A Niche Niche Convo

The Mystery Doctor and the Wildcard talk to each other every once in a while...

Kia ora Mr Southern Comfort Guzzling Wildcard, I trust you had a lovely Kiwi summer. How was the beach and all that?

Nah, sorry I don't care to be honest as I just want to hear what you reckon about this Black Caps World Cup squad?

Maaate. First of all, hola Doc. Second: Sunny, burny and lovely. Third of all, here we go.
Jimmy Neesham. Tough break, but not one I'm that fussed over. Not sure he'd have been a starter anyway and - the me of 5 years (or however long) ago would never believe this - I actually like the selection of Grant Elliott. He brings some grit and graft and experience, plus a different option. You need variety in these squads and Neesham can't do much that Anderson can't either (in ODIs anyway). Plus Elliott (and a guy like Kyle Mills too) with his experience is less at the whim of the cricketing demon of 'Form'. Anderson and Neesham both are and we can't afford to have them each stuttering along like they have done at times recently. Most of the squad was pretty standard and expected, though Trent Boult was a surprise. Brilliant test bowler, unproven in the shorter form. I think the latter goes for Adam Milne too, who seems to have gotten the nod over Matt Henry because his potential for x-factor pace is more valuable than Henry's consistent line and wicket-taking ability. I'd have gone the other way without a second thought.

How about you, Doc? What are your contentious selections, what do you agree and disagree with here? And most importantly, how are we gonna go in the tourney itself?

As I wrote in my Black Caps Black Book .../Diary, Jimmy Neesham did nothing to demand ODI selection in the many opportunities he had. To be honest, he only had to play 20% better and this would have been a contentious decision, but he didn't do much and kind of forced the selectors to go with Elliot. It's not as though Elliot and Mills have been selected as starters, they're experienced lads who will simply do a job so you can't really complain with that.
I think if they didn't pick Boult, they would have picked Henry because they offer a new ball threat. It's hard to see Milne getting the new ball with Southee and Boult (the best young new ball combo in the world), so he's more of a weapon throughout the innings. 
Winning won't be as easy as many people think as there are some freakishly strong squads being named. But we have depth and options so we can always show a different hand and target weaknesses. For example, how nice would a bowling attack of Southee, Boult, Anderson, Vettori and Nathan McCullum be?

I do think that attack would be one seamer short. Ideally a death bowler, probably McClenaghan. Which you can probably arrange the pieces on the board to fit, especially if you class Nate and Dan as all rounders. Elliott and Mills are definitely spare cogs, and that's why I like the selection. When you're missing a front line guy, you usually just need someone to do a job which they certainly will. That's not the time for a big gamble selection unless you don't back the rest of your team to get it done. 

One major factor that seems to have been cleared up is the openers. With B-Mac declaring his intentions, Guptill's free to play the slow starting anchor he's become accustomed to being while McCullum does what he does. Ronchi gets to be the closer, middle order is as usual. Not at all a bad structure that. I can't really imagine us winning, as much as people may say we're due, South Africa is more due. Making the Semi finals will be a success I think.

We can vary the bowling attack which is simply awesome. See I'd rather open with Tom Latham and let him and Guppy try to see off the new ball and the first 10 overs. If we're 50/0 after 10 overs then any total under the sun is achievable with out batting line up. I'd rather have B-Mac with Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi closing things out. That's pretty formidable.
I also have a horrible feeling B-Mac is going to struggle to live up to the public's standards.

For me, the Black Caps are equal with Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan. South Africa and Australia are the top dawgs while India have an awesome squad.

Well it's hard to live up to expectations with a triple hundred stamped on your forehead. But it beats the hate he used to cop at every turn. Someone, I forget who, tried to tell me he wasn't out greatest wicket-keeper/batsman ever and I laughed. At least his captaincy brings different ways he can contribute. I'd say he's possibly the best limited overs captain in the world (I'm all for grand statements today). I wanna single out another star performer in that world cup team too. I'm currently reading this book on the legendary Bert Sutcliffe (written by Richard Boock) and one thing that keeps coming into my mind is the comparison to Kane Williamson. Both dashing batsmen and quality fielders. Both decent part-time spinners. Both slim, timid and blonde-haired, neither in any way conceited or outspoken or arrogant. Bert was left-handed which is one huge point of difference, as is his more flamboyant and aggressive approach to his innings (his hook shot was a specialty). Still, it's the gifted, effortless and completely natural talent that ties it all together. One possibly our best batsman of all time, the other the man that could usurp him (Martin Crowe's in that convo too - our thoughts are with ya, Marty). The devastating thing is that Sutcliffe never played in a winning test match, while Williamson is a key part of our winningest side ever. Kane can have the career that Burt wasn't lucky enough to have.

Ah yes, it's at that point isn't it? Prince Kane is at that level in relation to his age and experience, the projection is clearly visible and undeniable. The best thing, well there's two. The first thing is how cool it is that there's three guys from three different areas who have been/could be amazing. There was a time, in the 5 or 6  years before the Prince arrived where I had no idea who that guy would be or even if we'd have a guy like that. Now we do, hopefully the Prince can kick on and continue the legacy.

The second is the person that is Prince Kane, he's the complete opposite to the name I have graved him with. He's just a true blue kiwi cat. Like Steven Adams (and Queen Val),like Richie McCaw, like Simon Mannering. Top shelf all round.

Is it fair to say that Steven Adams has completely blown out any expectations anyone had of him in the NBA?

I dunno, I think he's evolving into the player that a lot of people though he'd be, so in that regard no. But most of those people weren't kiwis who'd grown up with faint memories of Sean Marks and Kirk Penney's NBA days. And in a few weeks he'll already have played more minutes then that pair combined. For us its enough just to have a guy playing regularly against (and with) the best. The fact that he's carving out this reputation as a tough, stoic, down-to-earth and modest guy (which just happens to fit how we perceive ourselves as a nation) is just a handy bonus. I haven't seen hardly any OKC games for a while so I'm not all up to date with how he's going in the short term but it seems clear he's primed for an important role on this team for the expected playoff run. To which I say: "Chur, bro".

P.S. It's funny how many of our athletes fill that same role of persona. All those guys and girls you listed, plus the likes of Ryan Nelsen, Scott Dixon, I could go on but I don't think I have to. The kiwi battler done good. I wonder if that's a cultural thing or something we project upon our heroes.

Oh chur to the holy chur chur cuz. Yeah we might as well stick on the kiwi trooper theme, someone not as awesome but equally trooper-esque is Simon Mannering. What vibes are you getting out of the Warriors at the moment?

Not as awesome is exactly the way Captain Mannering would like it too, haha. Of all of these people, he's the ultimate fly-under-the-radar type. The Warriors... I'm confused about. It feels like a big season with big expectations but the only thing holding that back is the fact we've all been there, done that, bought (and burned) the t-shirt before. I'm gonna have to defer to you here, Doc. What should I be feeling? Excitement? Anticipation? Impending doom?

Captain Mannering. Goes nicely with all the royalty I've dished out. Captain Mannering of the Four Nations winning Kiwis might I add. Feel nothing, don't be excited because their history levels that out and don't be that "bro the Warriors suck, they always suck, they're shit bro" guy either as the Warriorrs have enough pure talent to win it all which levels that negativity. So, just, nothing. 

I'm 70% sure it won't be impending doom, so it should be all good. The issue is that besides the Raiders and Knights, I reckon every team is gonna be pretty good and those two teams are rebuilding. The Warriors can as usual beat anyone, which is amplified given they have the two of the best attacking players in the world. But can they stick with the Roosters or Rabbitohs or Bulldogs or Storm or Manly or Penrith or the Broncos or the Cowboys in a grind? Well Ryan Hoffman certainly helps that and this is Andy Mcfaddypants' first off season with the squad so I imagine he's getting what he wants from this group in terms of fitness and defence.

I reckon there's a parallel between the NZ Warriors and the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. Each have long been immensely capable of the most incredible and the most heartbreaking things on a sports field alike. The Cowboys, even if they lose to Green Bay, have had a superb season and it came amidst the lowest expectations in years. After a few years of great wins and terrible losses all levelling out in 8-8 mediocrity, it all came together when nobody expected it. That's how the Warriors' eventual title run will happen, I think.

It's all coming where there's a bit of a gap ya know in the top dawg status of the leagues. It's clear in the NBA more than the NFL, but it's still slightly the case where the the league is up for grabs and the NRL was kind of like that last year but it's going to be even more so the case this year. I don't think the Rabbitohs or Roosters will be better, the Panthers could make some moves and the rest is up for grabs for a team to step up.

The Panthers are like the Cardinals or Chiefs in the NFL the last few years. They'll do well by winning games they're expected to but they can't quite step it up in the playoffs. Or at least they'll never be favoured to. You're right though, there's a throne there and it's empty. The best teams are older/weaker/both and the up and comers don't seem there. Yet. In the NFL that's gonna just mean it reverts to a Rodgers/Manning/Brady/Wilson, in the NRL... not so clear. League's less reliant on role players and the stars dominate a little less. Eh, but it's too early to speculate yet. Cameron Smith could break his leg tomorrow. Hey, did you catch the opener of the Asian Cup on Friday? Aussie looked trash for 20 mins then steadily improved to the point where they finished on absolute fire. Nathan Burns nearly scored!

That's the thing, there's a Cameron Smith in most teams who has that level of impact on their team's chemistry and performance. It's pretty exciting and I'm also low key excited for the Super Rugby season, it's all over the show. Should I watch the Asian Cup Mr Wildcard? Like I don't reaaaally care, they're all teams that mean nothing to me and for the sake of not being a Negative Ned I won't say that I don't really care how Nathan Burn goes. It's all good, he's just staying active before the Nix make a title run. 

It's just going to be that bbq/drinks/party in your neighbour's back yard that looks really cool and you want to take part because it looks like it might be better than your little shindig at your crib. It's going to provide fuel for those who want New Zealand Football to join Asia, but I think our back yard is all good. The grass isn't always greener, that jazz. What ya reckon?

Umm, NZ leaving Oceania would be a blow for the youth sides or Auckland City whose basically free entry to major world tournaments would disappear. But I do think the All Whites qualifying path for the Big Show should intersect with Asia a lot earlier. What I've seen of the Asian Cup has been pretty entertaining, though I thought I'd recognise a few more players. It's basically just Japan and Aussie for me but that's OK. Watch the Australian games, dream of future clashes with NZ (it could happen...) and check out the semis, maybe, for the sake of decent football. The North Korea's vs Uzbekistan's of the Cup are pretty worthless. On that NZ-Aus thing, those dirty dingo danglers have a history of snubbing us in sports. You know Bert Sutcliffe, in a test career that spanned around 18 years (he retired for six and made a comeback), he never played against Australia in a test match? Right before he started the Blackcaps got pantsed by the Baggy Greens and they refused to play us again in an official Test for another 27 years.

I think that middle ground is what we can exploit. Build the lower tiers up by enjoying the benefits that being in Oceania provides which will only improve the All Whites and then we can compete in a playoff game vs an Asian team instead of Mexico. Them Aussies are in for a rude awakening. The Breakers and Nix are going nicely, the Warriors should be in the mix, the Kiwis and the Black Caps and All Whites are all nearing being consistently competitive and the All Blacks run the show.

I mean, it's about time they felt the full fury of their oppression of NZ sports. Internationally, anyway, the powers that be/are/were deserve plenty of credit for forward thinking in getting kiwi teams involved in their domestic stuff. Benefits everyone, really. Bigger talent pool, bigger audience, bigger bucks. But, man, we're due. The Four Nations was just the beginning. Cue the cricket, rugby and netball World Cups (All Whites may have to wait).

Cue the Phoenix, Warriors and Breakers. The revolution is at hand!

I think I have a revolution to go prepare for Wildcard...

As do we all. There's the very real potential that 2015 is a historic year in kiwi sports. But, y'know, let's not jinx it. 'Til next time, Doc.