time of the Australian Tour, and would be around there for the remainder of his career.

Trent Boult is the current leader of the Black Caps attack, and has taken 222 wickets from 57 matches at an average of 28.14. Hadlee averaged 23.83 after 57 matches, which means that the gap between him and Boult was not tremendous. Boult’s highest Test bowling ranking is No. 2, which suggests that he could yet achieve greater things.

1985 Black Caps 10; 2018 Black Caps 9

Second seamer: Ewen Chatfield vs. Tim Southee

Ewen Chatfield was the dependable foil to Hadlee for about a decade. Ranked 13th in the world at the time of the Australia Tour, he had a career high of 4th in the world a few years later. Tim Southee is currently ranked 15th in the world with the ball, and has been ranked as high as 5th.

Those are similar rankings, and their career numbers are very similar as well. Chatfield took his career wickets at 32.17, Southee has taken his (so far) at 30.70. Curiously, Jimmy Anderson had an almost identical average to Southee after 61 Tests (Anderson was at 30.65), so Southee could become great yet, but if he gets to that level or not is anyone’s guess.

1985 Black Caps 10; 2018 Black Caps 10

Third seamer: Lance Cairns vs. Neil Wagner

Lance Cairns took 130 wickets at an average of 32.92, mostly at first change. He was ranked 10th in the world at the time of the 1985 tour, which was about as high as he ever got. A first-class average of 26.52 makes one suspect that he could have been a little better than his Test average suggests.

Neil Wagner has only played 38 Tests, but he has fashioned a world-class record at third seamer. He has taken 152 wickets at 28.49, which is a fair bit lower than what Cairns was striking at. He also averages 24.79 since the start of 2015, which was when he really nailed down a spot in the side. His highest ranking of 6th was achieved earlier this year, so he might soon do even better.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

Spinner: John Bracewell vs. Mitchell Santner

John Bracewell was an offspin bowler with the mentality of a fast bowler. He wasn’t greatly effective, taking 102 wickets in his Test career at an average of 35.81, however he did have over 500 first-class wickets at an average of under 27. He was ranked 40th in the world at the time of the Australia tour.

Left-arm orthodox Mitchell Santner is unproven at Test level, but has already shown a lot of promise. He has a slightly better strike rate with the ball than Bracewell, but a slightly higher average at this stage (17 Tests). Although they are similar with the ball, Santner is a step above Bracewell with the bat, and is likely still to improve sharply in all facets.

1985 Black Caps 9; 2018 Black Caps 10

Final verdict: 1985 Black Caps 104; 2018 Black Caps 107

The 2018 Black Caps are easily better when it comes to batting from 1-7. In Williamson, Taylor, Nicholls and Watling they have four players at the peak of their powers; the best batsman on the 1985 team was a Martin Crowe still a couple of years away from his best. Although the 1985 team also had John Wright and Jeremy Coney, they were significantly weaker with the bat overall.

It’s true that the 2018 team doesn’t have a bowler of the same class as the 1985 Sir Richard Hadlee, but their supporting bowlers are better than the team of 1985. Hadlee was a one-man show, as exhibited by the fact that he took 15 of the 20 Australian wickets to fall in the Brisbane Test of the 1985 tour. Boult, Southee and Wagner, by contrast, hunt as a pack, with able support from de Grandhomme.

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Dan McGlashan is the man with his finger on the statistical pulse of New Zealand. His magnum opus, Understanding New Zealand, is the complete demographic analysis of the Kiwi people.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Black Caps in the United Arab Emirates 2018, Second ODI Preview

The BetFair odds have narrowed since the Black Caps’ emphatic 47-run win in the first ODI, a win that included a Trent Boult hat trick. Surprisingly, though, they are still the underdogs, paying $2.26 on BetFair in the second ODI starting midnight tonight in Abu Dhabi. History suggests that this is an excellent bet – New Zealand have won their last 12 ODIs against Pakistan and won the last one with comfort.

The Black Caps will see little reason to tinker with what was a solid and effective side in the first ODI.

The core batting axis of Munro-Williamson-Taylor-Latham did the job for New Zealand, scoring 204 of the team’s 266 runs. Ross Taylor averages 61 against Pakistan and is a rock at No. 4, while Tom Latham averages 45 from his last 20 ODI matches. He struck at 106 over the course of his 68 in the first ODI, and will look to be positive again because of the expected need for high scoring from the middle order in next year’s Cricket World Cup in England.

However, the junior batsmen were poor. George Worker, Henry Nicholls and Colin de Grandhomme contributed one run between them, which meant that the bowlers had to finish the job of getting them over the line.

Worker is in the side as an injury replacement for Martin Guptill, and so the problem of weakness at opener will solve itself, but Black Caps coach Gary Stead will be concerned about that middle-order weakness as well. The balance of the side might demand that the Black Caps choose a batsman at 6 who is a more accomplished hitter than Nicholls.

Glenn Phillips is a major contender for this role, but his returns in the T20 series and in the A series before that were poor. Corey Anderson is another option, and he was excellent here for the Black Caps in the 2015 Cricket World Cup, but has been unfortunate with injury.

As far as the bowling is concerned, far too much is riding on Trent Boult.

Questions must continue to be asked about Tim Southee’s place as the opening bowler of the ODI side. Since the 2015 Cricket World Cup, Southee has averaged 43.34 with the ball, taking 43 wickets from 38 games. He neither swings nor seams the ball to any real extent, and neither is he fast or accurate. By contrast, Trent Boult has averaged 24.70, taking 79 wickets from 40 games.

Matt Henry has taken 39 wickets from his last 20 games at an average of 23.82. Incredibly, Henry only played 4 ODIs in the whole of 2017, which makes his lack of gametime seem like an appalling waste on the part of the Black Caps coaches. Dropping Southee and replacing him with Henry seems like a slam-dunk decision that would give the Black Caps the most dangerous new ball pair outside of India.

The Black Caps appear extremely vulnerable if Trent Boult doesn’t knock the top off the opposition batting order. Lockie Ferguson is a gun bowler and is improving steadily (16 wickets at 23.56 from his last 10 games), but doesn’t yet have the ability to threaten that even Henry has, much less Boult.

With Southee ineffective and de Grandhomme a true part-timer, this means that the only other attacking option is Ish Sodhi. Sodhi is a good bowler and is improving steadily – he has taken 17 wickets at 30.00 from his last 10 ODI matches. The question is whether he can pose enough of a threat with the ball for the Black Caps to not always lose the middle overs.

The big risk is that Pakistan will easily be able to consolidate once Boult finishes his first spell, because there is little threat from the rest of the bowlers. Pakistan had a century stand for the 7th wicket, and the Black Caps should rightly be worried about their ability to finish a game off.

Black Caps (probable):

1. George Worker
2. Colin Munro
3. Kane Williamson (c)
4. Ross Taylor
5. Tom Latham (wk)
6. Henry Nicholls
7. Colin de Grandhomme
8. Tim Southee
9. Ish Sodhi
10. Lockie Ferguson
11. Trent Boult

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Dan McGlashan is the man with his finger on the statistical pulse of New Zealand. His magnum opus, Understanding New Zealand, is the complete demographic analysis of the Kiwi people.