Boock: Cricket 'conspiracy' doesn't add up

18:42, Jan 20 2013
Sunday Star-Times columnist Richard Boock says sometimes being a small island at the bottom of the world is a good thing.

Needless to say, after more than a month picking through the rubble of this train wreck, we're back to where we started.

Time might have moved on for the New Zealand cricketers - tours undertaken and series completed - but all roads still lead back to a certain hotel room in Sri Lanka, where the then-captain, Ross Taylor, was advised of plans for a leadership change.

Everything that's happened since, on the field and off, has its genesis at that meeting.

It's like this, Shane: Head coach Mike Hesson and bowling coach Shane Bond.

The most recent round exploded last Friday when Radio Sport revealed a letter, written by New Zealand bowling coach Shane Bond to NZC, expressing misgivings about the version of events presented by coach Mike Hesson. Among the words reportedly used in Bond's communique were "dishonest", "cover-up" and "sabotage".

Furthermore, he believed the split-captaincy option, eventually offered to the now-exiled Taylor, was never on the table.

Only problem? Bond wasn't at the meeting.


He was relying on impressions gleaned from previous discussions and snatches of conversation with some of the protagonists afterwards.

The fact remains, of the four people who were actually at the pow-wow, three - Hesson, assistant coach Bob Carter and manager Mike Sandle - agree on what was said and meant. In other words, to accuse Hesson of dishonesty is to also accuse Carter and Sandle.

People have talked about Bond's reputation as a straight-shooter. A former police officer, some note.

Well, Mike Sandle served for 24 years on the police force, on the organised crime unit for eight, and was a former member of the armed offenders squad. His reputation as a manager of elite sports teams is spotless. Seems a little far-fetched to suggest he'd risk all that to save Hesson's skin. Gracious, he doesn't even come from Otago.

And what of Carter? If Bond is right - that Hesson deliberately misrepresented what took place at the meeting - then so has the New Zealand assistant coach. That is, a man widely respected as a trustworthy and knowledgeable mentor (Stephen Fleming used to sing his praises) and for a special ability to help young players, has opted to participate in a Hesson-inspired cover-up.

Unlikely? Hell, he doesn't come from Otago, either.

This isn't a defence of NZC. Its performance on this particular issue has been woeful, an exercise in what not to do. In every facet, from the unfathomable timing of the move to the utter breakdown in communication, it has been found wanting.

Having said that, as long as three of the four individuals at the meeting in question remain in agreement about its content, accusations of deceit seem not only unfair but unsustainable.

If it can be somehow proved there's been a conspiracy to damage Taylor, that the Black Caps' senior management group acted dishonestly, then a purge all the way up to chief executive David White would be a minimum requirement.

However, until there's something more than Taylor's word against that of Hesson, Carter and Sandle, plus a letter from someone not even present at the meeting, we're a long way from selecting a firing squad.

True, that will never satisfy the many Taylorphiles out there. Anyone who sees him as anything less than a martyr these days is fair game. According to some cloth-heads, my view shouldn't count because a brother holds the honorary role of NZC president. Hardly helped when a subbing error wrongly confused us last Sunday but you get the picture.

Support Taylor's position and your opinion is worthy. Oppose it and you have a secret agenda.

New Zealand cricket might lack many things, but it's never been short on conspiracy theories. This one has a Dan Brown-like tale at every turn.

If it's not Fleming manipulating the coaching appointment process to produce the best outcome for (his client) Brendon McCullum, it's the Otago "mafia" pulling the strings, team managers lying to protect Hesson or conflicts of interest in the media. All this, apparently, rather than just accept Taylor may have been mistaken.

Bond's missive? Doesn't change anything, really. Far from being an outline of the "facts" of the case, it's more a meandering series of opinions and impressions. No surprises that NZC dismissed it.

If anyone really wants to deal in "facts", though, they should start with this one: There were four people in that room in Sri Lanka. Three of them agree on what was said.

Email or Twitter @richardboock

Sunday Star Times