OPINION: Just when New Zealand Cricket desperately needs a shot of public goodwill, its ill-prepared national team is struggling to garner it in the West Indies.
The first week of their tour, by way of two Twenty20 mismatches in the United States, highlighted the folly of sending a team directly from a New Zealand winter to play a match-hardened side and the world's most destructive batsman.
The story goes that coach John Wright, preparing for his farewell tour (no, it's not a bad dream, New Zealand's best coach in years is gone next month), requested an offshore team camp including warmup matches.
His boss, John Buchanan, reportedly turned it down on the basis that there was no budget for it. Surely NZC's flagship team, which the incoming coach is tasked with hoisting to a world top-two ranking in all formats, warranted some pre-tour investment in T20 World Cup year.
So the bowlers rolled their arms over in Brisbane for a few days then flew around the world, and the batsmen, bar England-based Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson, did their best impressions of newborn foals on rollerskates on the sluggish pitches.
Most of the batsmen have struggled, bar BJ Watling. He bucked the trend, came in cold and produced a top-drawer innings under pressure which could even have led New Zealand to victory on Sunday if Guptill or Williamson had kicked on.
Watling should now be a test certainty, even if it is in the top-six, assuming Kruger van Wyk is the preferred gloveman. Ross Taylor (shoulder) remains in doubt and incumbent Dean Brownlie will be under pressure after his early struggles against Sunil Narine's spin.
So it's 2-0, with three ODIs to play in St Kitts. Tim Southee confidently declared if they can remove Chris Gayle early, they win the match. Sunday's effort was an improvement, at least, but there will be few excuses for 5-0 against a similarly ranked side after time to adjust to conditions.
The cavalry is on the way, led by Brendon McCullum whose rostered tour off was cut short by Taylor's injury. He is scheduled to arrive today, and should be rushed in on Thursday morning to save Rob Nicol any further embarrassment. Daniel Flynn is worth persevering with at opener or No3, for now.
After NZC invested in James Franklin by contracting him, and declaring him a certainty for the World T20, he should have also been summoned on pitches much more akin to Sri Lanka than those he's playing on in England.
Let's hope the players are also giving 100 per cent for Wright, as they did previously before he confirmed he was quitting because of differences with Buchanan. On that note, NZC's search for a coach should stop at Mike Hesson.
The Wright fiasco, which mobilised a groundswell of public opinion against an Australian-dominated NZC, should see a New Zealander installed in the job.
Hesson didn't play for New Zealand, and Kenya is his highest coaching level. But there is no standout candidate for what appears an awfully tough gig. As NZC scour the globe, with a bevy of Australians high in the queue, Hesson may be the best fit for a job which requires weekly meetings with Buchanan.
Respected by the players after his successes with Otago, and harder than his public persona would suggest, Hesson would be a popular choice.
- © Fairfax NZ News