Cricket: Dan the man to lead test future

By Dylan Cleaver

Daniel Vettori has emerged from a systems shake-up a more powerful figure in New Zealand cricket since, and possibly including, Stephen Fleming.

For the first time since taking over the captaincy following the 2007 World Cup Vettori can claim, some personnel issues aside, that this is his side.

With coach Andy Moles by design a more peripheral figure than John Bracewell, the onus has been placed on Vettori and his senior team-mates to drag New Zealand out of the massive hole they have dug for themselves in test cricket.

At the forefront of this sea change in philosophy has been Roger Mortimer.

Under the direction of Mortimer, who was pivotal in directing the 2004 Olympic campaigns of Sarah Ulmer and Hamish Carter, the onus has been put on players to map out their own career trajectories.

This includes moving away from a system where the coach tells you what to do and when to do it.

For example, a bowler like Chris Martin who would benefit from the ability to reverse swing the ball is encouraged to seek help from somebody skilled in that art.

A budget has been set aside for this sort of specialist help.

Pressure is being placed on individuals from his leadership group, which includes Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram and Ross Taylor, to raise their skill and fitness levels to a point where they can compete for five days against teams other than Bangladesh, the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

In an ironic twist, it comes in the week of the release of Sir Richard Hadlee's book. Changing Pace: A Memoir, laments the amount of influence Fleming enjoyed while skipper of the national side.

"If we selectors had a criticism, it was that at times Stephen tended to overshadow and almost downgraded the profile and role of the coach," Hadlee wrote.

The role of coach in cricket has long been the source of angst. At one extreme is the Ian Chappell-Shane Warne school of thought where the coach should be the vehicle that transfers players to and from the ground and the hotel.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Glenn Turner-Duncan Fletcher model where the coach is a captain by proxy who dictates and directs decisions at every juncture, on and off the field.

Bracewell sat towards the intrusive end of the scale and there has been a conscious effort to put more faith in Vettori's ability to lead the team through a dark period in New Zealand cricket.

As the allrounder has given himself until 2011 before handing over captaincy, most likely to McCullum, Vettori will be working quickly to establish a blueprint for success at test level. At the same time there is apparently an acceptance at NZC level, that there could be a bit more pain before results start changing appreciably.

The one area where Vettori would no doubt like more influence is in selection. This has previously been seen as a big no-no because of fears it can lead to factionalism within the side and perceptions of favouritism can create problems in the dressing room.

However, in this case it might be logical for Vettori, at the very least, to have an increased say.

If the onus is on him to lead New Zealand back to respectability in test cricket, surely it makes sense for him to have a say in the players he thinks can help him achieve this goal.

- Herald on Sunday

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