The ever changing world of New Zealand cricket at the top level. Six coaches in the last six years, including the captain at the time, over 30 senior support staff in that period, three CEOs, and close to 100 players selected. There are 63 players currently playing first class cricket who have played for NZ
During that time there has been the advent of the T20 cricket, the IPL, the short-lived ICL, a squeezing of the Future Tours Programme and the 50 over format thrashing around trying to find its long-term place in the sport. Not to mention the fact that every single season had a revamped schedule.
As a backdrop there have been numerous mutinies, high profile headline grabbing incidents, and geographical shift of headquarters, and a Board that seems to change annually. The only constant is change.
Well not quite. During this time we have seen the rise and rise of the New Zealand Cricket Players Association, to a point where they have become a significant and arguably stabilising feature on the landscape.
However they are still seen as something of a menacing force for a range of reasons. Murray Deaker leads this charge, muttering about the seemingly large influence they have on the running of the game in this country. Why are they involved in everything, and that Heath Mills; well you should never trust the articulate guy who speaks sense.
And during an ODI in Auckland this time last year the cameras flicked to the Corporate Box area. And there was Heath Mills. Seen talking to sponsors and, heaven forbid, a Board member or two and people like that. SHOCK HORROR; the mafia is in town screamed a former player from the 80s.
Jealousy perhaps? If only such an organisation existed when they played the game?
In truth though, a lot of what they do is merely filling a void of what should be covered by New Zealand Cricket itself.
Take the Hooked on Cricket programme for example. This is a grassroots initiative aimed at young Maori and Polynesian children in South Auckland and Porirua. Some in the media above have suggested this should be nothing to do with a players’ association’s brief. In an ideal world they are right; this is such an untapped resource when it comes to developing the depth of talent in this country. But if no one else is doing it then it should be applauded that this gap is being filled.
Of other activities undertaken by the organisation is the player accreditation scheme. Recent events around Khoder Nasser emphasise the importance of eliminating the more reptilian aspects of player agents.
There has also been the development of the Cricketers Hardship Trust; a body deigned to help those former players, especially from the amateur era who have fallen on troubled times. You would think that would get the aggrieved ex-players off their back, but apparently not.
All round it is a pretty slick unit that is so much more than getting a fair deal for the players, with an all-round focus on the development of the game. And internally at least, it has gained respect.
Imagine, for example, if a member from the NZCPA had been involved by conference call in a certain meeting in a hotel room in Galle. All that damaging confusion could have been avoided.
It hasn’t always been this way though. The Association came about in a bit of a hurry in 2002. A group of young Auckland players were told that they were not able to take up off-season contracts in England as they were obliged to stay home, unpaid, to stay under some nebulous coaching programme. Think about that situation for a minute; semi-professional controlling behaviour at its worst.
As it happened one of those players was Kyle Mills who had a moan about it to his older brother, a PE teacher of all things. But Heath realised this was complete rubbish, and the movement for some king of collective wellbeing was put in place.
So the NZCPA plane was designed mid-flight.
NZC, at that time headed up by Martin Snedden, wheeled out the PR machine and forced the players’ association into a corner without really divulging the details. It took Fleming, who at that stage pretty much ran the Blackcaps, getting involved more than he probably wanted to get the agreement over the line. Old scars heal slowly. There are those in and around the game who have never forgiven Fleming for that; they now target those he is close to.
Through Mills, the association has further plans. They want to drag the NZC board into the 21st century by actually insisting its members get paid. It seems extraordinary that in 2013 a sporting board should be run on a voluntary basis.
And then there is the idea of the provincial associations being privately run. Investment, initiative, and some accountability.
All of this being promoted by a union. Bring it on.
The hard copy of this can be found in the normal place