OPINION: New Zealand Cricket has created the "perfect storm" for the coming tour by England to be a commercial flop.
Shocking on-field performances, highlighted again by the Black Caps' poor batting in the second test at Port Elizabeth, combined with the fallout from the Ross Taylor captaincy fiasco and an inability by NZ Cricket chiefs to acknowledge their own poor performance, threaten to make the England tour a lowlight instead of the highlight it should be on New Zealand's sporting calendar.
The tour, the only one of the New Zealand summer, should be a cash cow for NZ Cricket.
And while it still could be, given the massive following England usually bring to these shores, the gloss has already been taken off the tour through these painful distractions. England are scheduled to play three Twenty20, one-day games and tests from early next month through to late March.
If the Black Caps' current form continues, the tour could lose appeal early in each form of the game, with little sympathy likely to be afforded by a tired and frustrated public who started to lose patience with this side long before the latest chapter of embarrassments in South Africa.
While under-fire coach Mike Hesson has made a rod for his own back with his handling of Taylor, the former New Zealand captain has not covered himself in glory since his self-imposed exile from the sport after his demotion.
Taylor's refusal to play for Central Districts has been downright sad.
He received plenty of sympathy from the public over the captaincy debacle but the tide is turning.
Central Districts coach Alan Hunt has repeatedly reminded us how important the Stags team is to Taylor. It's hard to agree with him, given just how much trouble the team has been in during the national Twenty20 competition through injury and players making themselves unavailable.
If the Stags really were that important to Taylor, then he would have emerged from behind closed doors, rolled his sleeves up and got out and helped.
Not only would it have been a major fillip for the side, it would have given fans some much-needed quality batting to watch.
Taylor's refusal to turn out in green or don his black cap in South Africa does not reflect well on the man himself.
In 1981, when Ian Botham was relieved of the England captaincy, he was asked by new skipper Mike Brearley if he wanted to continue playing in the side for the rest of the Ashes series. "What a stupid question," Botham replied, before following it up with: "There is no greater honour in cricket than to play for your country."
Botham went on to be the star of that series. Sadly we cannot say the same about Taylor.
NZ Cricket's pricing structure for the HRV Cup has been as equally appalling as Taylor's refusal to play.
How it can justify the charges fans are met with at the gate, when the competition is shorn of the national side, is mystifying.
I know plenty of people who previously never missed a game at Pukekura Park who have refused to pay what has been asked this season and opted for cheaper types of entertainment. Charging children $10 to get into the ground is shameful. They should be free, because if you stop them going when they are young, they are less likely to follow the game as they get older.
The lack of flexibility around pricing has also cost NZ Cricket and the Central Districts association.
Central Districts had no chance of qualifying for the playoffs, yet there was no price drop to draw punters in for the last two games at Pukekura Park.
That appears wrong to me.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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