Cricketing soap opera with an unexpected ending
Cricket: year-enderMARK GEENTY
A gaggle of aspiring fiction writers couldn't have trumped New Zealand Cricket's actual plotlines in 2012.
In short: the national coach quit because he couldn't work with the director of cricket, whose own position later came under increasing scrutiny.
The new coach, installed ahead of his time, told the captain three days before a test series in Sri Lanka that he would be replaced at tour's end.
And the New Zealand team then departed for the toughest tour in world cricket without their sacked skipper and best player who inferred someone at NZC was "definitely" lying about events that led to his removal, and is barely on speaking terms with the coach.
No surprise, then, that the Black Caps lost a lot of cricket matches in the calendar year, 22 in total, before heading to South Africa.
The team's world ODI ranking slipped to ninth, below Bangladesh, while they remained eighth in tests and Twenty20.
Top that in 2013.
Ross Taylor's sacking dominated sports news for a fortnight in December as NZC chief executive David White dithered, confirmed Brendon McCullum as New Zealand's 28th test skipper then couldn't adequately explain the process.
It wasn't so much the change in captain, but the awful timing and lack of respect for Taylor that grated, and generated a wave of public sympathy for the team's best batsman.
Coach Mike Hesson was the villain after he and Taylor put their sides of the story about the two Sri Lanka meetings.
Hesson claimed a misunderstanding, that he wanted Taylor to remain at the helm of the test team; Taylor said it was made clear he wasn't rated and would be gone in all three formats.
When he was offered the test captaincy on the team's return, seemingly an olive branch for his man-of-the-match second test performance in a remarkable Colombo victory, he declined and opted out of the South Africa tour.
NZC chairman Chris Moller emerged at a Basin Reserve press conference to apologise to Taylor and his family over his treatment, but said no one would be sacked as a result.
No further comment was given on the captaincy farce as NZC investigated "additional information".
The current board will all need to re-apply for their unpaid roles next year under a new constitution, as Moller challenged more former international players to put their names forward.
The year started promisingly enough on the field, too. Fresh from a rare test win in Australia, New Zealand beat Zimbabwe by a record innings and 301-run margin in Napier then swept the five limited overs matches.
Sterner tests awaited, as tension between coach John Wright and director of cricket John Buchanan began to bubble to the surface.
After losing all three series to South Africa at home, Wright was having second thoughts.
The final straw was when he was refused a team camp to prepare for the West Indies tour.
Wright, who guided the team to the World Cup semifinals and the Hobart win over Australia, walked away barely 18 months into his job, citing an untenable working relationship with Buchanan, his former coaching rival with Australia.
The race to take over came down to Hesson and Australians Trent Woodhill and Matthew Mott, the latter of whom had turned down the job in 2008.
It went to Hesson, a well organised and successful coach of Otago whose only international experience was a brief stint with Kenya. Doubts abounded as to his readiness for such a major assignment.
Hesson took over for India and Sri Lanka where defeats continued and tension between he and Taylor surfaced.
A curious response to a question about potentially splitting the captaincy set off alarm bells when he said it was "a board decision".
New Zealand lost four in a row to tumble out of the World T20, two of those defeats to eventual finalists the West Indies and Sri Lanka in super over eliminators.
Amid all this captain-coach tension, the poor results continued in Sri Lanka with a 3-0 ODI series defeat and a 10-wicket first test loss in Galle.
Then, somehow, they produced a 167-run win at P Sara Oval, led by Taylor's 142 and 74, and iced by the dynamic pace duo of Tim Southee and Trent Boult who took 15 wickets between them with quality swing bowling.
The latter pair offered hope for the future as one of the better new ball pairings for New Zealand in recent memory.
Meanwhile the test futures of two of the country's most prolific wicket-takers, Daniel Vettori and Chris Martin, remained in limbo due to ongoing injuries (Vettori) and the form of the young pacemen (Martin).
Opener Martin Guptill won the supreme Sir Richard Hadlee Medal at the NZC awards for his prolific runscoring, although his form tailed off worryingly in the subcontinent.
On the domestic front there were three separate winners of the major trophies: Auckland (T20), Northern Districts (Plunket Shield) and Central Districts (50-over competition).
The Aces defended their T20 title then became the first New Zealand team to win a game in the main draw of the T20 Champions League, in South Africa.
A New Zealander claimed the major spoils there, with Nathan McCullum part of the winning Sydney Sixers team.
- © Fairfax NZ News