Coach may pay for Black Caps disunity

By Gary Caffell



In fact, I admit to being one of many saying "Mark who" when he was touted as the most likely replacement for John Wright as Black Caps coach.

And I actually had a tinge of sympathy for Hesson when he got the job.

After all, the general feeling around cricketing circles was that New Zealand Cricket should have turned over heaven and earth to retain "Wrighty" and, when they didn't, whoever stepped into the role was always going to be on a hiding to nothing ... at least until they had banked some notable wins in the international arena.

So back then I was prepared to give Hesson the benefit of the doubt. Don't judge him until he had settled into his new position, I thought.

Well, the settling in period is over and, while I readily concede it is always easy to make judgments from the outside, I have to say I don't particularly like what I see.

That Hesson has played a big part in all the speculation about Ross Taylor being replaced as the Black Caps captain is without question. He was always seen as a strong supporter of Brendon McCullum to take over the reins, something which was increasingly looking on the cards at the time these notes were penned.

I have no problem with the second part of that equation. Hesson and McCullum obviously forged a close relationship as coach and player in Otago and statistics suggest they do work well together.

So I can accept that Hesson would have been delighted had McCullum been given the nod over Taylor when the captaincy was up for grabs.

History shows that didn't happen and, to me, that put the onus on Hesson - who is also part of the selection panel - to show he was not interested in playing favourites, that he would back Taylor for all he was worth as he went through what was always going to be a difficult baptism as team leader.

Difficult because the Black Caps were lacking consistency in practically all forms of the game and, with some tough battles coming up, the odds were that some lean times lay ahead. And, that being the case, there was always likely to be the odd player or two who became disgruntled, as much by their own poor form as that of the team.

Talk of mutinies in the dressing room are, in fact, a common occurrence in cricket, a sport in which players can have a lot of "dead time" to mull about what is happening on and off the field of play. Blaming the captain for their inadequacies is invariably top of the excuse list and, for those in that role, learning how to cope will never happen overnight. And if the captain doesn't have the coach firmly in his corner then life can get mighty lonely at times.

It speaks volumes for Taylor then that despite Hesson's all-too-obvious preference for McCullum as captain he has mainly managed to lead from the front. In their test win over Sri Lanka, he was deservedly man of the match after knocks of 142 and 74 and is now sitting eighth on the ICC ranking for test batting.

He is also one of this country's best-ever slip fieldsmen ... at one stage last summer he averaged a non-wicketkeeper world record of one catch per innings in tests.

It's not as if Taylor doesn't have the cricketing community on his side either. A website poll has 53 per cent of the respondents backing him and 25.2 per cent McCullum.

Which all adds strength to the theory that no matter who has the captaincy for the forthcoming tour of South Africa it is Hesson who will most come under the microscope.

Essentially, he will be in charge of a side divided very much by his own actions and, if they fail to perform, then he won't have far to look to guess whose head will be first on the chopping block.


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