When we look at the New Zealand cricket team, the first thing that comes to mind is their ‘nice guy’ image and how they have maintained it over the years. But like all things, they have their set of imperfections too and here are some of the highlights which question their default image.
The day Kane Williamson and co. stood all devastated at the Lord’s on July 14 after their forgettable defeat in the 2019 World Cup, it wasn’t just own nation lamenting the loss. All cricket fans, except the English fans, were heartbroken looking at the faces of the Black Caps and that’s nothing but the connection that people feel with this bunch of ‘nice guys’. It’s not an image built overnight, but something generation after generation have carried forward as their primary legacy. Even an aggressive captain like Virat Kohli has always refused to sledge the nice guys in cricket and that has a lot to say about how they have maintained that image. However, nothing in this world is perfect. Even the team so perfect, sportsmanship wise, as the New Zealand side have their own flaws. So here let’s take a look at some of these rare instances.
Jesse Ryder and his shenanigans
If we go through the pages of Jesse Ryder’s life, without knowing that he has played for the New Zealand team, we won’t be able to guess that he is a Black Cap. A strong, talented individual with a promising career, Ryder could’ve stayed much longer in his international career than he actually did. But the maverick that he was led to a mutual loss for him and the team, both. In early 2008, a hot-headed Ryder was found damaging a window while also injuring his hand in an attempt to enter a toilet in a bar in Christchurch. The following January, he failed to turn up for team training after getting drunk in Wellington following an ODI against the West Indies in Wellington. Following that, in 2010, Ryder was charged with serious misconduct during an indoor cricket competition in Christchurch. In 2012, he was suspended due to his involvement in a verbal dispute with buyers at a Napier bar. But the biggest of them all came in March 2013, when Ryder was attacked outside of a bar and had to spent 56 hours in an induced coma before recovering. A repeated series of misconduct issues led to his permanent sacking by the NZC.
Neil Wagner’s aggression
Look at the mainstream bowlers of the New Zealand side, like a Boult or a Southee, they would smile if they’re hit for a boundary or are unable to frustrate a batsman who has been blocking for too long and just walk back to take the next run-up. But then there is New Zealand’s most underrated Test bowler, who’s laidback otherwise but when the ball is in his hands and he is about to deliver to a batsman, even with a pace in 130s, he would easily compete with the fierceness of a Mitchell Johnson or a Dale Steyn. There’s beauty, there’s body, there’s brutality - all fashioned into a man as fierce as fire and his celebration speaks a story quite unique in the New Zealand cricket setup. He halts mid-pitch with knees somewhat bowed, and roars like a lion. When the umpire gives a nod in his favour, the celebration that follows hardly has any competition when compared to usual Kiwi celebrations.
Tim Southee on fire
The good old Timothy Grant Southee, a favourite amongst his teammates and the fans. And why not, a bowler who has been consistent for over a decade now holds a special place in the side. Last year whenever Kane Williamson was off captaincy duties, the seasoned bowler came up and took up all the responsibility without hesitation. After so many years of actually following the man’s career, you would know that he is not the aggressive kind and one would, hence, expect nothing but niceness from him. Especially, the batsman. But as David Warner pointed it out, during New Zealand’s tour of Australia in December, Southee could be not-so-nice. Southee was seemingly frustrated at the Australian opener Joe Burns and ended up throwing the ball at the stumps, after having fielded the ball, in his third over of the day. That led to an argument between Southee and Warner. "It hit his hand," Warner was captured saying. To which Southee replied: "He was standing in front of the wicket.” And, then, Warner had remarked with a pricking statement: "Come on. You're supposed to be Mr Nice Guy.”
The friction between Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum
As glorious as Brendon McCullum aka Baz’s run as captain of the New Zealand team, that reached their maiden World Cup final under him, was but it had its own issues at the beginning. After Fleming stepped down as captain, captains were chosen on the basis of natural selection. Both Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum were seen to lose interest initially and then Ross Taylor was appointed as captain after the 2011 World Cup after Vettori stepped down. However, his reign wasn’t too promising. Around July 2012, Mike Hesson was appointed coach and he didn’t seem to have built a good relationship with Taylor. Soon Taylor was offered split captaincy with McCullum asked to captain the shorter formats. Taylor hated the idea and inflicted a voluntary exile after which McCullum was named captain across all formats. Both cricketers have admitted to sharing mutual friction despite Taylor’s comeback in the team.
Kane Williamson won’t walk
People often mistake high morality with sportsmanship, the ‘spirit of the game’ with the ‘Gentleman’s game’. Kane Williamson is perhaps the most misjudged character of all time. As calm as he is on the field, he does express his rage in the dressing room after he gets dismissed. So it’s not unbelievable that Williamson keeps his batting, his captaincy and his team first. The Man of the Tournament in the 2019 World Cup, Williamson, amassed 578 runs which included his unbeaten 106 against South Africa. According to the replays and the confirmation by the Snickometer, the Proteas would have had Williamson caught behind if they had reviewed when the Kiwi skipper, batting on 76, got a thin edge on Imran Tahir’s final delivery in the 38th over. But Williamson, unlike a Warner, didn’t look back immediately after edging it and that kind of body language with an image of the nicest guy in business had Faf du Plessis all the more convinced that he didn’t edge the ball. There was some controversy on social media, but unlike Stuart Broad in Ashes 2013, Williamson got the benefit of "doubt".
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