Not only umpires get it wrong!
It’s fascinating how old memories resurface long after a first appearance, hinged on a word, a second glimpse of a long-forgotten scene, a reminder.
The last few days it’s been ‘‘the Black Caps’’.
I remember so clearly opening up in to the Fairfax newslink those years ago to pick up the choice for the new name of the national cricket team. It was to be the Black Caps.
I remember sharing my astonishment with someone looking over my shoulder.
I pontificated: ‘‘Whoever pulled that out of the hat doesn’t know much about how old law courts were run.’’
I remember rather guiltily how I regaled the other viewer with a ponderous definition of how in English law and with ceremony which was now scrapped, the Black Cap was worn by a judge passing a sentence of death.
I pompously rounded off on the ragged state of New Zealand cricket and hoped that wearing a Black Cap was not a sign.
In spite of that great verdict against Sri Lanka those few weeks ago, I feared again, we might be in for another triumph and anguish sequence.
That old pattern when usually accurate bowlers were suddenly short and loose, relapses when fielders with normal hands like glue would spill easy catches everywhere, when star fielders seem to have lost all their typical old speed. We’ve seen them all. This time, the lapses seem to have spread around the team’s officials in the astounding way they scrapped the New Zealand captain Ross Taylor. What’s happening? That might be the way that certain people operate in big business but the simplest way of describing is it’s not cricket.
How else could you describe a process which saw Ross Taylor sacked from his New Zealand test captaincy?
What a time to pull the rug from under him – having just won a New Zealand test victory with a century in the first innings, run out in the 70s in the second, and tight control in the field during the final demolition of Sri Lanka in their second innings.
Those feats could have been seen as the beginning of a new and glorious era in our cricket history – just as the win over Australians in Hobart last season hoisted us sky high.
And with a tour of tough guys in South Africa ahead.
Captain Taylor’s problems apparently began when world-ranking coach and New Zealand great John Wright – who had transformed the Indian squad in his spell with them – left New Zealand, resigning without a public explanation. What a loss. Simultaneously, old soldier Daniel Vettori left the captaincy and went out to pasture to help cure old war wounds.
Taylor won the vacant captain’s role, a position he seemed from the grandstand ideally suited for, having since averaged around 50 in every match under John Wright.
Whispers began about Taylor’s manner and other matters, like an inability to inspire the team.
Then New Zealand cricket top men, including Mike Hesson, Wright’s successor as coach, began a series of chats with Taylor – one in which he says he was told he wasn’t good enough to be captain and should go quietly.
Embarrassingly for the plotters it was around this time that Taylor won a test match with his batting.
Interestingly too, this month’s winner in the top level purge which stripped Taylor of the appointment any New Zealand cricketer would hunger for was former vice-captain Brendon McCullum Why ‘‘interestingly?’’ Because a key figure in the selection panel naming McCullum might have seemed to have a conflict of interest.
The new captain was former national captain Stephen Fleming who had a long association with Mike Hesson during the latter’s years as coach of Otago and is Hesson’s manager.
Hesson was apparently a continuing critic of Taylor.
As a result, at this range, the jury began to look biased, if not rigged.
There was also an interesting difference in the background of key figures.
John Wright was a world figure both as a player and coach.
His success with India was legendary. His quick move on from the Black Caps is obviously a story yet to be told.
On the other hand, Mike Hesson who now directs and advises the New Zealand team, has what you could call ‘‘an unusual cricket career’’.
He took up cricket coaching in Dunedin at 22, 10 years ago. He coached Otago in those years, was later appointed to coach Kenya after the team’s disastrous performance in the World Cricket Cup contest.
He gave up that appointment ’’because his family felt uneasy about security in Kenya’s environment’’.
There are also references to him coaching in Argentina.
All of this doesn’t seem to add up to qualifications to coach New Zealand.
As a matter of interest, if the choice was yours who would you appoint as Black Caps coach?
Particularly since Taylor, admittedly a comparative novice as an international, has already captained New Zealand in 13 tests (won four, drew two, lost seven) and has scored 1047 at just under 50 per innings.
All this demands answers to important questions.
What happened to drive committed John Wright from what would have been his chosen old lifetime posting, coaching his home team he once made his own as a player?
If there is a problem in the persona of Taylor, how did the selection panel get its choice on him so wrong?
What have they done to correct whatever problems they believe he has, and help Taylor’s personality and leadership style match his batting?
That’s assuming Taylor would come back to cope with people who have made such a mess of one arrangement with John Wright, once a New Zealand cricket living treasures and now him?
If I was Taylor I certainly wouldn’t expose myself to a second innings with them.
As one media leader writer summed up: ‘‘Ross Taylor’s desire to play and win for New Zealand has been apparent from the start.
‘‘Sacking him in this manner is deplorable.’’
That editorial on the state of cricket in this country and Taylor’s shabby treatment summed up national anxiety to which I add a footnote: The whole sad affair should go to the equivalent of a third umpire to rule how men in positions of authority could get essential process so wrong.