New Zealand's best cricketer has gone on strike in an attempt to get the coach he doesn't trust sacked.
The Ross Taylor-Mike Hesson disaster has not been portrayed in so many words, but join the dots and that's what it looks like. This is a standoff, a duel in the main street. Guns are loaded and cocked. Taylor, dumped as captain via Hesson's incompetence, is playing a game of brinkmanship that is dimming any light at the end of this tunnel. We need a clever sheriff, and quick.
For all Hesson's mistakes, and he has made a few, Taylor is the one who is starting to come across as a prima donna. For sure, he's a terrific cricketer who has been wronged by Hesson's methods, but he doesn't have a right to the national captaincy and there won't be contract clauses saying he only plays if everything is hunky-dory. Full marks to Taylor for his public comments revealing his side of the situation, and we could do with more of that sort of free speech in our sport. But he also needs to ditch the self-centred, inflammatory stuff of recent days that is backing him into a corner, and instead show what professionalism and dedication to the national cricket cause are all about.
Taylor and Hesson don't have to work closely together. They don't even need to talk to each other. It's happened before in cricket teams, and it will happen again. Not getting on with people is a fact of everyday life and the idea that everyone in a sports team gets on, or has to get on, defies most people's life experience, not to mention simple logic. Put any group of 20 to 30 people together for a while and you are bound to get friction and hurt feelings.
There are a lot of myths around sports team dynamics and they include a fair amount of psychobabble designed to justify the high wages that coaches and their support crew get these days. For every so-called "happy" team which wins a title there are plenty who don't, and not every winning team is full of bonhomie. Life is more complex than that.
Indeed, so-called harmony may actually be an unhealthy facade, the sort psychologists have shown can develop through group dynamics.
And yet, not getting on with each other is almost a tradition in Dutch soccer teams because people from Holland tend to regard calling a spade a spade as a natural way of life. Our greatest cricket team was full of blokes who didn't get on, including the captain, Jeremy Coney, and superstar all-rounder Richard Hadlee. The Canterbury Bulldogs won an Australian league premiership in the 1990s when there was so much internal strife a court case was required.
And a case in point: Simon Mannering hasn't exactly been endorsed as captain by the Warriors' new coach, Matthew Elliott, but he is getting on with doing his very best for the club. That's the sort of bloke to admire.
There were problems between Hesson and Taylor before the Sri Lankan hotel room disaster, and we can't assume that all the fault lies with the coach.
New Zealand Cricket might consider calling in a mediator, a communicator with strength and charisma, to get Taylor back into the fold. Someone like John Hart could be the man. (Chief executive David White - a dry and humourless fellow in my experience - isn't likely to excel in this area.)
The New Zealand team are risking one almighty disaster in South Africa and they shouldn't give up on Taylor yet. Cricket stands on the brink in this country. Taylor isn't making a stand for the wider good, he's simply got a personal gripe. He's been let down, but in turn he is letting the game, fans and teammates down - big time.
Williams takes over
Good luck to Ali Williams, the new Blues captain, who was just about the only man for the job once Keven Mealamu had chucked it in although Luke Braid must have gone close. The failure to produce natural leaders is yet another indictment of Auckland rugby and points to a reason why the Blues have struggled for so long.