Not only um­pires get it wrong!

Central Leader - - NEWS -

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.


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