OPINION: New Zealand Cricket has been forced to humiliatingly follow on, with no chance of emerging from their test as a winner.
The game's governing body has played and missed so badly with the appointment of coach Mike Hesson and the ensuing turmoil over captain Ross Taylor that nothing they can do in their second dig will rectify matters.
The widening rift between Black Caps coach and skipper has not only taken the much-needed gloss of last week's surprising, impressive test win over Sri Lanka but cast a gloomy shadow over the upcoming summer programme.
I expressed doubt over Hesson's appointment, worried that a man with negligible first-class domestic success with Otago and an aborted stint with world cricketing superpowers Kenya truly made the best candidate to assume the position.
While Hesson's tactical and technical nous is well thought of, appointing a man with a close relationship to a player disappointed he was recently overlooked for the captain's role was a recipe rife with potential pitfalls.
Was that NZC's plan all along - to foster disharmony and acrimony?
Or was Hesson seen as a relative patsy that would allow continued hefty input from more powerful figures?
Whatever their thinking, it's produced a fearful mess that has further eroded the constantly ebbing confidence of the code's followers that those running the show have any special insight or, at the bare minimum, professional competence.
The board is now backed into a corner over the power struggle for leadership, after further failing to douse a fire in recent months despite it becoming glaringly apparent that the brigade should be sent out.
The talk is that Taylor has ''lost the dressing room'' - which appears to be this year's buzzword for budding critics.
It was regularly trotted out as being the decisive factor when Brian McClennan was dumped as Warriors coach before he had completed a season in charge, when it seemed a more appropriate reason was that the players couldn't tackle or catch.
So just because Taylor prefers to play Nicki Minaj on the dressing room stereo to Kings of Leon he shouldn't be captain?
Obviously it's not that simplistic - but there's no rule that your captain has to win a popularity contest either.
The national side has never in the past required likeability to be a factor in who should lead the team.
Geoff Howarth was well-regarded as a skipper but wouldn't have been invited to a summer barbecue by all of his charges, while
Jeremy Coney was another astute captain who wasn't adored by all team-mates.
Cricket is a game where the team's performance is chiefly the product of a bunch of uncorrelated individual efforts.
It's not like rugby or netball, where the team dynamic has an overwhelming influence.
The Chiefs' camaraderie was undeniably a notable factor in their Super Rugby title this year, as was the devotion of the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic players towards coach Noeline Taurua in their trans-Tasman championship glory.
But cricketers need to produce primarily on a personal level in three aspects - batting, bowling and fielding.
Unless your captain is a complete tactical numpty, his status should have little bearing on your contribution.
Many teams have won baseball's World Series with a clubhouse festering with ill-feeling that only winning made more palatable.
Few players cared if their star hitter had the personality of a deranged warthog or that their fastball pitcher possessed overwhelmingly abysmal personal hygiene as long as they crushed dingers and struck out opposing batters.
It's been written that Taylor isn't a favourite of the pace brigade. Yet having a grumpy set of quick bowlers appeals as an asset rather than a detriment.
What's irrefutable is that, while the captain shouldn't automatically be the team's best player, Taylor has endeavoured with some success to lead from the front - only Tim Southee out of the current side can lay a genuine claim to being a better-performed player of late.
Should Taylor's troops start producing more meritorious efforts like the second test win in Sri Lanka then they could be granted a greater right for a greater say.
But as it stands now, neither they nor NZC can feel good about what's occurred.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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