At last, New Zealand has a sporting conspiracy to match the theories that the moon-landing was staged in a Hollywood film lot and Princess Diana was "offed" by the MI5.

Welcome to Colingate.

The theory, as was explained to me on Monday morning, was that Auckland middle-order batsman Colin Munro was about to be stood down from the Plunket Shield game against Northern Districts, in part, to stop him further embarrassing national selectors Gavin Larsen and Mike Hesson.

The desire to rush Munro (ice cream lovers will see what I've done there) off stage left, taking his gaudy first-class average of 52 with him, was explained to me as a shameless attempt to protect newbie 33-year-old Neil Broom and Henry Nicholls from an unwelcome microscope.


As far as conspiracy theories go, it gained traction when it was announced shortly thereafter Munro was duly suspended. Where it falls down is that process was followed - his spray at Andrew Ellis was apparently bang out of order and followed a pattern of outbursts that mar his on-field exploits.

(Munro did not appeal the verdict and did not comment to the Herald's Andrew Alderson when contacted, so it is difficult to judge his feelings on the matter.)

While the idea that the suspension was a ruse holds no water, Munro the jilted cricketer is fast becoming a fascinating topic worthy of forensic analysis.

Those talked to for the purposes of this column described him as a straight-up bloke, who was prone to bursts of white-line fever, which doesn't exactly put him in a club of one. One said the South African "hardness" in him sometimes jarred with New Zealand's more village-green first-class scene.

Another put it more bluntly, saying he is too easily wound up and gets frustrated taking lip from players he is twice as good as.

A third simply said he was a nice guy, who has obviously "pissed off the wrong people".

That last part is clearly true. His continued omission from the New Zealand test team and, to these ears, the inverted logic behind it have given rise to the suspicion that this team is not picked just on what you do, but who you are.

Hesson and Larsen did not engineer this suspension, said one well-connected source, but they might well have celebrated it.

How the national selectors could take such a trenchant position against a player with the unconventional talent of Munro is intriguing, particularly when you're talking about a country with rice-paper thin batting depth.

To borrow a word straight from the US political sphere, the "optics" of the Munro's treatment are awful.

When it was announced Broom had taken the injured Ross Taylor's place ahead of Munro - in fact, Dean Brownlie was probably the next cab off the rank had it not been for injury, and possibly Tom Bruce after that - Larsen and Hesson would have been better not to offer an explanation, but instead hoisted themselves by their own petard.

Munro was described as being destructive on his day, but they were after a player who could control an innings through the middle.

Just happens Munro has quite a few of those days. He's scored a half-century or better 24 times in 68 first-class innings, so he doffs his cap towards the pavilion at a rate better than once every three bats.

As for the "controlling an innings through the middle", that's meaningless coachspeak used to try to cover up a hopeless position.

"With 18 first-class centuries, Neil has shown ability in red-ball cricket over a long period of time," said Larsen.

You're on dangerous ground here, Gav. Should have steered clear of numbers.

He's right, at least. Broom has scored 18 first-class centuries, but let's do some long division.

Broom scores a century every 12.6 first-class innings. Munro scores a first-class century every 5.6 innings.

Let's throw Nicholls into the equation as well, given he appears to have been gift-wrapped the No 5 slot. His first-class innings-to-century ratio is a whopping 22.25.

So, Mike and Gav, you're not really looking for a guy who is going to "control the innings through the middle", are you?

It is impossible to make an argument against Munro based on numbers. His first-class average of 51.85 dwarfs Broom's 39.28 and Nicholls' 36.81.

So you turn to broader concepts, like experience.

"We've got quite an inexperienced batting line-up ... we were keen to have someone who had plenty of playing experience, somebody who played pace well and obviously Neil's had the advantage of seeing a little bit of South Africa earlier in the month," the selectors said.

A little bit is right - Broom scored 2, 2 and 0. Broom is also debuting, so in fact, he has no test-match experience.

Unless they're referencing is first-class experience, of which he has plenty.

Which raises the awkward question: If first-class numbers mean so little, why does first-class experience mean so much?

So, in the absence of a logical, defensible public argument, the sneaky back-channel chatter emerges, the most popular rumour being that Munro's numbers are inflated by his bullying of weak opponents on Eden Park's friendly Outer Oval.

This is called making an argument to suit a prejudice. Unfortunately, it also fails - he's scored three first-class centuries this season, none of them have been at the outer oval.

Incidentally, Nicholls has not scored a first-class century since October 2015 and made the national side on the back of two centuries against a weak-as-water Sri Lanka A team in two low-key fixtures on the airstrip also known as Bert Sutcliffe Oval.

This is also a prejudiced argument that could be circumvented by those with a different set of biases, but you see how easy they are to make.

I was once told by somebody high up in the New Zealand system that Nicholls' first-class numbers couldn't be viewed in isolation, because he barely scored a run in his first two-years, which is a weird argument because a) every player who gets that far has a first two years of first-class cricket and b) imagine how good every player would be if they could wipe from their record the years they don't like (Bradman would have averaged 120!).

Now is about the right time to concede that I have no idea whether Munro's home-spun technique would stand up to test-match scrutiny. It didn't on the one occasion it was tried, but then again, New Zealand scored 652 runs in four innings across that ill-fated tour to South Africa in 2013, so few covered themselves in glory.

Perhaps Nicholls' "ceiling" is higher than Munro's. Bob Carter has clearly seen something there and his 76 against South Africa in a losing cause at Centurion last year demonstrated a willingness to fight.

Perhaps Broom's is too, though being three years older and statistically less accomplished than Munro, it is difficult to see how.

The good news: there's a test starting at the Basin tomorrow and that would be a great time to quell the noise from a growing legion of people who think Munro has been royally shafted for reasons other than his ability.

It'd be nice to think Broom and Nicholls could help damp down this conspiracy, before an unloved Munro leaves to make his money on the T20 circuit.


Came across this excoriating column while traipsing around the world wide web the other day and couldn't help but notice how well it applied to the city I live in.

Allow me to run tracts of the piece, which have been modified only slightly to keep an air of mystery.

"The romance between [name of city] and [name of team] has been strained for [more than a decade]. The breakups, the tears, the anger and recriminations have come every few seasons. This must be rock bottom, the city thinks. Things will get better. We have put so much into the relationship; we share so many memories...

"The love affairs between towns and teams run in long cycles. They come with a sense of commitment, through thick and thin, that resembles a long relationship. That bond comes complete with the ugly chance that one side may take advantage of the affection that is given so unconditionally. What if one side ignores the bargain for years, playing the exploiter at first, then the cynical abuser? It can take a long time for the victim to awaken...

"[name of stadium] is an eyesore in the middle of nowhere that helps no one and is one of the worst fan experiences in sports. Yet the region clings with befuddling loyalty to this team like an abused spouse to a bad mate.

"About every [X] years, [name of team] has been declared a national joke... Like a faithless significant other, [they have] asked for second chances, for a fresh start."

It's about the Blues, right? Or perhaps the Warriors?

It's a paean to those Auckland sports fans who grew up with vision of a sporting powerhouse, but has instead endured year after year of Warriors underachievement and Blues incompetence, surely?

Actually, the piece is written by Thomas Boswell and it strafes the Washington Redskins and their ownership, but if the cap fits...


Cruft's controversy! When is a gun dog not! Read here!

While you're on the subject, why not check out this piece from the Herald on the curious world of dog showing. If nothing else, the video and photo gallery are beaut.