1 Jan 2019

Hamish Bidwell: More test cricket please

10:10 am on 1 January 2019

It's a world cup year, don't you know.

Tom Latham in action for the Black Caps during the second Test match against Sri Lanka in Christchurch.

Tom Latham has been a standout performer for the Black Caps this past season. Photo: PhotoSport

Never mind the rugby one, it's cricket we're talking here, which means being tantalised by a bit of test cricket followed by two months of meaningless white-ball stuff.

New Zealand have won four test series' in a row, thanks to the kinds of team performances that typify their cricket. Everyone plays their part - some more than others - but this Black Caps' test team remain a hugely admirable side who are more than the sum of their parts.

It helps that they care and they try, which leads to a sense among the rest of us of wanting them to do well.

The fact they are achieving, particularly at a time when our neighbours in Australia are not, has made the whole thing all that more satisfying.

By being beamed live to New Zealand for decades now, Australia's summer of cricket has become as much a fixture as our own. We're familiar with their players - and their fortunes - and this fallow period for their national side, plus the fall-out from it, is reaching historic proportions.

That's because test cricket still matters. Success in that format is what the best players and teams remain judged by; not the practice matches we're about to endure until New Zealand meet Bangladesh in three tests from February 28.

At least India and Australia have one test match yet to play, starting in Sydney on Thursday, which is also when the Black Caps' rotating cast of characters beings a run of 11 one-day internationals and four Twenty20s.

You say rotating because it's a world cup year and some guys need to freshen up beforehand. In come others, for whom these games are trials before, presumably, the likely line-up finally get a chance to play together.

New Zealand's Cricket World Cup campaign starts in June. In England. Very little of what happens now will be relevant then and yet out goes real cricket, to be replaced by these contrived encounters.

Trent Boult celebrates as the Black Caps remove another Sri Lankan batsman.

Trent Boult had a stellar performance with the ball against Sri Lanka in the second test in Christchurch. Photo: PhotoSport

Only, at the risk of repetition, it's a world cup year and the players need as much white-ball cricket as they can get, apparently.

It's cobblers, of course, otherwise the All Blacks would be in camp right now as well. After all, they've a world cup this year too.

No, administrators simply take us for fools at this time of year. They assume that holiday mode means taking leave of our senses and finding test cricket too complex.

We're doing such weird and wonderful things as driving in cars, spending time with people and trying to ignore our phones. We couldn't possibly absorb five days of fluctuating cricket in that situation.

So away go the whites and/or creams for both our international and domestic cricketers. That's right, the tier below are playing Twenty20 games now too, which will no doubt have folk flocking to their televisions and local ovals.

For all the Black Caps' success, this isn't rugby we're talking here. These Super Smash games, as they're called, might equate to summer's version of Super Rugby, but we're not about to see sport of quite that calibre.

That's not to belittle the players or decry their efforts. More to emphasise how good some of the test cricket New Zealand have played in beating Pakistan and now Sri Lanka has been.

Not to mention events in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series between Australia and India.

Cricket has a good product, which people can admire and take seriously. The games mean something, they're hard-won and - what's more - New Zealand are playing them as well as anyone.

It's such a shame we won't see more of it this summer.