Gary Stead's desire to make a living out of cricket was honed in his early years playing beyond the boundary rope at Hagley Oval and under the grandstands at Lancaster Park.

He grew up watching his father David at the Riccarton club, then one of the three based at the vast Hagley playing fields before its restructure into arguably the best test cricket ground in the country.

David Stead played 17 years of first-class cricket for Canterbury. Sons Gary and Wayne would be whacking balls around with their mates in the time-honoured tradition of boys at every cricket ground on the globe. It undeniably helped shape his life.

Now, at 46, he's about to start his biggest job - due respect to his time coaching the White Ferns, and Canterbury to three Plunket Shield titles - leading New Zealand to the United Arab Emirates to face Pakistan in nine matches in November-December.


He has big shoes to fill, Mike Hesson's surprising departure this year fast-forwarding plans Stead had in his mind.

"I always thought this is what I want to do, to make it in cricket if I could and take the opportunities that come in front of you," Stead said.

At the time, there was a strong view that Stead, a top or middle order batsman, was a bit stiff not to get more than five tests in 1999. After all, there were half centuries against combative Allan Donald and South Africa, then at Ahmedabad which suggested he was made of stern stuff. But two average tests against the West Indies did for him and the competition was stiff.

"I tried my hardest to make it, but to be perfectly honest, I wasn't quite good enough to consistently hold a place down at that high level."

As for recent developments, Stead is not a subscriber to the view that there can be perfect timing in many things in life, but it's more about taking chances when they come up.

"I was always looking perhaps another year down the track. So you put things into fast forward. I've had wide-ranging experiences in cricket, so I feel I've got a pretty good understanding of the organisation."

Talk to those who know him well and they'll describe an organised man, dotting i's, crossing t's, and capable of being black and white in what he wants from his players.

However, he's not about to march into the dressing room and jig about with what is clearly a successful formula in recent seasons; which is not to say there won't be some tinkerings along the way.


"I will have my own style, which I'm sure will be slightly different from Mike's, but I'm acutely aware the Black Caps environment has been very positive. I've been lucky to have been part of it for short periods.

"It's about me adapting to the culture and environment they have as it is the other way. It's about working out my non-negotiables and values as well, and where they sit within the team."

So how does the new boss describe himself as a coach-leader?

"I'm well planned, I'll be thorough on the organisational side of things and I think I'm relatively balanced in terms of my emotions and moods.

"I'll try and take a situation for what it is without getting too up or down around things. At the end of the day, it's a game of cricket, albeit at the very top level, and you have to make sure people are enjoying what they're doing and are clear on the roles they've been asked to play."

Stead might not know it but that sounds more than a bit like his predecessor.

This weekend, Stead will be at a camp for a large group of New Zealand players at Lincoln. He is one of the two national selectors, along with encumbent Gavin Larsen.

First order of business? Getting to know the people better, see how they operate. The World Cup is in the middle of next year but every series before then is a chance to consolidate with an eye on that event.

Captain Kane Williamson will clearly be in charge and Stead said he's happy to be in the background but knows that won't always be the case. He knows he's been handed a good base to develop and, as he put it, "it would be stupid of me to come in and say 'we're changing all that'".

Pakistan in the UAE doesn't sound like a nice, gentle introduction. Then again, he is likely to take some quality learnings out of that tour, and at this point, that's what Stead is all about.