Paul Lewis on sport
Paul Lewis is the Herald on Sunday's Sport Editor

Paul Lewis: Pick a leader quickly, NZC


Here is a list of things shorter and less complex than New Zealand Cricket's tortured search for a new captain for the Black Caps:

War and Peace.

An ice age.

The theory of relativity.

The instruction manual for any piece of electronic equipment.

The Israel-Palestine question.

Pluto orbiting the sun (once every 248 years).

Quite why this particular appointment is creating such angst and has to go through such excruciating due process is anyone's guess.

Of course it's important and the choice needs to be the right one. But when did New Zealand sport get so moribund that we can't even select a cricket captain without excessive handwringing and the creation of more steps than the Sky Tower?

NZ Cricket CEO Justin Vaughan said recently that the Black Caps did not play again until towards the end of the year - so there was plenty of time. Yep, absolutely. Heaps of time. If you want to look like chumps.

Here's a novel thought. Ask John Wright to do it. He's the coach, isn't he? He did all right at the World Cup. He seems to be successfully re-imposing some old world values and some grit in the Black Caps.

Wow, revolutionary lateral thinking. Ask Wrighty who he thinks should have the job and is best suited to carrying out his strategic direction. So that's that out of the way - let's have a crack at time travel, then ... Or maybe world peace.

To say NZC is making a meal of this is being a bit unkind to meals. I don't know anyone who thinks this prolonged, tooth-pulling exercise of selecting a new captain is desirable and this particular meal seems to have got stuck in NZC's gut.

Some clear, concise, decisive leadership is required to solve the issue of ... er ... leadership.

All this stuffing about is having three main effects:1) It makes New Zealand Cricket and the Black Caps look silly.2) It is thrusting the two candidates, Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum, into an election-type scenario where McCullum recently felt compelled to chuck into the mix that he had the vote of outgoing skipper Daniel Vettori.

This cannot be doing team unity a whole bunch of good.3) It allows rumours and uncertainty to grow - increasing the perception that NZC doesn't know what it is doing. Some say the team is now divided behind the two candidates.

Rightly or wrongly, all this tends to get shunted back to Vaughan. A bright, likeable man, Vaughan has nevertheless attracted the disapproval of many cricket followers who think NZC under him lacks clarity and control.

Certainly he has been at the helm of NZC at a difficult time - the Moles coaching era (if it can be called that); plus the knee-jerk leap into an era of unprecedented player power when Vettori stepped into the vacuum and did just about everything except drive the bus. That was a spectacular failure but at least NZC finally regained some ground with the appointment of Wright.

Now, apparently, the appointment of a skipper cannot be made until the new director of cricket is chosen. No one is quite sure what this role will entail but the DoC will have responsibility for high performance, including the Black Caps.

The puddle has been further muddied by the fact the selection panel have to have their say - but the panel may change and the new panel also have a say. Sigh.

What is clear is that the new captain will be chosen by the selectors (current panel Mark Greatbatch, Glenn Turner and Lance Cairns; new panel - who knows?), Wright and the DoC, whoever he or she is. Why so complicated?

It appears that making things over-complex is a bit of an NZC failing. In his resignation from the NZC Cricket Committee, former captain Martin Crowe made it clear that he wouldn't have resigned if his choice, Taylor, had been appointed already.

He also let slip in a radio interview that Vaughan had meddled in a selectorial decision, inserting McCullum into a team from which he'd been omitted because he was carrying an injury. After Vaughan restored him to the team, McCullum then failed a fitness test, said Crowe.

Add to that the vexation over Wright being forced to rotate his team in the home series against Pakistan - lost, strangely enough - because the selectors out-ranked him and wanted to try different people.

How Wright, or anyone, can be expected to win games as a coach without selection control or significant input is beyond me. Politically, some in NZC may be wary of giving too much power to one person - but the alternative is the giant, heaving plate of spaghetti in front of us right now.

It calls to mind the novel Clochemerle - set in a French village in 1925 when an ambitious mayor decides his era needs a monument and settles on a pissoir (a urinal).

To cut a wonderful story short (and rob it of its subtlety and gentle humour), the village is pitched into pro-urinal and anti-urinal factions; bureaucracy and self-interest rule until a series of related and unrelated disasters reduces the village to a shadow of its former self.

The skipper situation is so entangled that what might have been a sensible solution - McCullum as captain for the one-dayers and Twenty20s and Taylor for the tests - would now appear as a sop from a weak organisation. So too would the latest gambit - the floated possibility that Vettori might come back as test captain to ease in whoever the new bloke is.

Double sigh. For what it's worth, my preference would be McCullum if it came down to an individual. But if it was to be Taylor, then the players and everyone else need to accept it, get behind him and let him get on with the job.

As one malaprop-prone sportsman was heard to say recently: It's not rocket surgery.

- Herald on Sunday

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