Anendra Singh: CEO must put code ahead of own goals

By Anendra Singh

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Hawke's Bay Cricket CEO Craig Findlay. Photo/Duncan Brown
Hawke's Bay Cricket CEO Craig Findlay. Photo/Duncan Brown

From where I'm standing at silly mid-on, Craig Findlay is shuffling uncomfortably in the face of a leg-before-wicket decision from a good section of the cricket faithful globally.

Believe me, I am hearing the vociferous appeals of "How's that?".

Suffice it to say the Hawke's Bay Cricket CEO hasn't broken any laws of the game but that doesn't mean he hasn't been trapped lbw.

In knocking 307 runs against St John's College First XI before retiring in a division one senior grade match last Saturday, Findlay let his adrenalin dictate terms, albeit acknowledging after the game it was against feeble opposition.

Is the Napier Technical Old Boys (NTOB) opening batsman proud of his achievement or the ensuing publicity he has courted?

In Findlay's words "mmm ... it's a tricky one".

I couldn't have put it any better because in that perceived sense of chivalry is an element of culpability.

Many bat-savvy, retired players can stride out to smash tons against primary, intermediate and high school teams but what has stopped the Greatbatches and Smithies from going down that path?

It is deplorably what failed to stop Findlay in the 23rd over and again seven overs later.

A pedigree player with first-class and professional experience, Findlay found fame at Nelson Park last Saturday but indubitably misfortune after unsuspectingly performing poorly in the game of life.

When St John's captain James McNatty pleaded for mercy "because things were getting out of hand" in the 23rd over Findlay said he would think about it. He proceeded to ignore the teenager seven overs later.

Findlay did think about it in the 23rd over but damningly not as CEO or parent but as someone who was driving home a message.

The former Hawke's Bay senior men's representative cricketer denies going to the park on Saturday with a premeditated mind "to teach them a lesson" but there's evidence to the contrary.

Where there's smoke, there's fire. How else did the St John's camp get wind of his intentions well before Saturday's flogging.

Whether Findlay likes it or not, he did make a point - at the blunt sweet spot of his willow.

He had contacted outgoing principal and coach Neal Swindells to ask him to drop his team down to division two in the grade.

Not surprisingly Swindells declined, adding they had earned the right to play there and would accept demotion only if they are still languishing at the bottom of the table at the end of this summer.

That was a fairly reasonable proposition and a stance that even Findlay should extol because he is all about building character and mental fortitude of youngsters.

The schoolboys were not about to roll over to die simply because Findlay wanted them to.

Sure, the schoolboys could have bowled a better line and length. You could argue they did, dropping Findlay twice.

The chuckling batsman told Mark Richardson in a Radio Sport interview on Tuesday one delivery had even snuck through but had miraculously failed to dislodge the bails.

I mean, these youngsters had rotated every player on the paddock, bar the wicketkeeper, to have a go. It seems a state of hopelessness crept in when the game reached a farcical point.

Even the brutal laws of cage fighting and boxing have points of submission, never mind how much pugilists embellish their bouts with trash talk.

You see, when Findlay carried on his battery and assault on the St John's attack he was already mindful of the fact that the schoolboys were not adroit enough to foot it in division one.

Should Swindells therefore be crucified for leading his lambs to the slaughter, as it were?

No, because, ironically, no one wants children to succumb to a culture of mediocrity or adopt a defeatist attitude.

To argue that it's an adult grade, not a schoolboys' one is equally puerile.

Somewhere along the way Findlay had forgotten that he and his staff are the architects of who slots into which grade and, as CEO, he rubberstamps that.

It's a given that when he played in the English third grade for Burnage CC as a professional no one asked him to retire from batting.

But this isn't a professional, first-class or age-group representative cricket scenario.

Outcries of what if it is the Black Caps against the West Indies and the All Blacks are utter nonsense.

What next? Throw in intermediate players with CD Stags to toughen them up.

Findlay argues when he strolls out to the crease he's a cricketer, not a CEO.

That's also groundless because not only is he still CEO and parent but he is also a human capable of showing compassion.

As CEO he is there to ensure the youngsters from Hawke's Bay are mentally, physically and dexterously equipped to foot it in the Gillette Cup, age-group representative level and premier club grade competition.

He, no doubt, attests to that.

Conversely, Findlay also has the responsibility to ensure that when a team coming through the ranks aren't fitting that mould then he has contingency plans to nurture them accordingly.

That could mean letting them have a taste of division one but then dropping them to second tier at the end of the season, especially when considering schools have a steady rate of attrition with senior players every few years.

Just as one child in a family may be good in cricket and others in rugby or soccer, HB Cricket have to accept not all schools are traditionally strong like Lindisfarne College, Hastings Boys' High or Napier Boys' High.

It also is a fallacy that all the players in St John's will be poor cricketers because their team is languishing. A few of them may go on to excel even if they lost all their games in a season.

Not only will the current team members be typecast as weak but their school will have to wear the badge of inferiority complex. The school roll will take a hit and the institution will struggle to reinvent itself as a cricketing force.

A humiliating lesson on the park should not be part of any sport institution's curriculum.

Had Tech captain Daniel Hicks asked Findlay to drop down the order because of a weaker opposition then he should have obliged.

In fact, having had knowledge of the opposition's strength one would have expected Findlay to volunteer to do that because he would have given the schoolboys a fighting chance against those not so adept at batting in the Tech side.

Findlay, of course, could have retired at the 23rd over and returned at the loss of several wickets because as a veteran he and the likes of Mike Pawson would have had some indication as to how many runs would have been enough to beat St John's.

Is there a conflict of interest for Findlay?

Absolutely and his suggestion that it's a call his employers, the HBCA board, should make doesn't cut it.

What is more important - that Findlay fulfils his desire to play cricket at the age of 42 or that he takes a step back to assess the future of a group of youngsters?

One would like to think Findlay's paid employment will always take precedence.

Furthermore, if he champions the cause of Bay high schools evolving into Gillette Cup contenders then his desire to play must go on the backburner.

Findlay and his supporters are right in advocating the need to expose schoolboys or girls to higher level competition to "toughen them up".

However, the HBCA hasn't been forthcoming in the women's domestic campaign to inject capable individuals into men's grades despite overwhelming evidence that girls who played in boys' competitions, as White Fern Sara McGlashan did, go on to become pedigree players.

HBCA board chairman Derek Stirling correctly points out they need to keep adults in a code where numbers are dwindling fast for myriad reasons.

However, Stirling erred in granting NTOB premier batsman Bronson Meehan dispensation to play against St John's when he and Findlay know very well there's a pronounced gulf between senior div one and premier grades.

It is imperative to stress Findlay, who is passionate about the code, has done a stellar job since assuming the mantle of CEO.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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