OPINION: Chances are that by the time you read this today, New Zealand's national cricket team will have succumbed to one of its most ignominious test series defeats in history, in South Africa.
You don't need me to tell you that. If you're the remotest bit interested in our major summer sport, you'll know it only too well.
You'll also know, by way of perspective, that they've been facing the world's number one team on their own patch. Not an easy assignment for any team, let alone one ranked eighth in the world, depleted by the absence of several key players, and in the aftermath of one of the most controversial periods in the sport's history in this country.
I talk there, of course, of the appallingly handled, by virtually all concerned, unseating of Ross Taylor as captain and the installation of Brendon McCullum.
Like many of his relatively small stature, McCullum has a huge heart. But he was thrust into a role some felt he should have won ahead of Taylor on the eve of the toughest test series the Black Caps could possibly have faced right now. There's simply not another challenge this big in world cricket, though if anything comes close, it's facing England, which New Zealand will do at home later this summer.
In short, there could barely have been a more fiery baptism into the sacred role of team leader for McCullum. Which hardly suggests smart thinking on the part of the NZ Cricket brainstrust.
There are major question marks over the suitability of head coach Mike Hesson and his batting coach, Bob Carter, as the men to take the national team forward at a technical level, and although Hesson has talked up his players' work ethic in South Africa, he's said little to suggest he genuinely has an idea about turning their form around.
Another point that should be made here is that in cricket, traditionally, and unlike most other sports, the coach isn't the person with the final say. In cricket, it's the captain who's the leader - think MS Dhoni, Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Stephen Fleming, Daniel Vettori - with the coach an obviously vital part of the leadership of the squad. Brendon McCullum's certainly no Fleming or Vettori, as courageously as he might be trying to lead from the front, though it's questionable whether Taylor was either. And who else is there?
It's hardly the time, with England coming up for dessert, but NZ Cricket needs to get back swiftly to sort out the parlous state of the game here, on and off the field. Otherwise it won't just be the caps that are black.
- The Timaru Herald