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OPINION: Just as New Zealand Cricket had a day to celebrate on the field in Dunedin yesterday, a smelly incident from over a week ago still hung thick in the air.
Jeetan Patel's Queenstown run-in with a bouncer on a boozy night out with Daniel Vettori should have been put to bed last weekend.
Instead it took questions from Fairfax Media on Wednesday evening for the full truth to emerge. The airwaves and internet were abuzz yesterday as we awaited some actual cricket.
Did NZC think an incident outside a Queenstown bar involving an international sportsman would just go away? All it needed was a press release saying Patel made a bad decision drinking heavily during a match last Wednesday night, and outline what went on. Instead, he was simply "unwell" when he missed the second day's play.
In the immortal words of NZC's director of cricket John Buchanan, in January:
"The reality is . . . that things like integrity, trust and accountability doesn't reside consistently, or constantly, within our organisation."
Lessons clearly haven't been learned from Taylor-gate. When NZC now makes any public comment, people furrow their brows and scratch their heads. Is anyone telling the truth? What are they not telling us?
Chief executive David White is usually available to speak on issues but often says a lot without saying much at all. His preference is to use lines like "NZC will not be commenting further", as it did when the Patel story first broke. Or, another favourite: "The matter is now closed", as we were fed after the debacle of a press conference at the Basin Reserve before Christmas.
Cricket followers aren't stupid and generally know when there's more to a story. Economy of truth can be seen through in a hurry, and the treatment of Ross Taylor still has people on high alert. Fans deserve transparency, the knowledge that the players they pay money to watch are preparing well for matches and the administration is competent and not embarking on coverups.
Last week's incident was a coverup, as team management led by New Zealand assistant coach Bob Carter thought protecting Patel, who is struggling with the death of his mother, was paramount.
Patel deserves sympathy but, like any other player, cannot go out drinking in the middle of a first-class game.
Patel made a bad decision, as did Vettori and Doug Bracewell, at his Napier home. All involved alcohol. There weren't atrocities or contract-threatening behaviour. But NZC needs to hammer home the message to its players, and start by showing some leadership and transparency itself.
It seems the message is taking a painfully long time to get through to this administration.
- The Dominion Post
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