NZC gift wraps Christmas feast for South Africa
OPINION: Imagine South Africa's cricketers sitting back at home grinning from ear-to-ear and counting the seconds until New Zealand's Black Caps begin one of the toughest assignments in international cricket.
Thanks to New Zealand Cricket's gross mismanagement, the Black Caps will be attempting to compete against the world's leading test nation severely undermanned and amid one of the most bitter controversies the game has ever faced in this country.
The timing simply couldn't be worse.
Attempting to match a world-class Proteas lineup even with axed captain Ross Taylor on board would have been a monumental challenge. Now, without a batsman averaging a tad over 43 runs from 43 tests, the Black Caps are under even more pressure to score runs against one of the world's best bowling attacks.
New skipper Brendon McCullum looked comfortable enough in his brief media opportunity ahead of the team's imminent departure.
Ironically, he's possibly also watching the clock in anticipation of leaving all the acrimony and dissension behind him as the team wing their way to South Africa. Again, one can only imagine the effect these distractions are having on the players' mental preparation. The reality is, they're merely replacing one white-hot cauldron with another.
Most people have already forgotten about Colombo by now. Remember Colombo? That's right, the place where Taylor scored consecutive knocks of 142 and 74 to help steer the Black Caps to an overdue 167-run test victory over Sri Lanka.
Where NZC might since have utilised its time promoting some of the more positive aspects of that tour and highlighted a possible turnaround in the team's fortunes, instead it has taken collective aim at itself and pulled the trigger.
Whatever people's perceptions of NZC's treatment of Taylor, which has almost universally been regarded as despicable, New Zealand's management doesn't appear to have anyone with either the mana, or credibility, to divert the attention away from the train wreck. Chris Moller's appointment as chairman of NZC in 2010 appears to have been the spark that ultimately ignited the inferno.
Where's Martin Snedden when you need him?
Still, the Black Caps have a job to do and it's time for the likes of McCullum, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Daniel Flynn, Peter Fulton and Dean Brownlie to show some heart and, more pertinently, some technique and composure against a lethal Proteas' arsenal including Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.
Typically, the Black Caps don't have the pressures of expectation weighing them down, at least not in any positive sense.
NZC has just added some extra tonnage of another sort.
History, both past and recent, suggests a likely canter for the home side.
Those South African bowlers aren't gleefully rubbing their hands together for nothing. Merry Christmas from NZC.