NZC show how not to handle a captaincy coup

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 08/12/2012
Ross Taylor
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TOUGH TIME: Ross Taylor says playing for his country is his passion and he will return once he feels ready.

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The symmetry of it all was almost perfect; almost fated.

For New Zealand Cricket, one of their most tumultuous days in recent history started around a table at their new offices in Parnell, Auckland, on Thursday afternoon.

It ended in Lincoln almost exactly 24 hours later, at New Zealand Cricket's old headquarters; now an abandoned pavilion at Bert Suttcliffe Oval.

From new to the old, and all between. When it was over, three things were clear.

One, that the Black Caps had a new captain for all three forms of cricket, Brendon McCullum.

Two, that Ross Taylor, New Zealand's best batsman, had been effectively axed as skipper, despite being offered the test captain's role, and would be sitting out the upcoming South Africa tour.

And thirdly, New Zealand Cricket showed a total inability to deal with a crucial situation like this with any amount of grace or skill.

On Thursday Taylor, his manager Leanne McGoldrick and chief executive David White, freshly back from Dubai, met for three hours in Auckland, where the now-former skipper was told the bad news. He knew it was on the way.

Only days before the first test against Sri Lanka in Galle last month, he'd been sat down by coach Mike Hesson, assistant coach Bob Carter and team manager Mike Sandle and said they were concerned with his captaincy abilities.

A day later, and Hesson, famously a long-time buddy of McCullum, would give Taylor the word alone: he only wanted him as the test skipper.

Now, making McCullum the one-day and Twenty20 captain was potentially the right decision to be made all along. 

Making that choice, retaining Taylor as the test skipper, and, perhaps more importantly, in the Black Caps, could have been easily done. 

There was a window after Hesson was appointed when it could have been made. People would have grumbled but got on with the job. The Black Caps are, after all, ranked outside the top seven in all forms of the international game.

That window has come and gone, and the fact New Zealand Cricket has left this situation so long has made it so awkward, and such a PR disaster.

The biggest hint of Hesson's thought process came at the Twenty20 World Cup when he snapped at a Dominion Post reporter asking about the future of the captaincy.

''That's a board decision and Ross and I have been working pretty hard together, obviously, for this tournament," he said.

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The former skipper headed home to Hamilton on Thursday, with a lot of free time up his sleeves over the next few months. He'll be available again for the upcoming tour of England in February and March, apparently.

White put the call into McCullum on Thursday night. You're the new man in charge, mate. All this, of course, was announced by a strained and slightly awkward White back in Auckland yesterday.

Despite a seven o'clock newscaster attempting to hijack everything, the press conference had enough tense body language and back-tracking on questions to indicate White's embarrassment of the whole situation. The words ''not ideal'' were repeated often.

Down in Christchurch, Hesson, not a big bloke, looked even smaller at the big boy's table when addressing media in Lincoln.

Sombre at times, defensive at others, Hesson stuck to his guns: that having McCullum the one-day and Twenty20 skipper was the right choice.

He wanted Taylor the test cricket captain, lamented his decision to step aside for the next couple of months, and conceded that the South African tour had got a lot tougher already. The words ''moving forward'' were repeated often.

The day was over, and New Zealand's cricketing community was left reeling, and wondering where to next. In the corner of the room in Lincoln was perhaps the best metaphor for the whole ugly situation.

There sat a teenager tasked with monitoring the secondary school Gillette Cup competition. They had nothing to do but watch the glum scene before them - rain had stopped play for the day.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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