What a debacle. This week has been the cricketing equivalent of being run out without facing a ball.
Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that Mike Hesson made the right call, and (for reasons that he is fully entitled to believe), Ross Taylor just wasn’t his man to lead the NZ Cricket team in ODI’s and 20/20 games.
Forget the fact that this sordid little affair has denigrated to a he said/she said scenario. Taylor may have got the wrong end of the stick during the now infamous meeting in Sri Lanka. He may have been told by Hesson that he was still in line for the test captaincy. He may not have been told. We will most likely never know for certain exactly what transpired that day.
But for all the pitiful fallout over the captaincy debacle, many questions remain unanswered. Four that immediately spring to mind are:-
1). How bad is Mike Hesson’s timing?
When he was appointed, Hesson almost won the job by default – of all the no names that applied, he was pretty much last man left standing. The fact that he has never played international cricket is irrelevant – at least it should be. After all, there have been remarkable coaches in all sports that have not played at the top level. But by telling Ross Taylor a matter of days before a test match that he would be recommending that the board remove him from some (or all if you take Taylor’s account as gospel) of his duties was unforgiveable. It was a move that reeked of coaching immaturity, and if nothing else, shows that Hesson does not have great awareness of how this sort of decision can impact on a player, a team, and ultimately, the sport itself. In time, the decision may well prove to be the correct one. But in one move of utterly woeful timing, Hesson has displayed a lack of basic coaching nous.
2). Why was Stephen Fleming involved in this process?
David White would have been well aware that Fleming faced a conflict of interest in the captaincy decision process. Fleming is Brendon McCullum’s manager, and it would have been in his best interests to immediately declare this conflict of interest, and step away from the decision for his own protection. When he failed to, White should have made that decision for him. End of story. Stephen Fleming has rarely had his integrity questioned, and rightly so. However, he placed himself in a very tricky situation unnecessarily.
3). What exactly does John Buchanan do?
Mike Hesson as coach reports directly to the Director of Cricket. Buchanan apparently forwarded a recommendation that Taylor remain in the captaincy role in all forms. Hesson reckons he forwarded a recommendation advising that Taylor be the test captain, with McCullum taking over in the other forms of the game. So in what direction did David White and the board head? They accept the recommendation of the coach, instantly rendering their Director of Cricket impotent. If they can’t accept Buchanan’s recommendation, questions must be asked as to exactly how much power Buchanan’s role has. If his recommendations carry less weight than that of his coach, don’t expect that role to last long.
4). How has Ross Taylor become the hero in all of this?
Taylor was – according to Hesson – offered the test captaincy. And in reality, the split role with McCullum makes a good deal of sense. But Taylor spat the dummy and pulled out of the tour to South Africa, making the country’s miniscule chances of a win in the republic even more microscopic. And that was AFTER Hesson’s position had been clarified. Yet all that has been heard across the airwavess is how hard done by the former skipper has been. Taylor is a very lucky man. In some other countries, he would have been vilified from pillar to post for withdrawing out of what is effectively a bad case of sour grapes.
The entire process has been a laughable debacle. Nobody has come out of this affair with their credibility fully intact (in some cases their credibility has been shredded). It is a PR disaster for David White and his board, and heads should roll as a result of the ineptitude shown throughout. Whether they will or not may well need an independent commission to decide.
It will be interesting to see if they accept a recommendation forwarded by a commission, or just roll with whatever Mike Hesson decides should happen.