Togetherness key to helping Black Caps

IAN SNOOK
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2012

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OPINION: Surely no New Zealand cricket follower will be surprised by the recent Black Caps capitulation against an average Sri Lankan bowling attack, just bitterly disappointed, as has been the case so many times in the past.

This has not been a one-off phenomenon but an ever present problem since day one. The advent of professionalism, at least in terms of payments and employment, if not performance, has only highlighted the problems facing our cricket team, the major concern being the lack of leadership in every aspect that would be strong enough to pull a small playing nation together and see it perform with credit.

Perhaps only the late Chris Doig as chief executive and Stephen Fleming as captain have led with intelligence and credibility, while most others in these roles have not been able to shape a successful formula consistently.

However, the one thing that stands out from afar is the lack in all aspects of the organisation and squads pulling together for the good of the team on the field.

Cricket is a mentally tough game. It requires a strong single-mindedness to succeed but, just as importantly, it is a team game that is built around support and encouragement from everyone involved. One can only hope that the developing New Zealand culture of "taking without giving" and "self before team" has not infiltrated into the Black Caps lineup.

Most players appear so deeply intimidated within their own personal honesty in realising they are not performing to the required level for international cricket, that negative body language is the most obvious aspect in their game and there is no individual on board to rectify the problem. As a group they need to conjure up some courage and the luck that will go with it.

The first step is to sort out the leadership model and get the best people in place. One imagines there is more than $1 million worth of staff contributing to these performances in the form of a variety of coaches, medical staff and selectors, so there needs to be something far more positive arising from the turmoil they are now part of.

Martin Crowe and Glenn Turner have recently been appointed regional selectors, which is about as useful as having James Franklin use the newish ball, so why not go the whole hog and appoint one as the supremo?

Dump everyone else, make Mike Hesson the stats and research man and assistant coach, one Australian can go home and the other can head up the academy. The other coaches can make use of themselves in domestic cricket, and along with CEO David White, Turner can take over the show.

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White needs to climb in to this boots and all. It doesn't take a 360-degree review to understand what is going on. It will just take some real gumption and talking to people who actually know and understand New Zealand cricket.

This is not the Players' Association or a whole host of oldies but former players around the country who still understand the scene such as Mike Shrimpton and Fleming, plus a Ross Taylor and a Dan Vettori.

Turner will provide what is missing right now - a person with credibility. This is a mental game so it is about believing in what you are hearing. Being positive and confident will soon improve technique with good decisions made in a confident mind.

Ultimately, every player has to take responsibility for himself but needs credible people to assist him in making the plan.

At the end of this tour, the pressure should be taken off Taylor with the appointment of Kane Williamson as test captain.

Age has little to do with captaincy. You can either do it or you can't. It is absolutely crucial that in a team without stars the captain is being proactive and making telling decisions.

Williamson will improve with the added pressure, some decent tactics will occur, and Taylor will get back to being the country's best batsman by a country mile.

It is too easy to write this team off. What it requires is a far stronger leadership group which possesses energy and vision and which will provide a far more positive environment. If this means getting rid of some current players and management, then do it, but make sure the new people are the right ones.

Ian Snook is a former Taranaki and Central Districts captain. He is one of only four men to have played more than 100 games for Taranaki.

- Taranaki

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