Tough review of Black Caps needed

JONATHAN MILLMOW
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012
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Our national cricket team is an embarrassment. It is coached by a boy, captained by a bloke who lacks genuine leadership skills and run by self-interested senior players of whom the country has had enough.

OPINION: Monday night's 10-wicket loss to a second string Sri Lankan side - New Zealand's fifth test loss on the trot - should set the alarm bells off.

It is time for an external review of the sport, which may throw up a conflict of interest, shed light on a bad culture in the Black Caps and highlight some poor appointments.

It may also reveal who is the most powerful person in the sport - chief executive David White or New Zealand Cricket Players' Association boss Heath Mills.

But first to matters at hand.

Let's run the rule over the Black Caps test side.

They have good players, but none great. They used to outsmart teams, now they get outsmarted, and they used to fight for their lives and now they fold in a session.

They rely on runs from three players who are handicapped by flaws in this form of the game - Martin Guptill (technical), Brendon McCullum (lapses in concentration) and Ross Taylor (brain explosions, though less now than in the past).

Bowling-wise, they possess three promising young quicks in Trent Boult (fit, fast enough and athletic), Tim Southee (fit, fiery and a late outswinger) and Doug Bracewell (hammers away, though admittedly out of form).

The rest of the side fall into the promising or battler's bracket.

So that's the team and regardless of whether you move a couple of players here or there, not much changes. When they get ridiculed - like after the first test in India in August - they inevitably respond with a good performance, only to revert to type in the very next game.

It is my understanding that the culture within the Black Caps is not what it could be. Taylor lacks the support of his senior players and his problems are exacerbated in the limited overs arena because Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori return to the side and wield plenty of power.

I expect Taylor to relinquish the one-day captaincy to McCullum in the coming weeks.

As for off the park, NZC needs to ask itself is the tail wagging the dog?

White has stayed in the background since taking over the reins from Justin Vaughan nine months ago.

Mills is seldom far from the action. He is a friendly, accessible and extremely effective administrator who fights tooth and nail for his charges and seldom loses. He has the upper North Island cricket media drinking out of the palm of his hand, literally. They meet regularly at a pub in Clevedon where the scribes lap up player hardship stories and run to their editors.

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Mills also happens to be older brother of Black Caps veteran Kyle Mills, a tie-up that makes some people uncomfortable.

We can also reveal NZC has little faith in its two powerful Australians, director of cricket John Buchanan and selection manager Kim Littlejohn.

Buchanan is regarded as being doddery and off the pace and far from the revolutionary that some thought he would be.

Littlejohn lacks knowledge and neither are seen as long-term options. As for coach Mike Hesson, he has some good qualities but is in before his time.

The sport has dropped a long way in the 11 months since Bracewell bowled New Zealand to a seven-run victory over Australia in Hobart. It is time for some senior players and visiting administrators to take their cue, depart the stage, and let the game grow again.

- The Dominion Post

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