Covers sport across NZME's print, digital and radio brands.

Coach takes on the big three

Mike Hesson's coaching and selection legacy faces three definitive frontiers this year, writes Andrew Alderson.
Head coach Mike Hesson's input will be crucial. Photo / Getty Images
Head coach Mike Hesson's input will be crucial. Photo / Getty Images

1. The transition

In the wake of captain Brendon McCullum's retirement, can he enact a smooth handover to Kane Williamson, and develop the next generation of players into a dynasty?

Williamson is the leadership front-runner, if he believes accepting the post will not be to the detriment of his batting. He is likely to accept for a trial period - the World T20 seems an ideal entry point.

Hesson and presumably McCullum are key men in helping him deal with the added responsibilities. Hesson's input will be crucial in ensuring backroom staff make off-field demands run wrinkle free.

In terms of talent development, a range of personnel look set to slot into key positions. No McCullum clones have emerged, but he took years to establish as a limited overs and latterly test middle order weapon and inspirational captain.

Tom Latham, Hamish Rutherford and George Worker shape as ODI opening options.

Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi and Will Young could secure the test No 5 spot.

Unprecedented pace bowling depth spans all formats and the spin situation is rebuilding in the Daniel Vettori void.

Mark Craig, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and Todd Astle have shown promise in various formats, although Craig's test performances in Australia were a setback.

Similarly Corey Anderson, Jimmy Neesham and Santner have demonstrated aplomb as all-rounders.

2. The targets

Can Hesson take New Zealand to unprecedented test series victories in South Africa (August) and India (October), beat Australia at home (February) and win the World T20 in India (March-April)?

Each of these would be a crown jewel in any coaching tenure, but the first two hold the most carats due to scarcity.

New Zealand have toured South Africa seven times and drawn once (2-2) when they won two of their five tests in 1961-62.

A series win in August against the world No 1s would have added pep, given South Africa was the site of arguably the worst series performance of Hesson's side in January 2013 when they lost 2-0, including the capitulation for 45 in Cape Town.

New Zealand's had 10 visits to India, resulting in two drawn series (1969-70 and 2003-04) and two test wins - Nagpur (1969) and Mumbai (1988) - in 31 attempts. The fingers and wrists of Messrs Craig, Sodhi, Astle and Santner must be kept supple and ready.

While surveying the aspirational, New Zealand have had five home test wins over Australia but only one series triumph, in March 1986, courtesy of victory at Eden Park.

Given New Zealand's relative parity against Australia in the second and third tests during November, this presents a prime time to strike back in home conditions.

In addition, a World T20 title appeals as a way to supplant the ICC Knockout Trophy at Nairobi in 2000 as the country's most prestigious limited overs title.

3. The future

If Hesson completes the above tasks, New Zealand Cricket will face a challenge to retain him beyond his contract ending on April 30, 2017.

It seems inevitable international cheque books featuring seven-figure sums and multi-year contracts will emerge if he achieves the majority of these aims. That will be the ultimate loyalty litmus test for the New Zealand coach.

Shorter term contracts could offer as much money but more down time with his Dunedin-based family. NZC might devolve responsibility to a point where Hesson could work in an overview role or take charge of one format such as tests, while potential limited overs successors are developed.

NZC already owes Hesson gratitude for helping take the national side to their first World Cup final, a record seven undefeated test series and a leadership succession plan.

Professionalism and objectivity have been watchwords in his reign for building players capable of independent thought. NZC would be wise to harness his abilities for as long as they can.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 05 Dec 2016 22:44:33 Processing Time: 1359ms