You have to love the Otago Daily Times and their eternal optimism. From any number of press-conference sound bites, they chose ‘NZ has talent to win’ from Vettori as their headline.
It’s nice to believe that Vettori has faith in his players, but the quote the ODT article uses is just an empty throw-away platitude. If the Black Caps are going to succeed in Sri Lanka, they are going to have to do it by hard graft and good strategy. I don’t want to run down the ability of our players, but except for a couple of exceptions, natural talent is not our greatest strength. (It is a fair point that lack of experience is one of our weaknesses though.)
In contrast, Sti Lanka is overflowing with naturals. Their batting line up is lead by the eminently talented Sangakarra, currently the number 1 batsmen in test cricket. With him will be Jayawardene, another fine, fine player. The series against Pakistan has also unearthed another natural talent, Angelo Mathews, who scored 191 runs in the test series and bowled a good few overs as well.
I’m not sure where he is injury-wise, but if Muralitharan plays he will of course be the greatest talent on the park. However, the latest bowling wonder in Sri Lanka has been Ajantha Mendis. He’s still finding his feet, but if he is going to break through against any team, it’s likely to be the Black Caps. He gave us a lot of trouble at the World 20-20, the results of which give him a 20-20 bowling average against NZ of 3.
Against this, New Zealand has potential top-20 talent in Taylor and Ryder, McCullum has a gift for the limited-over formats and Vettori carries much of the team’s talent. For the rest of the team though, while there is plenty of ability there in the likes of Guptill and O’Brien just as quick examples, match-winning talent is a bit short at present, if you can see the distinction I am making.
The facts are, Sri Lanka are a better team than us by a long way. If we are going to succeed in this tour, we are going to have to play very well.