Mike's African tour assessment

We’ve come to the end of another tour and, while we didn’t get the result we were after in the final ODI against South Africa at Kingsmead, the overall tour will be considered a major success.

Success is always measured by your results on the field. Having won five and lost four matches on tour, that in itself is pleasing.

However, there are many other measures we use for each tour, one being the amount of depth we have been able to develop over the past five weeks — some forced through injury and necessity, others through careful planning.

Most teams are competitive at home, but the real test of how good a side is, is how you perform away from home in foreign conditions.

That was the biggest challenge throughout this tour. We had to adapt, and adapt quickly, to a variety of surfaces. For the majority of the time we did that very well. 

At the end of every tour, we sit back and reflect on the things we did well and what we need to do better next time. Every time we go away we want the team to be in a better position than when we left. We certainly achieved that. 

The depth we have built bodes well for the future with the T20 World Cup next year (March 2016), the Champions Trophy in 2017 and the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 in England. We have created a squad of around 20 to 25 players who are all capable of playing ODI and T20i cricket, and winning games for the BLACKCAPS.

There was a number of success stories; both from players returning for the BLACKCAPS and players coming in for the first time to experience our environment. 

It was great to see Adam Milne back on the park and bowling at top speed again. Since the ICC Cricket World Cup, Adam has been through a frustrating period with a heel injury, and it was good to see him overcome that and produce the sort of form of which we know he is capable. 

Adam is well known for his pace, but his accuracy and consistency were also impressive.  Special thanks to the medical staff both on tour and at home who have worked with Adam through this difficult time.

Doug Bracewell also enjoyed a return to white ball cricket. In the second ODI at Potchefstroom, Doug delivered his best bowling figures (3-31) for the BLACKCAPS in an ODI. Doug had not played for us in white ball formats for the past two years, but his response has been to work harder and fight for his place in the side. That is really pleasing, and he adds further depth to our bowling stocks.

Tom Latham should have been sitting on the plane home feeling very proud of his work. Tommy has been a journeyman for us in recent times, tough for a lad of 23. He has done a lot of touring, and not a lot of playing ODIs, which is never easy — especially through times like the ICC Cricket World Cup.

But we have never heard him complain once. He has a great attitude that is all about the team-first mentality that we have tried to foster in the BLACKCAPS. Tom made three half centuries and his first ODI ton on the tour, and did everything we asked of him as an opening batsmen.

I’d like to also acknowledge Martin Guptill, who recorded his eighth and ninth ODI tons and his first against South Africa. We all know how good he is and he showed it once again during this tour.

After a lengthy layoff with a back injury, Jimmy Neesham also came back into the fold and showed flashes of what he is capable of with the bat and the ball. Still plenty of work for Jimmy to do in order to get back up to speed for international cricket.

Then there were the guys who are new to our environment. George Worker made his T20 International and ODI debut in Africa and should be proud of his efforts. George came into the side at the last minute after an injury to another allrounder, Mitchell Santner, then got more chances on tour through the injury to Ross Taylor.

He made the most of them. His 62 from 38 balls on his T20i debut was impressive and he played well to be not out in the win at Potchefstroom. George is an exciting prospect. He has fitted into our environment well and I look forward to watching George’s game evolve in the coming years.

Ish Sodhi, who has played 11 Tests for the BLACKCAPS, made his ODI debut on this tour and I am sure he learned a huge amount against some of the world’s most attacking batsmen. Ish didn’t bowl as well as he would have liked on his ODI debut, but we were really pleased with his response.

He came back superbly and, during the ODI series against South Africa, he bowled with great control when the likes of AB de Villiers, David Miller and Rilee Rossouw were looking to go after him.

Ben Wheeler, on only his second BLACKCAPS tour, continued his progress as an international bowler and is developing all the time.

In the BLACKCAPS environment we talk about fighting for everything in all three disciplines and, when pushed, this side responded with great character.

We were no doubt missing many experienced and key players in Brendon, Tim, Trent, Corey — and then lost Ross during the Zimbabwe leg of the tour, but we were still able to compete well with a world-class side in their own conditions.

It was nice to share a more relaxed time with the South African players and support staff after the Series. There is both a great rivalry and camaraderie between these two teams.   

Looking ahead, the ANZ International Series this home summer is going to be a good challenge and a lot of fun. We look forward to building on the success of the ICC Cricket World Cup and taking on Sri Lanka, Pakistan and finishing with the return of the Chappell-Hadlee Series against Australia.

First things first, though. The guys will have some downtime at home and catch up with their families. The Test squad will get into conditioning for the Series against Australia in November. It is a challenge that all of the guys are excited about as we look to win a Test Series over there for the first time since 1985/86.

As always, thanks very much to all BLACKCAPS fans, both home and abroad. We appreciate your support and we look to continue making you proud to support New Zealand’s cricket team.  


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