Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Imperative to mend team bond

Shane Bond. Photo / NZPA
Shane Bond. Photo / NZPA

The relationship between captain Brendon McCullum and bowling coach Shane Bond needs further mending if New Zealand are to unite ahead of the England series, starting this week.

A lack of trust continues between the former team-mates after Bond's inflammatory letter to New Zealand Cricket regarding the handling of the Ross Taylor captaincy saga and his assessment of the general team culture.

The Herald on Sunday understands the situation is simmering because McCullum values loyalty as the most important quality in a team and Bond broke what he considered a cardinal rule by drafting his letter.

One source described their relationship euphemistically as "professional"; another, perhaps a touch dramatically, said it was "an almost untenable situation".

Exacerbating the Bond/McCullum scenario is the prior depth of their relationship. Their first New Zealand tours (to Australia) coincided during the halcyon summer of 2001-02.

Both lived in Christchurch and apparently used to have net sessions in the downtime between tours and during Bond's periods of injury rehabilitation. Yet their outlooks on life appear to have driven them apart. McCullum is more gregarious, his spirits buoyed by company; Bond is no hermit but part of his professionalism comes from enjoying solitude.

The Bond/McCullum difficulties contrast with the repaired relationship between Bond and coach Mike Hesson after Bond's letter landed on NZC desks more than seven weeks ago.

Bond is hardly a villain. He regarded what he wrote as for the betterment of the team and stuck to his principles. However, there is a feeling within the team it was premature to issue such a decree when he had not been in the job two months at that point.

His actions surprised a number within the New Zealand set-up for what has been deemed a lack of political savvy. One former team-mate said: "He was one of the most honest guys I ever played with but he might've been a bit naive here." Another former New Zealand cricketer said: "Bond has integrity and calls it as he sees it."

Another insider said Bond had shown loyalty to Taylor but "as far as being a member of a coaching staff goes, you don't write letters because it makes it look like you're looking after yourself rather than working together as a team."

Bond is understood to have been advised to start forming better relationships within the team. However, his bowling charges have had a sound impact during his brief tenure.

His exemplary discipline and demands for training accuracy have been evident. The New Zealand bowlers snared 20 wickets (in addition to Taylor's runs) to beat Sri Lanka in the Colombo test. They also took 20 wickets to enable New Zealand to win the first two one-dayers (and the series) in South Africa. Mitchell McClenaghan was successfully eased into the international ranks in South Africa in the absence of Tim Southee.

One cross against Bond's name was the inability to dismiss South Africa during the test series.

Whispers also regularly float through cricket circles of Bond's dedication to working with promising pace bowlers, especially in the CD nursery boasting Adam Milne, Ben Wheeler and Bevan Small.

Bond has helped re-model former New Zealand player Hamish Bennett's action and mentored Wellington bowler Tipene Friday.

Before Bond took the job, he was aware exceptional players rarely make exceptional coaches and acknowledged he was prepared to work at it.

"I know there are guys in the team I played with, so that presents a challenge being in a different role but it's a problem I'm prepared to deal with."

Bond has a wealth of practical experience in wicket-taking, injury recovery and courage which could be useful team. Re-building trust and passing on that knowledge is paramount right now.

- Herald on Sunday

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