Kiwis are no longer the ~~apologists~~

Published: Saturday, May 1, 2004, 11:04 [IST]
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London:New Zealand are finished with being the apologists of world cricket.

Black Caps coach John Bracewell, who recently returned to New Zealand after a six-year absence which included a stint as coach of English County side Gloucestershire, has noticed a fresh attitude among his nation's players.

"There is a greater self-belief in our cricketers than there once was," said Bracewell at Lord's Cricket Ground, where his side are preparing for their three-Test series against England.

"I noticed it the first week I was there. There were young kids who walked on to the park as though they owned the park ... which is very un-New Zealand-like.

"In the past we've tended to be in awe of people who were perceived to be of greater names than ourselves and almost apologetic in the way we played."

Bracewell sees encouraging signs for the future of New Zealand cricket, with more youngsters choosing cricket as an athletic endeavour over other sports.

"These guys are the start of that," Bracewell said of his team, who also take on England and the West Indies in a One-day series in June and July.

"There's some genuine athletes in this cricket team who could have chosen rugby and other sports and they have a different self-belief.

"It's an attitude more than anything else of belief that 'I am a professional' rather than the last of the amateurs in world cricket. It's probably a self-respect thing."

New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming also noted a difference between the team that beat England in 1999.

"Man for man we're a stronger side," Fleming said. "We're in a better phase as a team, we're coming off some good performances.

"We don't know how good we can be, which is exciting, but individually I think it's the most talented side I've been involved with.

"It's an evolution of our game and we've certainly got areas to improve on, but I like the direction we're heading."

With rain having forced the Black Caps indoors to train, Fleming played down any edge his side might gain from arriving before England returns from the West Indies, or from the fact that the One-day series between the latter teams has been a virtual wash-out in the Caribbean.

"It is interesting that they're also in the situation where they're getting rain and no play as well so I guess they're pretty frustrated at the moment," Fleming said.

"If it was fine and we were outside, then it would be an advantage. We're indoors, probably the same as them, so there's no advantage to be gained there."

After an emphatic One-day series victory and drawn Test series against South Africa, the Black Caps are will be brimming with confidence in their ability to improve on their away record to England.

In 44 Tests on English soil, New Zealand have won just four, compared to England's 22, with 18 matches drawn. The Kiwis have only won seven Tests against England in all.

Paceman Shane Bond, who is on the comeback trail after a year on the sidelines with injury, will not be rushed back into action.

Bond has made significant technical changes over the past 12 months and his return to the fold will be determined by New Zealand's three warm-up matches, beginning with a three-day fixture against British Universities starting on Monday.

Similarly, all-rounder Nathan Astle needs to regain confidence after battling knee problems. The first Test is at Lord's from May 20-24.

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