Paul Lewis on sport

Paul Lewis is the Herald on Sunday's Sport Editor

Paul Lewis: Timing stumps cricket parties

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John Parker. Photo / NZ Herald
John Parker. Photo / NZ Herald

Oh dear. The Ross Taylor captaincy saga seems to have descended into deep, possibly irretrievable, farce.

I'm having to choose my words carefully, as I can feel a chill on the back of the shoulders; the icy breath of a lawyer waiting for a mistake. It's finally happened, you see. That which never should have occurred in the first place has taken a fresh step into an even bigger pile of poo.

John Parker's most recent push to get more ex-international cricketers on the board of New Zealand Cricket seems likely, in my opinion, to ensure no ex-international cricketers will be elected to the board of NZC. Parker recently went on radio in support of this worthy objective; a series of documents were released.

At least two well-known cricket personalities have taken umbrage at some of the comments contained in those documents - immediately frightening the horses of journalism - and have consulted (or are considering consulting) lawyers.

It would be wonderful to tell you what those comments were but even the implied presence of lawyers is often enough to make the scrotums of most news organisations ascend until they are sheltering beneath the lungs.

There was a Lord Chief Justice of England who, in his retirement speech, reflected sadly that his entire career seemed to have been spent untangling disputes between the drivers of two cars, both of which genuinely seemed to be on their own side of the road, sounding their horn and moving forwards in an orderly fashion while remaining stationary. Says a lot about lawyers.

But, when one's reputation is thought to have been besmirched, they come in handy. Parker is heading a group of former New Zealand cricket captains, players, coaches, selectors, officials, media people, corporate people and supporters. No names are given other than Parker's. The group is said to have been long discontented about the governance and board of NZC and the Taylor saga was the last straw. They are taking steps not only to express their view on how the sport should be governed in this country but also to get several of their number on to the board.

So far, so understandable. But this overall goal - with which I have to say I was in complete agreement - seems to have been supported by an approach of, and documents of, staggering naivety.

There were three documents - but the one drawing attention is the 77-bullet-point exploration headlined 'The Taylor Affair'. In this document, unsubstantiated by any confirmation or attribution to the undoubted heavyweights whose opinions and knowledge are supposedly contained within, are the following general claims, either directly made or hinted at:

• Incompetence

• Nepotism

• Cronyism

• Conspiracy

• Lying

• Encouragement of former players to apply for board positions only none are selected

This has allowed NZC to take the moral high ground; it can divert the withering public gaze from its own rather poorly washed underwear to this new 'outrage'.

Most felt NZC were at fault, not so much with the decision to replace Taylor with new skipper Brendon McCullum, but with the way it was done - an ill-considered putsch, insensitively handled at an almost comically bad time before a test match. It left Taylor, the country's top batsman, feeling wounded and isolated and seemingly out of form.

This column last week offered the view that it was NZC's own fault that Taylor had come out after the Black Caps' energising draw with England in the third test at Eden Park with hints of more tales to tell. They had failed to seal all the gaps; the wounds were still festering.

Now Parker and Co have handed them a golden cricket bat with which to hit them to the fence. Just as NZC did, the Parker group have made an ill-considered thrust insensitively made at an almost comically bad time after McCullum and troops had made a good fist of playing England in the test series.

Surely the time for this was in the midst of the Taylor saga itself. Many of the cricketing public have sighed and turned their attention to the coming tour of England.

The phrases "move on" and "get over yourself" are two of the most odious in use in New Zealand. They are the last refuge of the moron; the feeble lament of those whose little Kookaburra-ball brains hurt if asked to climb the intellectual mountain of considering an issue and addressing it. But the fact remains - many have moved on and they think, in their arrogance, that Taylor should too.

So all Parker and Co have achieved is to give their enemies a club to beat them with. NZC CEO David White immediately fired out a press release which said: "The allegations raised by John Parker and the anonymous group of critics are divisive, untrue and reflect poorly on them rather than the players they have wrongly attacked ... Attacks such as this are ... unhelpful. For the sake of the game, the focus should now be on the Black Caps' upcoming tour of England."

There's the high ground gone, then. Surely this crowd of cricketing might had to present a united front, using their not inconsiderable names and knowledge. Surely they had to sift through, as journalists do, all the chaff to separate the grain. By not doing so, they risk destroying their own case.

Unless they somehow have some sort of political lock on the NZC board, they seem reminiscent of Captain Darling in that scene from the excellent Blackadder series, the World War I version, where Blackadder questions Darling about his loyalty.

"Me, a German spy?" protests Darling. "I'm as British as Queen Victoria."

Blackadder: "So your father's German, you're half German and you married a German ... ?"

Like Darling, Parker and Co seem as though they can't win.

- Herald on Sunday

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