I must admit, I was looking forward to the South Africa tour for about a year. The chance to see the Black Caps take on one of the great pace bowling attacks of our era was incredibly tempting. What a shame the BCs are in the middle of ruining their once promising summer.
First there was the final over T20 loss, where they went from cruising to victory to collapsing in a panicky heap. That was understandable, you can't win every close match, and criticism of Ryder's role in that defeat was unfair. It was a shame, but a 2-1 loss in a T20 series isn't the end of the world.
Next there was the loss of the ODI series, after a meek capitulation against Morne Morkel. That was worse, as it seemed to signal a return to the bad old days of brittle batting. Still, games get lost, it happens, there's always the next one etc. Turns out though the Black Caps weren't finished being disappointing.
Now we have a situation where the most promising batsman in recent memory has ruled himself out of contention by going drinking and breaking team protocol in the process. Yes, the sorry saga of Ryder's alcoholism continues. The man needs help, that much is clear, but until he gets it he should be out of the team. Worse, one of his team-mates decided to drink with him. If that isn't enabling behaviour then I don't know what is. Bracewell deserves his ban, not just because he also broke team protocol, but that he decided to go drinking with someone suffering from a drinking problem. That is plainly stupid and irresponsible.
Can the team turn it around? I'm not too sure they will. They are about to face the ultimate challenge to their morale as a unit, a test series against a team with a solid and stubborn batting lineup, and an aggressive and dangerous pace bowling attack. The worry has to be that all of the good work over the summer, such as the Hobart win and the clean sweep against Zimbabwe, is about to be undone. The whole team needs to rediscover their fight and will to compete, or this tour will finish as a joke.