Jeremy Wells

Jeremy Wells on cricket

Jeremy Wells: White's hot seat far cry from coaching schoolboy cricket

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David White under attack at the press conference. Photo / Getty Images
David White under attack at the press conference. Photo / Getty Images

I was 30 minutes early. Eden Terrace is a difficult place to while away time. My options were limited. I could go and check out the latest in designer lighting at ECC, sample new cricket bats at Cricket Express, or trawl local lunch bars looking for peppermint slices.

I decided instead to grab a takeaway sandwich and stop and eat it by the new remand wing of Mt Eden Prison. No matter how desperate things get, I find prison perusal a perfect way to keep things in perspective. When confronted with a crisis it's good to remember the gift of freedom.

My final destination would be New Zealand Cricket's new Nugent St headquarters. NZC, under new chief executive David White, had recently moved its base from Christchurch to Auckland to be further from faultlines and closer to sponsors' wallets. It was a controversial move, which resulted in a number of job changes, but one that seemed sensible given the lack of population and ethnic lunch options in present-day Canterbury.

It was my first cricket press conference. I was nervous. I felt like an impostor. I didn't even know which leaky building the press conference was in. Luckily I spotted TVNZ sports reporter Craig Stanaway arrive in the carpark with his crew so I followed him. I was surprised to note that he didn't carry the camera tripod - instead leaving the lugging to a female colleague. It is basic television etiquette that the Pony carries the 'Pod.

Ask Mike McRoberts. He carried his operator's tripod all over Kabul in a flak jacket while dealing with dysentery and 40-degree heat. I seem to remember seeing him carting that thing through a riverbed once on a news promo. McRoberts knows his duty. Stanaway, on the other hand ... disappointing.

They were all there. The 19-year-old blond guy from TV3, Herald veteran David Leggat, even John Campbell turned up. A camera operator started moving the furniture around. Someone made a joke about deckchairs and the Titanic. Tension was high. It was a historic moment.

A media liaison guy informed everyone that coach Mike Hesson was stuck in Christchurch thanks to a flight cancellation and White would be fronting the press conference. Stanaway had made his tripod-less way into the hall and was relaxing on a black leather lounge suite.

Finally, White was led in like Lee Harvey Oswald to the sound of camera flashes. He looked nervous. I glanced around the room looking for Jack Ruby. White read a prepared statement but nobody listened.

He opened the floor to questions. Campbell fired the first shot about the week's public relations disaster. He reloaded and fired another, and another, and another. The mood became frenzied. The smell of Rexona filled the room.

As a schoolboy, I was coached by the man who now controls NZC. He was a wonderful coach. He was encouraging.

He passed on advice with a smile. He told me to pull back my length, to hit the deck hard. When I took six wickets against Hamilton Boys' High, he praised me generously. I was smitten to be complimented by a guy who'd faced Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram in Pakistan.

It was tough to watch my former coach facing the journalistic equivalent of bowling with a compo on an 18-yard pitch.

After 30 minutes the press conference ended. Nobody was physically injured - but three questions still remain.

Could this have been handled better? Certainly. Could Mike Hesson be judged reasonably as a coach if he didn't have the chance to choose his own captain? Not really. Will Brendon McCullum be a better captain? Probably. Let's hope there's no need for a Warren Commission.

- NZ Herald

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