New Zealand Cricket head of high-performance Bryan Stronach appeared on Radio Sport yesterday morning to answer questions swirling around the Black Caps' 0-3 test series result in Australia.
In perfect synchronicity with the tour, listeners were quick to condemn his performance. Did they have a point?
Here we reprint key parts of the interview and attempt to reimagine some of Stronach's answers*.
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Is there any other way to describe this performance other than incredibly disappointing?
Bryan Stronach: No, not really. We set ourselves some pretty lofty targets about what we want to achieve on the world stage and I don't think there's any hiding that we fell short of those so we've got a bit to work on.
Reimagined: "No, that sums it up perfectly."
What was the biggest disappointment or what just didn't gel that contributed to these results?
Bryan Stronach: That's hard to pinpoint right now. We've got a lot to look at around what we've done and how we've gone about doing it but I think largely we needed to score more runs over there in those conditions and that's where we've fallen short. There'll be lots of little bits and pieces that we'll follow our normal processes that we follow win, lose or draw a series. We haven't quite gone through that with the series just finished but from a big-factor point of view we needed to score more runs over there and create more pressure.
Reimagined: "That's really easy to pinpoint. We batted poorly, both individually and in partnerships. We didn't bowl well for sustained periods either, struggling to take wickets with the new ball and build any scoreboard pressure with the old. By the last day the fielding had deteriorated badly too. So in short, everything."
Why was there no pink-ball warm-up match ahead of the pink-ball test?
Bryan Stronach: Well, if you look at our schedule I think what we fell back on around our preparation was actually the test matches against England. We're playing, the turnaround was pretty short as has been publicised between the end of the Hamilton test against England and the first game, the pink-ball test over in Australia. We had a camp organised for our pink-ball preparation and so forth but basically due to the workload it was decided through consultation with players and support staff that our best prep was actually to get over there and train under the lights over there.
Reimagined: "In a nutshell, administrators hate warm-up matches because they cost a lot of money to stage and players' associations hate warm-up matches because there is so much cricket and off days are jealously guarded. In hindsight, however, going from a red-ball test on a docile pitch to a pink-ball test in Perth without a warm-up match was setting the team up to fail."
Would you consider this a priority going forward, if you were repeating a similar tour?
Bryan Stronach: No. At this stage looking back I don't think I'd change that. Look at the workload these players were under – two test matches in England [sic] – and the niggles we had within the team and the amount of time they spent on the field in those test matches, I think our main priority was to look after our stocks, look after our players and make sure they were prepared as well as we could but also not going in with too high a workload when basically we'd have poorer performance or people breaking down.
Reimagined: "Well, we'd be pretty stupid to set ourselves up for such an ambush again. It will take plenty of discussion and negotiation with key people, but we'd be crazy to do the same thing again."
Former NZ captain Jeremy Coney said corporate interests rather than performance take precedence in tour itineraries. Do you agree?
BS: Um, no, personally not. I mean my job is not to be corporate, it's not around the money, it's not around anything to do with that. My job personally is around trying to help the team prepare and win series. I was a big part of that decision around that gap and it wasn't coming into my mind what would cost less around our preparation with that. It was around those points I was talking to you before around workload and preparation. Those are the things that are at the front of my mind and at the front of the support staff's minds when we're considering these things."
Reimagined: "My role is not a corporate one so I'm not qualified to speak to what their motivations might be, but I can only reiterate that we clearly got the preparation wrong for such an important tour. I take responsibility for that and will try to ensure we don't make the same mistakes again."
There has been a lot of talk around the non-selection of Tim Southee for the Sydney test and the confusion as to whether he was rested or dropped. Was this a good decision and why the confusion?
Bryan Stronach: I'm not a selector so I can't comment on that specifically but what I can comment on is I oversee and I understand the process that those selectors go through and it's a very robust process around whether they consider all those things. A lot more comes into it than just stats, but they are part of what comes into that decision-making process. They go through that process considering every option and a lot of thought goes into it, so what you're talking about then, I can assure you it was thought about.
Reimagined: "I'm not a selector and I'm not going to comment on any individual decisions. Ultimately the final call is made by the head coach Gary Stead and he is better positioned than I am to explain his decisions and any mixed messages that may have been delivered. All I will say is that as somebody who oversees the selection process, every decision is made with the best interests of the team at heart."
Is there any concern at New Zealand Cricket with some of the selections?
Bryan Stronach: It's something we always look back at but ultimately no because as I said before, what I'm really confident around is selection process and what I'm really confident with is the selectors and Gary have gone through that process and they've considered everything. There's a lot that goes into selection. A lot of people just look at stats but there's a lot more to it than that that they have to consider and it's not a black-and-white science around these things. At times we'll get things wrong and at times we'll get things right and that will be different from public opinion but what I'm ultimately really happy with is how they've pushed that process and every avenue they've walked down and considered before they've come to make their final decision around it.
Reimagined: "If you look at the results and the performances, we'd be naïve to think the selectors have got every decision right. Again, all I can tell you is the best interests of the team would have been at the forefront of every decision and it is the nature of the beast that not all of them will work."
What kind of feedback and discussions do you have with the coaches now we have a two-week gap before the series with India begins?
Bryan Stronach: This is the process we run through whether we win, lose or draw or anything. Part of what has held us in good stead up until now and the better success we've been having in recent years for a period of time is the fact we have these discussions no matter what. Our debrief of this series is they'll come back and we'll sit down and we'll be pretty honest with ourselves about all the good things and all the things we feel we could have done better. That's what has held us in good stead and that is where we learn and adapt and we get better. There's no doubt there will be a number of things we have to look at and do better and that is the extent of the discussions. We're pretty harsh and we're pretty honest around the good and the bad of each tour regardless.
Reimagined: "There will be some difficult discussions. We clearly weren't good enough technically, we probably weren't strong enough mentally and our preparation obviously wasn't fit for purpose. We were totally outplayed. We will be asking the coaches and senior players for their honest answers as to why they thought that was the case and then it's up to me to put things in place to correct the shortcomings. We debrief after every series, but it goes without saying that this one will be more unpleasant than most. We've been successful in the past, we cannot forget that, but fell a long way short of those standards and need to find out why."
* This is not the interview in its entirety, but the most relevant sections as to the broad question of "What the hell went wrong?" Many of the questions have been abridged for clarity.