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Miscommunication leaves NZ in mess

Modern coaches speak of the importance of executing plans, but Mike Hesson left plenty to be desired in the execution of his plan to split New Zealand's captaincy.

Brydon Coverdale

December 7, 2012

Comments: 47 | Text size: A | A

Ross Taylor and Mike Hesson, New Zealand's captain and coach, at a press conference, Colombo, World Twenty20 2012, September 13, 2012
After the miscommunication, it will take some serious man management, and execution of plans, for Hesson to get everyone back on the same page. © AFP

When Mike Hesson took over as New Zealand's coach in July, he was lauded for his man-management skills. But it's hard to imagine a clumsier handling of the team's captaincy over the past month. Ross Taylor, New Zealand's leader and best batsman, has been left feeling so alienated that he is taking a break from the game, Brendon McCullum has been thrust into a job that not even Hesson intended him to have, and Hesson must now find a way to unite the squad ahead of a series against the world's No.1 Test side.

The crux of the problem appears to be Hesson's failure to communicate one key point to Taylor during a meeting on November 13. That was the day after Sri Lanka completed a 3-0 series victory in the ODIs, and four days before the first Test in Galle. Hesson was unhappy with the direction New Zealand had been heading in the shorter formats; they had slipped to ninth in the ODI rankings, below Bangladesh, and had been knocked out of the ICC World Twenty20 at the group stage.

In Hesson's mind, there was one obvious solution: splitting the captaincy. Taylor, who had taken over the leadership in the middle of 2011 and presided over the Test team's first win in Australia in a quarter of a century, would retain control of the Test team. He would play in the shorter formats but would hand the reins there to Brendon McCullum, allowing Taylor to focus all his leadership attention on the Test side.

It was a plan that might have had merit, but as modern coaches like to say, plans are only as good as their execution. Hesson's execution was about as precise as a bowler who leaks 30 runs in the last over of a World Cup final. At that meeting on November 13 - remember, this is before the Tests in Sri Lanka - Hesson told Taylor that he would recommend leadership changes after the tour. He meant in the short formats. But he didn't tell that to Taylor.

"The news and the timing was distressing," Taylor said in a statement on Friday. He went on to lead New Zealand through the two Tests, presumably under the impression they would be his last as captain. In response to Taylor's comments on Friday, Hesson attempted to clarify what had happened at the meeting in Sri Lanka, at which the assistant coach Bob Carter and team manager Mike Sandle were also present.

"During that meeting I advised Ross that I would be recommending that we make change to the leadership," Hesson said. "My decision to make him aware of that was the fact that I wanted to make sure he didn't find out through another source. I was going to make that recommendation to the board, and I felt I wanted to be honest and up front with him in regards to that.

"The meeting was a review of the one-day series, but I didn't mention ... whether that was one form, two forms or three forms [that would be changed]. I alluded to the fact that I would be making a recommendation to make change to the leadership. I'm unsure how Ross felt regarding that discussion. I certainly regret if he felt that that was in relation to the Test side. The review was following the one-day series."

The fact that Hesson was unsure how Taylor felt speaks volumes. Taylor was about to captain New Zealand in two Tests. Did Hesson not think to ask Taylor what he thought about a leadership change? Did he not think to clarify that his intention was for Taylor to stay in charge of the Test side. On Friday, Hesson went on to say that during the discussion Taylor had the opportunity to seek clarification and didn't do so. But this wasn't Taylor's plan, it wasn't up to him to do the communicating.

"As soon as we returned to New Zealand, I advised Ross that the recommendation had been placed with the board and I would like him to remain on as captain of the Test side and to share the load and for Brendon McCullum to be captain of the one-day and T20 Black Caps sides," Hesson said.

As soon as the team returned to New Zealand? So, in other words, only after Taylor had scored a match-winning 142 and 74 in Colombo, where he led New Zealand to their first Test victory in Sri Lanka since 1998. It's easy to imagine how Taylor felt. If he'd spent the Test series thinking he was to be removed as Test captain, a post-tour offer to stay on might have felt a little insincere.

What is lost in the confusion is that Hesson's plan to split the captaincy between Taylor and Brendon McCullum might have worked. Since Taylor took over the leadership in the middle of 2011, he led them to only two one-day international victories from eight completed games, and both wins were against Zimbabwe. In Tests, he has now led them to wins in Australia and Sri Lanka, both extremely rare achievements for New Zealand.

Ironically, McCullum now finds himself in charge of all three formats, the very burden that Hesson wanted to relieve Taylor of. But the messy process, and the way it played out in the public, has left Taylor unwilling to tour South Africa, leaving New Zealand without their finest batsman against Dale Steyn and Co, the world's best attack. It will take some serious man management, and execution of plans, for Hesson to get everyone back on the same page.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by zenboomerang on (December 10, 2012, 2:17 GMT)

Seems Henson may be hiding behind his personal lack of success as coach by shooting the person that did win them the Test in SL... When the coaches do not support the most important player in the team, then the problem is not the captain but the coaching management team...

So Henson gives the selectors a negative assessment about Taylor - but what if Taylor had given the same report about Henson (as he deserves), would the coaches / team manager still have a job?... Being the captain of NZ looks to be a sacrificial job that suits management so they can sack someone rather than take the blame themselves... Another case of management stuffing their pockets while fans walk away in disgust...

Posted by DJRNZ on (December 9, 2012, 17:52 GMT)

@Rahulbose - don't forget Jesse Ryder who in my opinion is better than Taylor. As a NZ cricket fan this is truly depressing. What is almost as depressing that have bought in Bruce Martin and Peter Fulton .... why why why????????

Posted by Mr_Pazario on (December 9, 2012, 14:04 GMT)

NZ would be better off without a coach if all we can do is appoint Hesson. Why does Hesson get to make unilateral changes (that Buchanan originally opposed) while John Wright - you know that proven, experienced international coach - was not allowed the same leeway

Posted by   on (December 9, 2012, 8:56 GMT)

What a joker. As a South African, Taylor is one of my favorite cricketers and now he is absent from the SA tour. Kiwis going to learn a painful lesson here. This Proteas squad are on a high and they want to give the home fans a treat at NZ's expense. Good luck Ross, you will make lots more money now by playing 20/20 around the world as it will impossible to return to normal as long as the joker is still around.Martin Crowe has hit the nail on the head in his scathing article.

Posted by Raju_Iyer on (December 9, 2012, 6:22 GMT)

Isn't it hilarious that the coach presumes that the captain will read his mind and then says he regrets that the captain did not get the message clearly? Who needs enemies when you have friends like these?

Posted by Bring_back_Wright on (December 9, 2012, 6:04 GMT)

@markthespark - Hahaha, Manuel from Fawlty Towers a better coach then Hessan. That this is probably true is such a sad indication about the state of NZ cricket at the moment. Hessan must go sooner rather then later. I for one don't believe his lies, and I suspect most NZ fans don't either.

Posted by IAS2009 on (December 9, 2012, 5:53 GMT)

If coach could not communicate such a simple task to captain he should be relieved from his duties. I am not sure what else he could communicate with player. NZ loosing to good teams could be a talent issue also, other team are talented and better prepared than NZ, but the way whole scenario turned out, I think Ross Taylor was very professional the way he played in last test, but he deserve better from board.

Posted by nzcricket174 on (December 9, 2012, 5:28 GMT)

Easiest thing to do is get rid of McCullum. Look at England. Strauss is gone, Pietersen is back, they are better than ever.

Posted by   on (December 8, 2012, 21:33 GMT)

Who is this Hesson guy? What's his contribution to Cricket? He has messed up a fine NZ batsman. Heads should roll.

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 8, 2012, 20:32 GMT)

Your best player should be captain unless he reject that. Ross taylor should be captain , hesson should be relieved of coaching.

Posted by Simoc on (December 8, 2012, 20:21 GMT)

I expect NZ to put up all the resistance of fairy floss against SA. Taylor was their shining light by far, the rest are good club cricket standard with the administration way below that. They are the inept laughing stock of world cricket and getting worse when it didn't seem possible.

Posted by Rahulbose on (December 8, 2012, 20:13 GMT)

Gayle, KP, now Taylor. It is amazing how frequently these debacles keep happening in Cricket. NZC must be trying to copy English dressing room communication skills.

Posted by AzAb12754 on (December 8, 2012, 19:46 GMT)

And rightfully deserve to be below Bangladesh who are no more minnows :)"

Posted by Thamara on (December 8, 2012, 16:53 GMT)

It seems to be a mistake made by the coach. Having seen the test series against Sri Lanka, I felt that New Zealand cricket was going to get out of their problems. But these kinds of incidents doesn't help it at all. Ross Taylor is probably their best batsmen but I don't know whether he is a good captain or not. Losing Taylor for the series against south Africa would be a huge loss for Kiwis. I don't think McCullum is cut out for the captaincy because he is an aggressive player and he should have enough liberty to play the game in the way he wants.

Posted by   on (December 8, 2012, 13:30 GMT)

It is hard to believe but it did happen. I thought the job of the coach was to increase the capacity of the team. THE COACH MUST GO, no question about it. Taylor is too good a player to be sacrificed on the alter of coach Hensson. Leaving the best batsman out of the team on the tour of SA is out right stupid. Kick the coach out, take back Taylor in the team. As for 2 captains.... I don't think the idea is too good. It is bound to create tension among players.

Posted by janoodot on (December 8, 2012, 12:42 GMT)

I think the captain changing thing is very unnecessary at this moment. Ross is 1 of the best 2 NZ batsman for me (other 1 is Brendon). And the more consistent 1 of the 2.

Posted by   on (December 8, 2012, 4:49 GMT)

It clearly visible from the time Buchanan has taken over as Director of NZC, they are having problems. In fact HE is the main problem as his poor management skills clearly indicates that his men with similar attitude takes over coaching and results for all to see. John Wright - one of the most brilliant coach with such wonderful attitude could not get along with Buchanan indicates NZC board to take stock of the situation. Otherwise it will doom's day for NZC as Buchanan always believes in divide & rule. He tried in Australia and as well as KKR team in IPL, both times unsuccessfully.

Hence NZC board members - Kick Buchanan out of NZC and bring back John Wright and you will prosper other wise you will loose heavily.

Posted by radioactiverob on (December 8, 2012, 3:51 GMT)

I agree, Hesson (at least) should go. Surely you cannot get a team functioning to the best of it's ability under that kind of management. Bring back Wright and Taylor, goodbye Hesson and loose Bucannon.

Posted by   on (December 8, 2012, 1:01 GMT)

Having been on the terraces at Eden Park in the 'Victorious 80's' now living in Australia it always makes me sad when NZ cricket has problems. Just who is Mike Hesson? Maybe an Aussie coach to fix things!!!!

Posted by   on (December 8, 2012, 0:14 GMT)

Bring back John Wright - and bring back Ross Taylor. Taylor's recent series in the shorter forms of the game have been without NZ's best short-format bowler (Vettori) and short-format batsman (Ryder). Any captain would struggle in those circumstances. NZ's poor performance largely lies with players who have thrown their wickets away regularly - and that is a coaching issue, not a captaincy one, so I suggest Hesson buys himself a mirror if he's looking for someone to blame.

As for pressure, Taylor's personal stats have improved in all three forms of the game since he became captain, so he seems to be coping OK.

McCullum's spells as captaincy - most notably at the T20 format in the IPL - have been disastrous.

Posted by Rustyone on (December 7, 2012, 23:32 GMT)

The feeling among the NZ press seems to be that the splitting of the captaincy was a back-peddling measure by NZC once news of the change reached media before an official announcement. I suspect this is true and the writer is giving Hesson too much credit here. I hate ragging on the Black Caps, and really want them to do well, but this is ridiculous. It'll be interesting how this pans out after the SA and England series - I suspect not well for the management, players, public or for the future of the game in NZ.

Posted by   on (December 7, 2012, 21:39 GMT)

If Hesson is to be believed and I do NOT believe him for ONE minute the he MUST go. He is supposedly a good Man Manager. I remember when he was given the Otago Coaching job and he succeeded Glenn Turner I think what was said at the time as that he was a good Man Manger. Well then he hasn't handled this at all well has he? Someone is accountable and he is at the coal face so he MUST go as must The Team Manager Sandle.

Posted by Dhanno on (December 7, 2012, 20:56 GMT)

I feel for Taylor and for coach he does seem to be changing his version after captain contributed to amazing victory in SL. So thats a sad situation, missing on Taylor, splitting captaincy, team morale being affected.

Rest assured NZL will put up more fight in SA than Indians did in England/Aus or for that matter now in India. No one will complain of the greentops/ Steyn bowling fast etc. I hope Kane Williamson is around as he is one of the better prospects of Test cricket right now.

Posted by markthespark on (December 7, 2012, 20:14 GMT)

Does anyone seriously buy this crap? "Oh, no no, I only meant the limited overs captaincy." Yeah right. Hesson's telling porkies, he left Taylor in no doubt he meant all formats and he's now trying to spin it to save face. He's an international coach, he can't expect us to believe he's that inept. This looks more like a bad episode of Fawlty Towers everyday. Manuel would be a better coach.

Posted by jessiedog on (December 7, 2012, 19:46 GMT)

prove is in the detail of this article, Taylor has every right to fell the way he does at the moment. This makes it a no brainer Hesson has to go along with the ones that allowed him to make this decision. Make no mistake this has been a orchestrated coup since his appointment to mave Taylor aside.

Posted by Alexk400 on (December 7, 2012, 17:55 GMT)

Coach has to go. He may have better idea but he failed in his communication. He blame Taylor as bad communicator infact its reverse. Ross Taylor is their best batsman. I think your best player should be captain. Period.

Posted by Rohan-Lalpudha on (December 7, 2012, 16:23 GMT)

New Zealand still have better communication than India. us Indians need to stop being delusional and acknowledge that we are better than only Bangladesh at the moment. Our bowling is arguably the worst amont the test plaing nations (yes, im including bangladesh as well) and even Pakistan have a better batting line up. We need to follow the route that pakistan are taking in blooding in the youth. Tendulkar is WAYYYY beyond his sell by date, Dhoni is a poor all rounder, sehvag is VERY inconsistent and Kohli is confused. we need to only retain ashwin, kohli, ojha, and pukara. get rid of the rest. Oh where are the Dravids and the Laxmans of this generation?

Posted by   on (December 7, 2012, 14:28 GMT)

I agree with some of the comments I have read regarding the replacement of the current NZ coach. John Wright would be an excellent choice, but I also think that Steven Flemming would an interesting prospect. Yes perhaps not tested in that role on the international scene, but certainly a greater thinker of the game and tactically superb. I think Flemming would be worthy of the opportunity. The fact that he has only recently retired is also an advantage. Hesson's performance has been far from satisfactory and in this world of professionalism "he who lives by the sword......."

Posted by   on (December 7, 2012, 14:16 GMT)

Poor communication skills on the coaches part. Has to go.

Posted by Clyde on (December 7, 2012, 13:50 GMT)

Test cricket and the other stuff should not be mentioned in the same breath. This is like the shortness of the break between the recent second and third Tests in Australia. It is the failure to recognise that cricket is nothing without due respect for Tests. It looks now like we need split coaching.

Posted by   on (December 7, 2012, 13:13 GMT)

Like the mid nineties when cairns was alienated. bring back j wright

Posted by   on (December 7, 2012, 13:06 GMT)

Maybe I'm just crazy, but perhaps NZC should look at doing whatever it takes to get John Wright back. I realise they'd have to ditch John Buchanan, but it'd be worth it, Wright is a hell of a coach.

Posted by kgg2 on (December 7, 2012, 12:17 GMT)

I'm a die hard west indies fan but two of my top five favourite batsmen are Steven flemming and Ross taylor, sad to see the way this has gone. I guess the West Indies aren't the only side with incompetent management.

Posted by kgg2 on (December 7, 2012, 12:11 GMT)

I'm a die hard West Indian fan....but two of my 5 favourite all time batsmen are Steven Flemming and Ross taylor. Sad to see the way this was handled. Unfortunately, it seems the West Indies aren't the only team with incompetent management.

Posted by   on (December 7, 2012, 12:03 GMT)

It's very clear that that level of incompetence from Hesson is totally unacceptable. Surely NZ Cricket has to think very seriously as to whether they retain a coach who cannot effectively communicate. This whole debacle is clearly Hesson's making. Not only has it effected the career of an excellent player, but has also caused instability in the team. Furthermore, NZ will no struggle in South Africa without its Test leader and premier batsman. I'm sorry but Hesson must go.

Posted by Suresh_Joseph on (December 7, 2012, 11:52 GMT)

Along with WI, NZ remain the only other team that the rest of the world loves to love. And just as both teams show signs of improvement, this had to happen. NZ without Ross against SA (with Vettori already MIA)... I shudder to think of the outcome, especially in tests...

Posted by   on (December 7, 2012, 11:38 GMT)

JoieDeVivre speaks some passionate things, and yes he is right in some ways! What has the NZC management and such done to make such things occur? 2 of the best test wins in recent times and he is cut dry, where is the transition phase !

Posted by djfw666 on (December 7, 2012, 11:09 GMT)

What a disgrace. Whoever thought the captaincy was the problem from the start needs their head read. Look at the runs being scored by the batsmen, then give a verdict on the one day problems!

Posted by MAD-1 on (December 7, 2012, 11:06 GMT)

I dont know about splitting Captains but this coach should be sacked, He just divided the dressing room for no reason, happens when a weak man tries to impose himself on others. This run already a disaster for New Zealand

Posted by Marcus50 on (December 7, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

I have been a supporter of NZ Cricket for 45 years and cannot remember a more poorly handled shambles in that time. Taylor has been treated incredibly poorly and this whole process has been bumbling and inept. Hesson will never have Ross Taylor on the same page and clearly his man management skills are nowhere near of the standard he thinks they are. I would much prefer to retain Taylor and drop Hesson as it is fairly clear who is of more value to NZ cricket.

How on earth does the NZ cricket board and management think they can turn the fortunes of the NZ team around when their own performance has been so woeful

I have yet to see one positive comment about Hesson on any forum I have read on this affair. he must be under huge pressure now if the team is reamed in SA is is likely to be the case.

Posted by z0mbiezom on (December 7, 2012, 10:52 GMT)

The logic that Taylor and the ODI form have much to do with each other doesn't stakcup. Ross Taylor has hardly played ODI cricket since becoming captain because of injuries. He didn't play in the NZ summer v Zim/Saf, missed most of the ODIs v WI, only to come back and blugeon a hundred from nowhere in St Kitts...then there was the SL series where the rain didn't help. So a bit unfair to blame NZs poor odi record on him.

NZC just find new ways to shoot themselves in the foot.

Posted by ooper_cut on (December 7, 2012, 10:45 GMT)

Winning Test matches in AUS and SL are no mean achievements. Sad to see the way this has gone.

Posted by   on (December 7, 2012, 10:14 GMT)

ridiculous decision to leave taylor, NZ will suffer more now

Posted by   on (December 7, 2012, 9:11 GMT)

The only problem with this article is that it seems Hesson has made up the story about wanting to split the role post event, after realising a PR disaster was unfolding. Are we really to believe that he failed to communicate the split captaincy when he brought it up in Sri Lanka?

Posted by amclean on (December 7, 2012, 8:59 GMT)

It is a very dark day for cricket. I can't think of something about NZ Cricket that has upset me as much as this in 30 years of being a fan. Ross Taylor is a good man - and the biggest asset NZC has - and he has been treated horribly.

The one who should be getting sacked is the coach, the lad with no credentials to be a international cricket coach. Who is more valuable to NZ Cricket?

Posted by JoieDeVivre on (December 7, 2012, 8:19 GMT)

Reading all these things makes me wonder is this a game of cricket or a football match with coach taking all the decisions. I don't Mike Hesson's credentials as a cricketer but I do know Ross Taylor's and the fact is NZ who are going to struggle anyway in SAF are in for a serious hiding without their best batsman. This whole episode is a bit of joke to be honest and the man responsible for all this is the coach, truly disgusting. I'm not very close to NZ domestic circuit but selecting Peter Fulton is such a horrible decision, he just doens't have it in him to be considered even a decent Test batsman and also non selction of Todd Astle is another blunder. I really do wonder at times how can people without any experience of playing at the highest level nor qualified enough make such decisions. In the end NZ Cricket and the game is poor with all these silly things.

Posted by pauln2 on (December 7, 2012, 7:52 GMT)

A mate of mine said he thought the whole thing had been planned by the Swedish Chef on the Muppets, and made about as much sense. Couldn't have put it better myself.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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