New Zealand have lot to ponder after faltering once again on the big stage

Hannah Rowe gets bowled by Megan Schutt. ©ICC

Three years, three World Cups, and New Zealand have crumbled in pressure games all three times. In the 2016 World T20 in India, having sailed through the group stages unbeaten, they suffered a defeat at the hands of eventual champions, West Indies. Then, it was Britney Cooper— an unknown quantity— who played an inspired innings, to knock New Zealand out of the tournament.

The following year, in the 2017 World Cup in England, they suffered a thrashing at the hands of India in what was a virtual quarterfinal. After Mithali Raj’s batting master class, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, playing her first game of the tournament, scalped five wickets to derail New Zealand’s chase at the very start.

Finally, in 2018, Amy Satterthwaite’s team faltered in all three departments, first against India and then against Australia to all but get knocked out of the tournament within the first two rounds.

New Zealand’s only chance of staying in the competition is if Ireland beat India on Thursday (November 15). If that happens, net run-rate will come into the equation, but New Zealand know they will be praying for a miracle.

In recent years, New Zealand have made a habit of playing well in the lead up to a major event, coming into a world event as one of the favourites, sometimes even starting the tournament well, only to fold like a pack of cards at the business end.

“Probably of late, I don’t think we have performed that well going into a tournament, and then we haven’t performed well in the tournament,” Satterthwaite said in the post-match press conference after her team’s 33-run loss to Australia on Tuesday. “Maybe that reputation is changing a little bit!

“Either way, we want to be winning games of cricket whether it’s in tournaments or outside of tournaments. We are not doing that of late against the top teams and it is something that we have really got to address.”

Traditionally, New Zealand have always been among the top four teams in world cricket— consistently reaching the knockout stage of a tournament only to crash out once there. Much like the men’s team, they are perennial bridesmaids: always on the cusp, but never getting over the line to actually win a trophy. (Their only tournament win came in the 2000 World Cup at home).

More recently however, they have dropped off that perch. With England and Australia having broken away from the rest of the pack thanks to the increased professionalism, funding and also the introduction of T20 leagues, New Zealand have been left behind. Teams like India, West Indies and even South Africa have consistently shown improvements in their results, and have combined to somewhat nullify the threat that they pose.

The team’s over-reliance on Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine of late and the inconsistency of Satterthwaite has not helped their cause. Of the rest of the group, only Katey Martin and Leigh Kasperek have been performing consistently over the last year, with 18-year old Amelia Kerr showing flashes of brilliance. Lea Tahuhu has blown hot and cold, Maddy Green, a promising batter and the team’s vice-captain, is trying to find her feet at international level, and Hannah Rowe and Anna Peterson, who have been in and out of the squad for the past couple of years, are trying to cement their spots— the lack of depth in New Zealand cricket is evident.

“I have been playing for so long and throughout my career we have been very competitive, so to feel like we are slipping a little bit is certainly frustrating,” said Satterthwaite. “There have been lots of areas that have been highlighted in the last six months, possibly even longer, that we have got to try and really build on. Like I said earlier, it’s in all three facets of the game… I don’t think it’s one area in particular.”

“I think we have got some really talented players there, but we are not getting the performances out of them that we would like. That’s certainly one aspect of it, I guess, but it’s also about creating that depth (in New Zealand cricket) that will continue to put pressure on those players as well,” she added.

With their loss against Australia on Tuesday, New Zealand have now lost seven T20Is in a row. New Zealand have a lot of soul searching to do after this tournament. Once an automatic entry in round two, they are in danger of slipping back as the rest surge past. But Satterthwaite is clear, they still have a job at hand— to win two matches before they return home.

“It’s going to be tough— we have to admit that,” she said. “It’s all about pride to a certain extent. We have got to make sure that we keep focusing forward as much as we can. I guess it’s about trying to keep our heads up and our spirits up to ensure that we can perform on the park.”

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