Dylan Cleaver on sport

Sport analysis and comment from APN's Head of Sport Dylan Cleaver

Dylan Cleaver: NZC bowled by more controversy

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Brendon McCullum. Photo / AP
Brendon McCullum. Photo / AP

It's hard to know what's more unfortunate: the timing of the great captaincy controversy, or the hypocrisy of the debate over the potential switch of skippers from Ross Taylor to Brendon McCullum.

Taylor is a good man and a very good player. He doesn't deserve this humiliation.

McCullum is a good man and a very good player. He doesn't deserve the opprobrium and innuendo that's about to rain down on him if he is handed the captaincy at the expense of the former.

Say what you like about unfulfilled potential, the stats show that by New Zealand standards, McCullum is the best wicketkeeper-batsman New Zealand has produced, although he is yet to fully convince as a specialist batsman, and Taylor is among our batting greats already.

And then there's Mike Hesson, a man few people know anything about, who was handed the reins of the national side with dubious credentials after an 80s icon cut and run and, surely, a man who would only agitate for such a profound change as this if he really thought it would make his team more competitive.

In other words, nobody would be stupid enough to rush head-first into a PR nightmare unless they truly believed in the cause they were promoting. They are stuck in the middle of this mess and you wouldn't envy any of them.

But as always in dramas like these, context tends to get lost. The truth is we would never have got to this unfortunate point if New Zealand Cricket had anything resembling robust high-performance practices.

Cast your mind back to October 2009, when McCullum, the obvious heir apparent to Daniel Vettori, was stripped of his vice-captaincy under the most spurious of circumstances shortly after coach Andy Moles had been removed. After initially indicating the vacancy would not be officially filled, NZC then appointed Taylor to vice-captain behind closed doors, creating a rivalry that was not the players' making.

Then, as if to deliberately increase the level of discomfort between the two and their sets of supporters, NZC chose to stage an off Broadway-type audition between the two for captaincy once Vettori stepped aside.

Great idea NZC, even better when it became apparent that the selection committee (the sort of committee the ground-breaking Hood Report into New Zealand cricket stated should be avoided at all costs) had made the decision Wright wanted long before the Powerpoint presentations were made.

Yet the same voices that somehow believe that Hesson is involved in a plot taken straight out of Machiavelli's handbook, supported Wright's right to install "his" man. Why did Wright get a free pass and Hesson gets harpooned? Probably because he looked every one of his years and had played at the highest level. Because we all know that the best players make the best coaches. Right?

Wrong-headed decisions have become as much a part of everyday life at NZC as cups of tea and spreadsheets. Every one seems to be signed off by a board with few clues as to how ridiculous they look from the outside.

In these pages and other forums Dion Nash has urged the board of NZC to fall on their swords - the captaincy shemozzle is just one more reason why you hope they start listening.

A disclaimer: I have worked with McCullum on a book in the past and have always supported his claims to the captaincy, believing him to be a more natural, proactive leader than Taylor. The events of the past year have done nothing to make me rethink that stance, though I have tremendous sympathy for Taylor's predicament.

- NZ Herald

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