OPINION: The top brass in New Zealand Cricket never cease to amaze.
In a country that has limited resources on the playing field the Australian heavies John Buchanan and lawn bowler Kim Littlejohn, along with new coach Mike Hesson, have obviously played a game of ‘Eeny, meeny, miny, mo' in selecting the squads for Sri Lanka later in the month.
Twenty-three players are deemed at international level, not including Dan Vettori (injured) and Tarun Nethula who has been banished to local cricket following two years of being carried as a development player, but of all the selections, there are two that stand out as quite bizarre.
The non-inclusion of Martin Guptill in the Twenty20 and one-day squad along with that of Doug Bracewell extracts from the side the two players who cleaned up every trophy at the recent NZ Cricket Awards. Not only are they two of the best fielders available but they are two really positive influences in a team scenario, whilst of course being a couple of the better performers with bat and ball.
It's hard to imagine that Guptill really needs a rest, and if so, why was he in South Africa playing for the Auckland Aces? To suggest that Bracewell is staying behind to iron out some technical problems with his bowling is akin to leaving Dan Carter out of the All Blacks tour to Europe so that he can work on his goalkicking.
This is a criminal decision, leaving out a young player thirsting for opportunity and already a success at this highest level.
These are not the All Blacks selectors who have a plethora of top-flight performers to choose from. They need to start making intelligent decisions based on the working environment they are currently in, and not put forward a whole heap of philosophical concepts that don't relate to the resources.
Whatever the logic these decisions are based upon, there needs to be more convincing leadership emanating from this group and then fed on from the likes of Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum and Players' Association rep Jacob Oram. These leading players must grab the group in the same positive way that Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Conrad Smith are doing with the All Blacks, so there is an air of confidence about what the team is trying to achieve.
Hesson has now become the key figure in the future of New Zealand cricket. As he grows in experience and age his biggest challenge will be to drop those players he has always looked up to but who have recently only provided a top eight finish and much mediocrity. Younger, faster, more athletic and urgent players are going to be the key players in the future World Cups and Champions Leagues, not to mention test cricket.
The true test of an international coach is the development and skill enhancement of players under his term and the tactical appreciation of the requirements as they change on a regular basis. It is time to prioritise the progression of the talented young group of the likes of Bracewell, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, B J Watling, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, and Adam Milne along with the more mature and relatively successful players such as Guptill who are still growing and have the potential to keep improving.
Only if Hesson steps up will the Black Caps recapture their credibility and respect which has almost vanished out the window. This requires hard work and one imagines, less talk.
Meanwhile, the selectors need to pick the best possible team on every occasion and not fill the squads with those who will never make the grade and those who have an old ‘use by' date.
Ian Snook is a former Taranaki and Central Districts captain. He is one of only four men to have played more than 100 games for Taranaki.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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