Cricket management not playing with a straight bat
If prizes were handed out for public relations disasters and dysfunctional chaos, New Zealand Cricket would win hands down.
The debacle over the change in the Black Caps captaincy crowns an impressive year of world-class cock-ups and consistent failure. Of course, any old banana republic can replace a popular leader with a lesser candidate, particularly when the latter has a long-standing relationship with the new boss.
Things like this happen in Pakistan every five minutes. However, it takes real cojones to unseat an incumbent who has just won a man of the match award, almost single-handedly turning around his team's abysmal batting form with twin, textbook examples of a captain's knock. It's like Winston Churchill losing the British election after the war: a big "thanks very much for saving western civilisation and please close the door on your way out".
It is to Ross Taylor's credit that he hasn't slammed the door in Messrs Hesson's and White's faces. Lesser men would settle for a nice fat IPL contract, a bit of county cricket on the side and a few months in the sun. The likes of Glenn Turner refused to suffer such incompetence and ingratitude, removing themselves from the international game entirely for long periods. More recently Chris Gayle showed that the clowns atop West Indies cricket need him more than he needs them.
And then there's the sad story of big Jesse Ryder, a player with the instincts and thirst of greatness, challenged in the grey-matter stakes, and quick of temper, electing for self-imposed exile.
When taken together with the alienation of Ryder and the loss of John Wright, the captaincy fiasco is something less than a glowing endorsement of the current administration.
Would it be too simplistic and/or xenophobic to suggest that New Zealanders of experience be preferred to those of modest cricketing achievement or foreigners? Probably, given that Wright's stewardship of the national team was likewise bereft of significant progress. Yet it still beggars belief that the powers that be favoured Australian John Buchanan over one of the stalwart servants of our game, a man with an impressive coaching record in India to go with his 12 test-match centuries and 15 years in the international arena.
That Wright's batting average at the highest level is a full 30 runs in excess of David White's would seem to say something. That White's two-match career is two more than Mike Hesson could manage would seem to confirm it.
The results of our cricket team in 2012 have been so bad that many have looked to the history books for points of reference. The Black Caps' one-out-of-the-box victory over Sri Lanka in the final test of their hitherto disastrous tour was said to have been motivated by the team's desire to avoid equalling the record of six straight defeats endured by their 1954-55 predecessors. Understandably lost in this gloomy statistical comparison was the fact that six defeats is actually a long way from being the poorest run of international form. Aside from the obvious contemporary failings of minnows Bangladesh and Zimbabwe the likes of India, Australia and South Africa have all done worse that this.
Brendan McCullum would be well advised on the forthcoming tour of South Africa to remind the current world No 1 team of the ignominious years of 1889-1899, a decade in which the then whiter-than-white South Africans went down on eight straight occasions to colonial masters England, a result bad enough to initiate the Boer War. Such quality sledging may even limit the scoring of Amla and Kallis to a double century a piece.
It was fascinating how the Black Caps' 2012 results were a reverse image of their rugby equivalents. A year in which the All Blacks swept all before them, playing like the world champions they are, came unstuck with an untimely draw against the little-fancied Australians, a poor second half against Wales and a best-forgotten thrashing at the hands of an atypically adventurous England.
Compare that with the cricketers' mauling by South Africa, West Indies, India and Sri Lanka, with only an-end-of-season, out-of-character test win to bookend the early victory over Zimbabwe and you have a scenario in which night reflected day. With Taylor and Ryder at home for the summer and Vettori a spent force on the injury list, we are likely to linger in the shadows for some time.