Ex-skipper Rutherford: Big gulf in NZ cricket

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 06:00 16/12/2012
Ken Rutherford
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TOP GUN: Former test captain Ken Rutherford, who now lives in South Africa, in action at the one day international 1992 World Cup at Eden Park.

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Former test captain Ken Rutherford believes a huge gulf exists between New Zealand Cricket administration and its top players, and that controversial director of cricket John Buchanan needs to be held to account for the growing chasm.

Rutherford's criticism comes as the spotlight increasingly falls on Buchanan while he appears "missing in action" amid growing speculation he has been marginalised within NZC's complex political machinations since the Ross Taylor captaincy saga blew open.

Now living in South Africa, Rutherford also took aim at the selection of the Black Caps' Twenty20 and test sides named for the upcoming tour of the republic, saying the recent fallout over Taylor's sacking as captain has created a "smokescreen" for a series of poor selection choices.

Rutherford was the last New Zealand test captain to win a test in South Africa when the Black Caps beat their hosts by 137 runs in Johannesburg in 1994.

"There seems to be a huge gulf that exists at the moment between the administration of New Zealand Cricket and what's actually happening on the playing field," Rutherford told the Sunday Star-Times.

"That wasn't always the case in the past. You had guys like Frank Cameron, who was convener of selectors and very close to the team. He understood the way the administration worked as well. [Former convener of selectors] Don Neely was in a similar situation, where he was a bridge between the two, as well as Sir Richard Hadlee.

"When he held the job, he was right at the heartbeat of what was happening from a team perspective and from an administration perspective - but there seems to be a huge disconnect now between what is happening at the administration level and what might be happening on the playing field."

Buchanan has maintained his silence since Taylor's withdrawal from the South African tour, and McCullum's appointment as captain. The former Australian coach was understood to have favoured keeping Taylor in the role.

The Sunday Star-Times has tried repeatedly to contact Buchanan over the last week and again yesterday, however he did not return any calls.

"I would have thought as director of cricket [Buchanan's] role would have been prominent," Rutherford said.

"We've heard absolutely nothing from him publicly, which I think is hugely abnormal. I would have thought a big part of his role should have been accountability in these sort of situations."

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Under-fire NZC chief executive David White defended the silence of Buchanan, and was confident of the former Australia coach's position at the organisation.

"John's got a very important role to play as our director of cricket," White said.

"We're just working through this current issue ... and he's got a big role to do. No issues there at all, really."

White has borne the brunt of the public outrage towards the NZC over the last fortnight, but Rutherford, who played 56 tests for New Zealand between 1985 and 1995, believes he should have never been put in that position by Buchanan.

"David White has been trying to run around, but it's not really White's job," Rutherford said.

"White's job is more on the administration side and getting the business right.

"White's been unfairly portrayed - he probably doesn't even know what's been going on behind the scenes. A lot of it isn't the CEO's job. Let the playing guys do their roles. Buchanan has to, at some stage, stick his hand up and let us know what he's thinking about it all. I would have said it sits firmly under his portfolio."

The Black Caps T20 team left for South Africa last week, where they will play three internationals against their hosts, before a two-match test series begins in Cape Town on January 2.

The T20 side features five debutantes, while the test team sees journeyman spinner Bruce Martin and former Black Cap Peter Fulton brought into the fold.

Rutherford questioned a number of selections in both sides, including that of ND all-rounder Corey Anderson, who has a high score of only 35 not out in T20 cricket over the last year.

"What's actually happened is this huge smokescreen around the political nature of things over the last week, and all the comings and goings about this sacking, very little attention has been paid to the team actually picked for South Africa," Rutherford said.

"There are some incredibly questionable selections there. It's taken the heat off [national selection manager Kim] Littlejohn a bit. He's made some pretty big calls. If people were looking at someone like Corey [Anderson], and I don't want to be unfair on him, but how the hell is this guy picked?

"I don't mean that in an unsavoury way at all."

Rutherford had a tumultuous time himself as New Zealand skipper.

The gutsy Otago middle order batsman took over the leadership from Martin Crowe in 1993, before being dumped two years later with a change of NZC administration.

- Sunday Star Times

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