just to get into the spirit of all this national fervour.

I would like to recognise the struggle with injury so far this decade suffered by the Black Caps, and their triumphs and development in the face of this adversity.

Their injury problems are an ongoing concern, and started at least as early as the tour to India in '99 with both McMillan and Nash being replaced - I have no knowledge of the state of the team on the tour to England prior to this.

The home series against the WI in Dec '99 saw a full squad returning from injury, but was not at full effectiveness. This was effectively the last time NZ were able to select from a "full strength" bowling attack, and still remain unable to do so some 18 months later and counting.

The next series away to Zim & SA in late 2000 saw the squad decimated by injury - Horne, Cairns, Vettori, Nash all suffered long term injuries which put them out of the game for the best part of the next 12 months. The Test series V SA saw the NZ bowling attack consisting of O'Connor, Tuffey, Martin & Walker, with less than 20 matches total experience (Martin & Walker making their series debuts and Tuffey having played in a couple of tests at best). Needless to say NZ were whitewashed in a very one sided competition, with the bowlers returning figures in the 40s.

The home series V Pakistan got off to a bad start with Vettori & O'Connor breaking down in the ODI series - meaning NZ went into the Test series with an attack with less than a half dozen test matches between them. Despite this they managed to come back from the dead in a series remembered for it's controversy regarding the jekyl & hyde performance of the Pakistanis.

Since the SA tour they have had to completely rebuild their bowling attack and have done so without having any experienced international bowlers available to guide the newcomers, both in Test and ODI levels.

NZ has a reputation built upon it's team work rather than having any world class players. This is only achieved by playing together to build up this team work, yet they have had to rebuild this these past few seasons. I can not think of any other team in any other sporting code to have been so disadvantaged, not only to have had their entire attack out but also to rebuild the strength of the team as well.

In addition there have been the usual injuries to batsmen and the accompanying loss of player form.

Despite this they have remained unbeaten in home test series during this time and have given Aus a big wake up in Perth (should have had the win), and have most recently completed an away tour whitewash of WI. As a result their ranking has climbed from about 7th to 4th on the table.

Even during this time the new attack has also suffered tour shortening injuries - Tuffey, Bond, Adams & Oram, with Vincent requiring a heart Op just days prior to the 1st Test v England on their recent tour.

I think it is a great show of character and leadership that most other teams would struggle to match under the same circumstances, and makes me proud to be a Kiwi (if not more than a little frustrated).

Is it any wonder that many of us Kiwis have our fingers crossed for an injury free season to be able to reap the benefits of the progress made thus far.

When we hear other teams lamenting their 'injury crisis' we are able to empathise with their plight while we continue to struggle thru ours.

But make no mistake dear readers, we also have a bloody great grin on our face when we think of whats to come from the team over the next couple of seasons.!!!!

You have been warned!!!!!

(With apologies to: whom ever, when ever, where ever & to no one in particular.)

"I don't remember a thing Your Honour - I must have been pissed at the time"!!!!