Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Zealand Cricket has appointed John Wright as coach of the Black Caps.

Rumours abound that before the decision was made, there was a clandestine break-in at the National headquarters in Christchurch and that the perpetrators of this are believed to be logic and common sense.

That they were able to infiltrate the minds of CEO Justin Vaughan and the Board of Directors has been a remarkable feat. For so long now, Wright has been fobbed off by the National body in regards to the Black Caps coaching position on the grounds that he didn’t have the organisational skills to do the job to a high level. A rather peculiar claim when his success with India from 2000-2005 is taken into consideration.

With Wright’s promotion to the head coach’s position, incumbent Mark Greatbatch has been moved sideways to a selector’s role. He now heads a three man panel, along with former internationals Lance Cairns and Glenn Turner, who will select the team independently of the coach and captain. Daniel Vettori, along with high performance director Roger Mortimer who is no longer with NZC, is the big loser in this sad debacle that is eleven individuals attempting to impersonate a cricket team. No longer is he the kingmaker in the operation as he has been stripped bare of the majority of his power. Dethroned of his selector’s position, Vettori will now be left to concentrate on his role as captain and player.

How the overhaul of the operating procedure of the Black caps will affect Vettori remains to be seen. It can’t be easy on his ego to be taken down numerous levels so publicly. But, with a record of one win from the previous fifteen one-dayers, something had to give. New Zealand Cricket was left with no choice but to dismantle the present regime. An effervescent bundle of high performance, this lot was not. Sure, they put in two respectable efforts in the test series in India recently. But, it seems, that was an aberration.

Wright will have his hands full with this lot. Not being used to answering to anyone but themselves, player power had been allowed off its leash to run rampant over the last few years. Playing personal deciding what is best for the team, but appearing to lack the nous to know which is the best road taken. Get away with it they could, due to the lack of quality second tier back-up. New Zealand simply does not have quality or quantity to be able to afford to lose the top echelon on personnel. So NZC bowed to their demands. But, no longer.

Clearly, for New Zealand Cricket, the recent losing streak was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Something had to give. And it did. NZC got tough, bit the bullet, swept away the pieces no longer needed and spruced up a few other bits, virtually admitting they were wrong not to have headhunted Wright many moons ago.

Don’t expect miracles from Wright, though. With only two months until the World Cup, there is little hope that he can turn around what are currently the biggest under-achievers in New Zealand sport in that little a time. Even less hope that the upcoming tour by Pakistan will throw some success in their laps.

No, more than likely a twelve to eighteen month trek through the highs and lows of the cricketing mountains and valleys awaits the soldiers. And if they don’t like Wright’s way of doing things? Simple really, release them from their contracts and invite them to go off and make the money they so covet in the hit and giggle that is the IPL. If that’s what tickles their fancy, then so be it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, let the selectors choose eleven men that will give their all for their country. Sure, they mightn’t be to the standard of the current crop of playing staff, but, then, even if they lose heavily they wouldn’t be doing any worse than their supposed superiors are at the present time. And at least they will bleed for their country.

Which is just John Wright’s type of cricketer.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The New Zealand Rugby Union has been boxed into a corner and is on the ropes after Sonny Bill Williams landed a searing uppercut to their credibility.

Just when it looked as though Williams was giving his all to the mighty cause of rugby, news of Williams partaking in a boxing match in the first weekend of super fifteen next February jostles its way into our consciousness. Having showed commendable commitment to his new sport, many of us were finally prepared to forgive him for walking out on the Canterbury Bulldogs. Then he goes and mars it all by pulling a selfish stunt like this. And now he’s back to square one.

He claims boxing training will help his rugby for the 2012 season. Will improve his footwork, he says. Maybe it will. Just might cause him a serious season ending injury too. One punch from his opponent Scott Lewis, and potentially brain damage could be incurred. That said, perhaps his decision to get into a boxing ring instead of helping his Canterbury Crusader mates out smacks of someone that lacks the smarts to realise that he is letting others down. Or it could be that Williams knows what he is about and cynically lining his pockets with the green stuff is of more importance to him than being in the trenches with his teammates.

Maybe if this fight was to take part earlier in the summer, then some credence could be given to Williams’s argument that he is doing it as part of his training for the upcoming season. But on the first weekend of Super fifteen? Either he is procuring himself copious amounts of coin for the fight or he simply doesn’t give a toss about rugby and his employers. Not to mention all the fans out there. Perhaps Crusader fans would be within their rights to expect a refund as many of them would have been going to the opening match to watch Williams play.

But what would he care? As long as Sonny Bill Williams gets what’s best for Sonny Bill Williams, he’s happy. Some lucrative sponsorship deals here, a cashed up foray into the boxing ring there. Only way the Rugby Union could entice him to these fair shores, it seems. To think, we were all gullible enough to believe that Williams genuinely cared enough that he would choose to give his all to the cause of the New Zealand rugby. Turns out that those cynical types, that cared to illuminate anybody that would listen when Williams originally signed with the NZRU that he was only here on a hit and run mission to fulfil a dream of playing for the All Blacks at the world cup, were right.

Of course, the whole shemozzle doesn’t reflect particularly well on the NZRU. Taken for a ride somewhat, they appear powerless to do anything but bow to the demands of their prized prima donna. If they don’t give Williams what he wants, then they risk losing his services after the World Cup. In reality, there is more chance of the always patriotic Steve Hansen wearing nothing but a body painted New Zealand flag and break-dancing on the moon in said attire than there is of Williams staying in New Zealand in 2012 to dedicate himself to rugby.

And ask yourself this; if this was any other player, would the Union allow them to indulge in a boxing match? Not likely. The Rugby Union even refuses to select overseas based players for the All Blacks. No matter that those players such as Nick Evans are giving their all for their sport, showing total commitment, regardless of where they are based. How they must feel knowing that they would give anything to still be playing for their country, all the while seeing Williams laugh in the face of the famous black jersey.

So, one rule for Williams and a different version for the rest of the New Zealand super 15 teams, as well as the test squad.

Lucky for Williams then, that he has mastered all the necessary skills of rugby to such an extent that he is light years ahead of any other player and therefore able to take time away from rugby training to indulge his boxing fantasies.

Clearly being a rugby genius of biblical proportions, and with his obvious dedication to the cause, he will lead the All Blacks to their first World Cup trophy in twenty-four years.

Won’t he?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The next time Daniel Vettori demands the right to pack his own lunch, he should make sure he has the appetite to consume everything in his lunchbox.

Not content to be the Captain, the side’s one true world class bowler and do a handy job of batting on the side, he insisted that he have complete control over the team. So, no fulltime coach, then. Not to mention the fact that he is also one of the selectors.

It seems he liked the menu, ate it all and came back for seconds. A lot like anyone with an addiction, with the initial taste being to his liking, he hungered for more. It got the better of him. New Zealand Cricket bowed to his demands and he was on the road to absolute power.

All this would seem to be the cricketing equivalent of a dictatorship.

This is all well and good if you are on friendly terms with success.

Unfortunately for Vettori, though, he isn’t, and the situation is fast turning ugly for him.

While a good proportion of the cricketing fraternity were clamouring for John Wright to be brought in as coach, Vettori insisted there was no need. The players didn’t see the need for a fulltime coach. They knew how to go about producing the desired results.

Well, so he said, anyway.

Supposedly a lowly performing team like New Zealand doesn’t need a coach, yet a highly talented outfit such as the current England squad has a full-time coach to help them in their search for their Holy Grail, the Ashes.

Go figure, on that one.

They could have done with some help in India as their form has given very little hope to their long suffering fans.

After the routing that the Black Caps were on the receiving end of against Bangladesh, supporters thought it couldn’t get any worse. A respectable showing against India in the following test series and they were led to believe that the Bangladesh result may have been an aberration.

Now three-nil down in the one-dayers against what is effectively India’s B side, it is clear that there is something more serious wrong within the team and there seems little hope that they will acquire any semblance of form and confidence for the upcoming World Cup in February.

So, what can be done? Well, certainly there is no point in changing much this close to a major competition. New Zealand cricket have called in former England coach, Duncan Fletcher, for the remainder of the Indian tour. With so little time though, Fletcher can do no more than paper over a few of the many cracks that are visible for all to see.

This means that the Black Caps have no choice but to limp through the next three months and hope for a miracle.

Even after the world cup, however, the options are limited. New Zealand Cricket could make mass changes and bring in new faces. Of course the problem with this approach is that there appears to be very little in the way of genuine talent below the top team.

The problem for New Zealand Cricket is tournaments such as the IPL 20/20 which offers players the chance to earn inordinately large sums of money. If they had tried to kick them out of the National team, they would’ve simply gone off and earn mega-bucks doing a hell of a lot less work.

Until now, that is. With their poor form affecting their earning capacity, the player’s options are not so widespread. Which is a splendid time for CEO Justin Vaughan to put a halt to the player power that inflicts this team.

The current mob’s places within the team may be safe. What should not be safe, though, is Vettori’s monopoly on power within New Zealand Cricket. While his position in the team is without doubt, and there is no question that he should stay on as captain, that should be where his control ends. Make the decisions on the field. Off it, leave that to a coach that has had many years of experience.

Surely now is the time to appoint a full-time coach of the ilk of a Duncan Fletcher of a John Wright. Either of these men would do a fantastic job of rescuing a mob of out of control egos and moulding them into, if not the world’s best, a competitive unit capable of competing with any team on their day.

And let us forget the nonsense that Vettori and Vaughan spout about Wright not having the organisational skills for the job. After all, he did have five highly successful years of coaching a star-studded Indian side with egos that were a match for their cricketing talents. If Wright could manage anything involving Indian cricket with success, then he more than warrants consideration for the job of coaching the Black Caps.

To which, most would concur. Except for those within the National team that possibly overrate themselves and are frightened of the home truths that a straight-shooter such as Wright may direct their way. This would seem a more likely reason for the players being against Wright as coach than his ability to organise.The latter seems to be more of a red herring.

For the sake of cricket in New Zealand though, let us hope not. And let us trust that Vettori is big enough to admit that he has taken on too much and that he would be better off concentrating more on his game than on how much power he can attain.

If not, then New Zealand cricket should do the flagging fortunes of its National team a favour and take the decision out of Vettori’s hands.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Zealand has been put into bat by India in the second one day international in Jaipur tonight.

With the game being a day/nighter and heavy dew expected during the evening session, Indian captain Gautam Gambir predictably thought it wise to let the New Zealand bowlers struggle to bowl with a slippery ball.

If they do struggle, they won’t be the only ones in this match to find conditions impalpable. The batsmen have, too.

The opening pair of Jamie How and Martin Guptill made a furious start to the innings, smashing three fours in the first two overs. Then the runs dried up. What had been wayward bowling by S Sreesanth and Asheigh Nehra soon became the model of good line and length just wide of off-stump. And the New Zealander’s soon began to find batting not to their liking on what has been a low slow pitch.

How, in particular, was finding the going tough and perished in the fifth over after edging a Sreenanth deliver through to wicketkeeper Wriddiman Saha to leave New Zealand 14 for one.

In a strange decision, Captain Daniel Vettori decided to promote the inexperienced Kane Williamson up the order to number three ahead of Ross Taylor, despite the difficult batting conditions.

Williamson and Guptill proceeded to put on a partnership of fifty before Williamson was bowled by Munaf Patel playing around the ball for 29 with New Zealand now 64 for two in the 16th over.

After twenty overs, Guptill and Taylor had taken New Zealand through to 75 for two.