As a consequence of the outcry surrounding the recent captaincy shuffle, New Zealand Cricket has announced that it is to involve former captains, especially the outspoken ones, in ongoing strategic decisions.
Clearly this is a commendable step, but this column is to delve into what such a meeting may involve, given the wide range of egos and baggage involved. The ultimate Table for One evening.
First in is John R Reid, punctual as always. Not so well these days, he grabs a table in the corner and goes on about how things were better in his day. At the helm of New Zealand’s first test victory at Eden Park, he prefers to talk about the good old days of South Africa.
Here comes Jeremy Coney – it’s the slightly awkward walk and huge wad of notes clutched to his breast that gives him away. He looks around for an inviting table and ends up getting a chair close to the action, even though it is somewhat on the outer limbs. He starts speaking. Flashy turns of phrase are used, but it does seem to go on for a bit and the language is a bit Shakespearean.
Huh? John Parker? The murmurs start. Did he really captain New Zealand? Really?
Geoff Howarth arrives. Clink. New Zealand’s best ever captain is slightly disappointed to not see the red carpet being rolled out to herald his arrival. Oh well. “Table for one garcon, s’il vous plait”. Smooth as always.
Ian Smith rolls in. Everyone in the immediate vicinity recalls the test that he captained his country against Sri Lanka when others were injured. He grumbles about the temperature or something, before positioning himself next to the buffet. Surely lunch can’t be that far away? How long will Jerry speak for?
Here’s Ruds. Off to Howarth’s table. It’s a bit awkward, but the waitresses are happy. None of them are airline hostesses, so a collective sigh of relief can be heard. Clink. Socially tense moments are always best dealt with crap beer, a jug of gin and a flutter.
Dan Vettori enters the room. There’s no discernible movement from his peers, but then maybe people don’t pick up on that carefully maintained moustache. Hang on – where’s Mark Burgess? Never mind.
Glenn Turner makes his entrance, resplendent in his new cable knit cream jersey. There is a delay as he talks to the person on the door regarding travelling expenses, but half an hour later it appears to be all sorted. He flashes a grin at Parker. He knows.
So who’s that walking one step behind? That’s right; it’s Lee Germon in his rightful place. At last – a table for two. Germon gets in the gin and tonic with an energy not seen around the rest of the room.
Finally, he arrives. Martin Crowe walks in, wearing that metaphorically charred blazer. Hmmmm….the Turner/Germon table? No. The Coney table? Maybe, but he’s still talking. Not Ruds obviously. Where’s Wrighty? Oh, if only his brother wasn’t busy being the 4th umpire in Bangladesh this week. Again. So there’s a slightly awkward movement towards the buffet table, as he figures that it’s best to get a seat before Flem turns up.
Coney is still speaking .
Bevan Congdon walks in. You don’t hear much from Bev these days but he quickly tracks down Vettori, and they enter an animated discussion about what a laugh it is to bring yourself onto bowl when you’re the skipper and the opposition tail is exposed.
Suddenly, the blare of trumpets can be heard – this can mean only one thing. It’s the big moment, heralding the arrival of the star guest. Stephen Fleming arrives. And he’s wearing perfectly ironed chinos for the big night. Everyone else bows their head solemnly, yet they discreetly keep one eye open to see what Flem may be up to. He hands out some heat pump flyers, grins cheekily, and sits down wherever he wants to.
Coney is still speaking.
John Wright was meant to turn up for this event but he got the time and place wrong. He was also concerned that the cricketing knight may show up, and he really couldn’t be bothered being chief note passer for the night. Anyway, feedback is not really his thing.
Parker is by now furious at the constant sniggering over his invite. “For the love of God – I was unbeaten as captain!”
Finally David White enters the room, looking slightly anonymous. He looks at his old mate Crowe for reassurance but time has moved on; things are not the same. So he shrugs his shoulders and leaves it to Coney to finish his speech.
In the far corner Fleming is cutting various deals. The pamphlets are gone and people are taking notes.
One person remains close to the buffet. And there’s the 3:15 from Forbury Park yet to happen.
Progress? Probably not, but it was nice to get old mates together again.