Wellington: The coincidence of the Indian Premier League player auction with New Zealand's 10-wicket loss to Pakistan in the first cricket Test raises new questions whether lucrative Twenty20 contracts are damaging players' ability to play the longest form of the game.
New Zealand was bowled out for 110 in three hours on a placid pitch and by an under-strength Pakistan attack, losing all 10 wickets in the final session on the third day.
Captain Daniel Vettori blamed his team's defeat on poor decision-making by his batsmen, saying a heavy diet of Twenty20 cricket affected shot selection and players' ability to bat for long periods.
Cheers were heard from the New Zealand dressing room when players learned who had been picked in the IPL auction and how much they had earned. Ross Taylor, who made scores of 6 and 8 in the match, attracted the highest price for a New Zealand player ($1 million) while Vettori ($550,000) and Brendon McCullum ($475,000) were also purchased.
Vettori said the IPL auction was not a distraction to his players and didn't contribute to their poor first test performance.
"Obviously those things can be misconstrued," he said. "It (the IPL) is part of cricket and you have to deal with it, but if you use it as an excuse for your performance then that's not good enough.
"It shouldn't be a motivating factor for your performance, either. It's about Test match cricket. That's why most of us play the game, to perform at Test level."
New national cricket coach John Wright was a resolute opening batsman for New Zealand, noted for his ability to play gritty and patient innings in the most difficult circumstances.
He was later coach of an Indian team containing players of the caliber of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, presiding over their home Test series win over Australia which elevated them to Test cricket's top-rank.
Wright now coaches a New Zealand team ranked No. 8 in the world in Tests and gripped by an 11-match losing streak in one-day cricket. He said watching his team's second innings disintegrate on Sunday — at one point four middle-order wickets fell for only one run — as an "interesting experience."
Wright realizes the challenge he has taken on with the New Zealand team is much greater than he anticipated and that he might have to resort to basics, teaching most of his batsmen how to craft long innings.
"It's going to take some time and we need to find batsmen that are prepared to be very patient and really want to stay at the crease," Wright told Radio Sport. "The talent's there but we've really got a bit of teaching to do.
"I think the reality is that if you look at learning to bat, particularly in a Test match, we've probably been more exposed in other forms of the game.
"I know that we've got some really talented ball-strikers, they're good kids. That's part of the role of coaching to help them on their way.
"You've got to have that absolute desperation, particularly in five-day cricket, that you want to occupy the crease and you've got to learn to sell your wicket very dearly."
Another former New Zealand opener, Mark Richardson, said New Zealand had fielded its best team against Pakistan but players did not seem to understand the demands of Test cricket.
Richardson, who counted the forward defensive as his best shot and was famous for playing long and often tedious innings, said the players had to "work out this game of test cricket."
"What I'm not seeing is a test match sort of process out of them," Richardson said.
"Not everyone to be successful at Test match cricket needs to bat like me. It wouldn't work for a lot of people. A lot of the dismissals I saw yesterday were just bad strokes, bad thinking."