Opposite numbers Steven Smith and Kane Williamson have endorsed the push at ICC level for league structures for international cricket, after the Chappell-Hadlee series concluded in front of a small crowd at the MCG on Friday night.
The importance of context to international matches was starkly underlined by an attendance of 20,591 for the match, little more than 18 months after Australia and New Zealand attracted more than 90,000 spectators for last year’s World Cup final at the same venue.
Proposals presently before the ICC feature leagues for ODIs and Twenty20 internationals, with bilateral series of uniform length serving as World Cup qualifying matches, therefore adding meaning to every encounter beyond the present patchwork of series negotiated individually between competing teams.
The arrangement for Australia and New Zealand to meet every summer was reached following the World Cup, with Australia agreeing to do so in part to help encourage New Zealand to submit to taking part in the inaugural day-night Test match in Adelaide last summer. However, these sorts of deals may soon be on the way out.
“There’s been a few proposals that have come up and you want as much relevance for every series as possible,” Smith said. “This series has been a great series, New Zealand are always fantastic to play against, they’re tough competitors and it was no different this series. I’m proud of the way our guys played. After a tough tour to South Africa, where we lost 5-0, it was nice to turn things around and win every game in this series.”
For his part, Williamson said that the treadmill of matches made it difficult to think in terms of wider strategic goals, other than simply to try to improve each time he took his side to the middle – something he was unable to achieve this time around over the course of three defeats.
“There’s a lot of chat about that at the moment,” Williamson said of league structures. “To be fair it’s quite hard to look or think about it too much, there’s so much cricket going on that you’re very much focused on the next game, trying to be better as a side and that’s certainly my focus. It would be great to have as much meaning on every game as you can. From our side’s perspective it’s about getting better and every game’s an opportunity to do that.”
As if to underline the point, Smith’s men will fly to Brisbane on Saturday to prepare for the first Test against Pakistan, something he hoped would continue the momentum built up against New Zealand. “It’s been a great series for us and great for our confidence as well. Winning’s a lot better than losing and it becomes a bit of a habit as well,” Smith said. “Hopefully we can keep up this habit for the rest of the summer.”
New Zealand fly home around the same time and have a brief break before hosting Bangladesh for a series of ODIs and T20s. Williamson was disappointed by the closing defeat at the MCG, failing to make a decent fist of chasing down a far more manageable total than those racked up by Australia in Sydney and Canberra.
“Very disappointing,” Williamson said. “At the halfway stage they were a little bit above par, just from a fantastic knock from Davey. But in saying that the way we were able to take wickets at the other end meant we were chasing a total that was certainly gettable if we were to play well. But we were far from playing well, losing wickets early … we’d like to think we’re much better than that chasing a total.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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