Wonder if NZ Cricket CEO David White and Gary Stead, Black Caps coach, have ever read the ballad of Horatius At The Bridge, the ancient tale of bravery and commitment?
I, with two more to help me, will hold the foe in play. In yon strait path, a thousand may well be stopped by three: Now, who will stand on either hand and keep the bridge with me?'
Winston Churchill, they say, could recite line by line Thomas Babbington Macaulay's epic poem of one man (assisted by two others) saving ancient Rome by holding the line at a bottleneck bridge against overwhelming odds.
Where would we be if Churchill, upon hearing the news of Hitler invading Poland, had headed off on a pre-arranged holiday?
Look, it's absolutely unfair to compare Stead's holiday on the eve of the Black Caps playing India in an ODI series to Horatius' heroism and Churchill's defiant ignition of British bulldog-ism. It's a game of cricket, for Pete's sake.
But to those of us for whom sport is important – not as important as life and death, obviously, but as an approximation of some of the best values of life – holding the bridge is a matter of some significance.
White rushed to Stead's aid when cricket fans reacted bitterly to the head coach's holiday after presiding over eight losses in a row, outlining NZC had lost the previous coach to workload issues and were trying to prevent the same thing happening again.
But there's an element of cricket fans that cherish – it's called "gutsing it out"; dogged refusal to give in when an innings, a match, a series is going against you.
Take, for instance, the famously tied test between Australia and India in 1986, played in Madras in brutally hot, humid conditions that skipper Allan Border said was like "playing cricket in a sauna". In the first innings, batting hero Dean Jones had scored 200, was dehydrated, had lost control of his urination, was vomiting on the field – and asked Border (who also scored a century in that match) if he could go off, retired hurt.
Border stared piercingly at his young batsman and said: "We'll get someone tough out here; we'll get a Queenslander [Jones was from Victoria]." Jones soldiered on and needed hospital treatment – but batted in the second innings and became a mainstay of Australia's 1987 World Cup win and the successful Ashes campaign of 1989.
The moral of the story is clear: stoic resistance can be as important as technique and stroke play – and is in stark contrast to the coach of the Black Caps taking a break in the midst of one of the team's worst run of defeats.
At this stage, let's acknowledge there may be things we don't know. There may be a personal reason, a family reason, or some professional circumstance behind this strange absence. But that's not how it was communicated. We were told it had been arranged for some time. If it was something else, then tell us that.
White might want to review his organisation's annual leave policy if there are no pressing reasons why Stead has not remained Stead-fast. Most of us know, if there is an important time in our work calendar, we will not be taking leave during that period.
White's defence was previous coach Mike Hesson's workload issues, implying Stead's leave was more or less enforced.
But Hesson had achieved much of what he set out to do and easing workload pressures by engineering a PR disaster is an odd strategy. In case anyone is thinking of quoting Australia coach Justin Langer's non-participation in the recent tests in India, we should point out the enormous difference in success between New Zealand and Australia right now.
If the workload's too much, get another coach to take care of the hit-and-giggle stuff…After all, Shaun the Sheep could coach the Black Caps to a 5-0 T20 series loss.
Former New Zealand skipper Jeremy Coney was no stranger to a brave stand or two during his career and his searing criticism remains: "…they have the rest of March off, all of April, all of May, a couple of weeks in June off, then we face the might of Ireland, Scotland and West Indies…If it is too much for them ... you can go and get a job in a hardware store and see your family every night. It seems to me this is your job and this is the time of year when you really work."
Hear, bloody hear… putting aside all other considerations, what message does Gary Stead's bunking off send to his team? Two things: 'Don't do as I do, do as I say' and 'There'll always be another series'.
Unfortunately for White and Stead, the team responded by winning the first match Stead wasn't there for. So all this unpalatable episode has produced is opprobrium for the very person White and NZC were trying to protect – and that is even without mentioning some of the strange selection and game management decisions seen on Stead's watch.
And, at the end of the day, there's a big difference between holding the bridge and being perceived to be heading over the ridge.