Auckland: With New Zealand cricket in turmoil on the field and Pakistan in tumult off it, there is plenty at stake for both sides when they launch a 11-match series with a Twenty20 game in Auckland on Sunday.
Over the next seven weeks New Zealand and Pakistan will attempt to turn their fortunes around as they play three Twenty20s, two Tests and six one-dayers before heading to the subcontinent for the one-day World Cup.
Pakistan’s internal turmoil has forced them to field a spare-parts team with several of their stars left at home including alleged spot-fixers Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif.
To add to the pressure, they were skittled out for a meager 91 by Auckland in their one-day warm up game and then saw the home side overhaul the target for the loss of only five wickets and with nearly seven overs to spare.
It was not the start to the tour that coach Waqar Younis wanted but he was adamant things would be different when the internationals start.
“Unfortunately the batting didn’t click and nobody took responsibility, which was the key. They’ve learned their lesson and hopefully next up will be a different ball game.”
New Zealand have rushed in former opening bat John Wright to coach the Black Caps, who have lost their last 11 one-day internationals.
Wright, who made his mark as an international coach when he turned India’s fortunes around in the first half of this decade, has not been wanted by New Zealand until now, with the team in its second-worst run of defeats.
It remains to be seen how the senior players will adapt to his no-nonsense style, but the player power base built around Daniel Vettori as captain, selector and generally most reliable bowler and batter has clearly not worked.
Vettori, who along with Brendon McCullum will not play in the Twenty20 series because of injury, has not spoken about the shake-up but stand-in skipper Ross Taylor said he is looking forward to working with Wright.
“For me personally, being a batsman and him being a batsman and having a very good Test record, I’m looking forward to picking his brains and hopefully can be a better player for it,” said Taylor.
Wright’s first squad contains three newcomers in allrounder Luke Woodcock, batsman Dean Brownlie and teenage fast bowler Adam Milne as he looks to the long-term future of New Zealand cricket.
“We’re going to have to build slowly, get some foundations and hopefully you leave the place in a better state than you found it,” he said.