On covering New Zealand

On smaller teams, and my seemingly non-stop coverage

My thing is to write about global cricket. But that means there are over 3000 players, around 30 top international teams including the women, and another 45/50 domestic sides and franchises.

It’s a stupid remit and was stupid way back on my blog back in the old days, and just as stupid when ESPN made me their global cricket writer.  There is essentially too much to cover.  And you are usually sucked in by the biggest storylines which generally come from the biggest teams.  Add to that I am from Australia, live in the UK, and have toured India the most.

It means that teams get missed by me, I’ll never know as much as the local writers on their team, but I do understand how all the parts of the puzzle fit together more than most. And it allows me to flow between countries, not stuck on the same carousel.

But in the case of New Zealand, I just missed them a bit. It’s not that I didn’t see their rise coming, from the first time I looked up Neil Wagner’s numbers I knew something was going on there.

I just never got to write about it. If you’re a freelancer, trying to sell something on New Zealand doesn’t happen. If you’re working for a major organisation, they have to send more people to where the advertising dollar is. But this time I was writing for you here, or making videos for that audience. So it means that I just focused on what I was interested in.

And after not much writing on the kiwis for five years, it all kinda came out. I’d been noticing BJ Watling for a long time. He was just at the top, or near the top of all the keeping stats, and also sometimes the batting ones.

Someone like Henry Nicholls was interesting because he had such a violent transformation, and then suddenly it was stopped.  And I had to know why.

There is Tim Southee as well, who I pegged for incredible things when he was very young, but other than flashes, has only just become the bowler I thought he could be.

But even someone like Devon Conway. Around the time he moved to New Zealand, some South African coaches I know told me to watch out for him.

And finally it was Kyle Jamieson. Who I actually tried to get an agent to sign years ago, based on his powerplay stats and the fact he was six foot heaps.

Like all of this has been in my notes, for a long time, just waiting to come out, and then I get to cover three New Zealand Tests in a row, and it spews out of me one after the other.

And there is the history as well, the recent history that gets them into the final when it comes to scheduling.

Also what they have done since Brendon McCullum became captain.

Even more important than that was the long history, how they went from the worst team cricket has ever had to world champions.

You can see there is plenty to cover, and there always is. I mean South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies are really interesting teams right now, but globally, you’d hardly know that. New Zealand themselves were interesting for a long time before most of us noticed.

Most teams are like this. New Zealand aren’t special, they just happen to win a lot.  

Through cricinfo and cricbuzz we have a more global way of following cricket. The internet and streaming services have helped even more. But there is still a gap there. And try as I might, I come up woefully short.

The good news is, as I’m more and more in control of what I cover, I can start to follow the better stories, and not just what pays the bills. And through the internet, we’re lucky to have things like Emerging Cricket and the Caribbean Cricket Podcast. But there is still so much left unsaid, and it shouldn’t need a team like New Zealand to win it all for them to get this much coverage.

And I write all this on world sports journalist day. Which is something I hadn’t heard of before. There are obviously sports journalists who want to cover these smaller teams, and others who love the clickbait action. But, for me, sport writing has to be a combination of “Why Virat Kohli’s cover drive may cure cancer” and “Let’s take a deep dive into Henry Nicholls versus offspin”.

Everyone wants to hit boundaries, but someone has to take the shine off the ball.

I think it’s an honour to be able to cover a team like New Zealand. But then, I thought that before they won too.