Doubts hover over Black Caps captaincy

MIKE HESSON: The Black Caps' coach was coy when asked about captaincy arrangements.
MIKE HESSON: The Black Caps' coach was coy when asked about captaincy arrangements.

Only Ross Taylor and Mike Hesson, and to a degree the Black Caps who play under them, will know what their captain-coach relationship is like.

But a bit of light was shed on it this week when Hesson basically said that Taylor was New Zealand Cricket's choice as captain and he was just trying to make the best of it.

With the benefit of hindsight Hesson might argue that's incorrect although, as yet, no-one within the Black Caps has attempted to dispute it.

TOP JOB: Black Caps' captain Ross Taylor.
TOP JOB: Black Caps' captain Ross Taylor.

Their worry is that the media decided to report it, on the eve of the tonight's Twenty20 World Cup Super 8s clash with Sri Lanka.

The timing probably wasn't flash. But then neither was what Hesson intimated when he said “at the moment Ross Taylor is the captain of the Black Caps and that's a board decision".

It's been difficult to get a read on how Hesson and Taylor work together.

Behind closed doors they, and their “strategy group," are said to spend a lot of time constructively discussing gameplans. But in public, there seems to be little in the way of interaction.

The effectiveness of their relationship became an issue on Sunday. New Zealand lost to Pakistan by 13 runs, chasing 178 to win, and one of the features of that innings was where Taylor batted.

Daniel Vettori and then Jacob Oram were sent out ahead of the skipper and, when quizzed about it afterwards, neither Hesson nor Taylor managed a particularly convincing answer.

Hence the question, on Monday, whether New Zealand might ever follow the lead of other countries and have test, one-day and Twenty20 captains.

There was no mention of Taylor in the question, or Brendon McCullum, who's assumed to be the only other person capable of captaining the team.

There was also no suggestion that Taylor was doing a bad job, just a query about the possibility of multiple skippers.

Hesson's response is now widely known.

The immediate issue is where this leaves the team, ahead of an important Super 8 campaign. They're certainly good enough to progress from their group and into a semifinal.

A team spokesman has suggested that those endeavours have been made more difficult by Fairfax's reporting of Hesson's comments.

They shouldn't be. If the Black Caps are good enough, they'll go through. If they're not, they won't.

It doesn't have to be all sweetness and light within a team, in order for them to win.

Then-captain Jeremy Coney wasn't even on speaking terms with champion fast bowler Richard Hadlee during the third test of a series against the West Indies in 1987.

Coney sent team-mates to talk to Hadlee about how he'd like his field set and when he wanted a spell.

Yet, New Zealand won the match to square the series 1-1 after the first test had been drawn.

This New Zealand team seem to get on very well and no-one would suggest that there is any rift between Taylor and his star play (McCullum). But Hesson's comment raised questions that are still to be answered.

The expectation is that Sri Lanka will win tonight's match. They are a talented team and playing in home conditions.

Should the Black Caps upset them, and they definitely have the ability to, then Hesson's quote will quickly be forgotten.


Lasith Malinga

His ability to hit the stumps is a massive asset. As daft as it sounds, a lot of quick bowlers can't. With his low trajectory, batsmen often need to expose their stumps in order to get any leverage. But Malinga keeps knocking them down. His well-disguised slower balls are also a threat.

Mahela Jayawardene

Just a pleasure to watch. It would ne nice if he didn't inflict too much damage upon New Zealand. But if you like guys who can bat, as opposed to bludgeon, then Jayawardene is as easy on the eye as anyone.

Kumar Sangakkara

Like Jayawardene, essentially an orthodox player. But he shows how genuine cricket shots, and beautiful timing, can still make you as effective as anyone in the Twenty20 game. Despite no longer being captain, his calm demeanour and intelligence add an important element to Sri Lanka's efforts in the field. -

What: Twenty20 World Cup Super 8s

Who: Sri Lanka v New Zealand

Where and when: Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, 3.30pm today (10pm NZT)

TAB odds: Sri Lanka $1.55, New Zealand $2.35

Sri Lanka (from): Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Dilshan Munaweera, Thisara Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Jeevan Mendis, Nuwan Kulesakara, Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Shaminda Evanga, Akila Dananjaya

New Zealand (from): Rob Nicol, Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor (capt), Daniel Vettori, Jacob Oram, James Franklin, Kane Williamson, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, B J Watling, Ronnie Hira, Doug Bracewell, Adam Milne

Fairfax Media