28 February 2015

The old rivalry

If you have a long cricketing memory, you will remember that time in 1946 when the mighty Australian cricket team, flushed with the joys of Allied victory in World War 2, deigned to play little New Zealand in a one-off test at the Basin Reserve. It was the first time Australia had been willing to play New Zealand in a test, despite the smaller country having been playing test cricket since 1930. Predictably, given the imbalance in experience and talent, the test was a massacre, with New Zealand dismissed for 42 and 54 and Australia winning by an innings and 103 runs in only two days. There the Allied spirit ended, because following that victory Australia would not play New Zealand in another test match for 27 years, or indeed any sort of international match. New Zealand was simply not worthy of Australia's time. Naturally, the lack of exposure to the world's top team limited the growth of the New Zealand team and was part of the reason it took many, many years for New Zealand to establish any sort of consistency in test cricket.

Now consider today's pivotal ODI at Eden Park between the joint hosts of the 2015 Cricket World Cup, Australia and New Zealand. It will hopefully be a tremendous occasion. But if you examine the record books, it can be seen that increasingly we are returning to the days when Australia avoided playing New Zealand as much as possible. In the last five years New Zealand has played 97 ODIs, and Australia sits low in the table of opponents, alongside Bangladesh and Zimbabwe:

ODIs opponents, past 5 years
Sri Lanka
South Africa
West Indies

The regular ODI rivalries of old, where New Zealand toured Australia regularly and often popped up in the ODI tri-series, is a thing of the past. Shamefully, New Zealand has not been permitted to play an ODI in Australia since a five-match Chappell-Hadlee series in February 2009, six years ago. (The series was drawn 2-2). And Australia has not played ODIs in New Zealand since a five-match Chappell-Hadlee return series in March 2010, which Australia won 3-2. 

Perhaps this will generate some slight advantage for New Zealand, given that the Australian squad will have comparatively little experience playing New Zealand or playing at Eden Park. But ultimately it seems like a great shame that two neighbouring countries play cricket together so infrequently, and I would argue, to the detriment of both.

See also:
Cricket: NZ v England, Wellington, 21 February 2015
Cricket: Old Young Guns, 16 February 2014
Cricket: 9504 days, 12 December 2011
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