December 7, 2012

New Zealand cricket isn't worth the risk

Despite its mishandling of Ross Taylor, NZC remains unaccountable

Cricket has stood the test of time as a great sport. Its worth is obvious when the sun comes out and a contest between two teams can be enjoyed hour after hour, day after day.

Many play because of the unique nature of individual expression, bowler against batsman, inside a team environment. Eleven-a-side offers plenty of variety in personality and character, which is required, given the different roles and skills that are called upon. Cricket is a fine all-round sport: healthy for the body but without direct contact, and healthy for the mind as it makes you think and concentrate for long periods.

It's no different in New Zealand, despite our national game being rugby. Of course our climate is more suited to the winter code, but you still can't beat a summer afternoon Down Under playing cricket, either professionally or as a pastime. For a century we have embraced our favourite summer sport. It has added worth to our landscape, our culture, and to our international reputation as a nation.

Not anymore. When an organisation like New Zealand Cricket starts stripping the self-worth (and I don't mean monetary worth) from talented athletes, when a young player enters the system and leaves it disillusioned and dispirited, the the sport becomes worthless.

In a previous article I wrote about why I thought we struggled to score more Test hundreds compared to any other nation. I named a large group of batsmen through the last ten years who have come and gone through our appalling system, and no doubt most have departed feeling a certain disenchantment with their treatment.

It's sad to see young people chase their dreams only to miss out. Of course that is part of life and its challenges. But in New Zealand the cricket environment is failing more players than ever. In short, that is why we are now ninth below Bangladesh in ODIs, and eighth in Tests and T20.

Cricket is tough on the individual; you can spend half your life playing only to retire in your mid-30s with no other skills to offer in the workforce because cricket has consumed all your time and energy.

Over the last week NZC destroyed the soul of Ross Taylor, easily our best player. They have apparently apologised for the way his sacking from the captaincy was handled. Nevertheless they have amputated his spirit and there is no prosthetic for that. And yet NZC goes unaccountable. They continue to strip the worth from players and, therefore, as an organisation, they have definitely become worthless.

The leadership has been poor in the past, but the fish head couldn't smell any worse now. From the chairman to the CEO to the coach to the manager, they have all played their collective part in what is arguably the most botched administration in New Zealand sporting history.

This week the game in New Zealand has been severely damaged. Those who have contributed to this debacle may as well stay on because they have done such a murderous job that the next lot, no matter how good they are, will always be playing catch up

Some are saying that the removal of Taylor as captain was an orchestrated coup, stemming back to when John Wright resigned in April. No one will know, and who really cares whether it is by design or by incompetence? The fact is, the execution is rotten enough for accountability to be demanded and for all four positions be given to more transparent, more competent and more worthy men.

Taylor is such a resilient character that he will bounce back. But he will probably never trust NZC again. Coaches will come and go and it won't affect his batting, which has been amazing while he has been captain.

When he was told by the management just days before the first Test in Sri Lanka that he was useless, he didn't say anything, he didn't react; instead he went out and won the second Test off his own bat. Knowing the circumstances, I have no hesitation in saying that his 142 and 74 on a turning pitch, plus his winning captaincy, were the equal of Richard Hadlee's 15 wickets in Brisbane in 1985. These two performances stand out to me as the greatest in our Test history.

During New Zealand's next Test against South Arica in the New Year, Taylor will be on a beach somewhere, playing with his young family. It is extraordinary to think this could happen but NZC had no hesitation to make it so. Not one kid that I know in New Zealand understands it. They are confused.

And they are the future. They will be subconsciously wondering if playing cricket beyond school is worthwhile.

Everyone knows that the more New Zealand play badly, the less their players will be recruited to the likes of the IPL. The present players are thriving in it, but over time the money and opportunity will dry up for nations who drift into the backwaters. The next generation may not see the lure in playing unless the present players create an attraction that is good enough. This present bunch have acquired a reputation for looking after their own and forgetting the future.

This week the game in New Zealand has been severely damaged. Permanently, I believe. Those who have contributed to this debacle may as well stay on because they have done such a murderous job that the next lot, no matter how good they are, will always be playing catch up. But those directly accountable should go, simply as rightful punishment.

No matter what happens, who comes or goes, NZC has shown that it is not safe for a young person to risk the journey knowing that the likelihood of his or her worth being stolen away is odds on. If there is one thing in life that is always valuable and important, it's your feeling of self-worth. With cricket in New Zealand I wouldn't risk it; it's just not worth it.

Martin Crowe, one of the leading batsmen of the late '80s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Brett on December 10, 2012, 21:05 GMT

    Martin what a terrific and passionate piece of writing. The whole matter has been handled very poorly indeed and I shudder to think how badly the team will be mauled in the Tests against South Africa without their only real international standard batsman. In reality it would not matter who the captain was as the players are simply not up to the standard of most teams with the exception of perhaps Taylor, Southee, Boult and Baz. This is the fault of selectors for continually picking the wrong sides (eg always only picking 5 specialist batsmen, not picking Watling, continuing to pick Franklin etc) and with administrators for not getting the development paths right and in having a coach with no first class playing experience and with a moderate coaching record in any event.

  • Barry on December 10, 2012, 11:21 GMT

    I CANNOT BELIEVE IT Taylor is easily NZ's greatest since Hadlee and Crowe. Just praying he tours England, Grace Road's biggest match in a decade come May. If English cricket can assist admistrators worldwide take note: the renaissance we've enjoyed since DARK AGES OF 90S from Fletch/Hussain is about taking the long term view and making playing for your country fuzzywarm and focussed.

  • Roo on December 10, 2012, 2:52 GMT

    Seems coaching works differently in NZ - they sack captains rather than selectors... Yet the coach is primely there to build up the team & work & support the captain... Yet Henson & his cronies failed to do this with Taylor... Wright was a very vocal coach that regularly addressed the team in the dressing room while Henson likes to sit in the background - why have a coach at all if he doesn't talk to the squad?... Yet with Wright gone, now Taylor had to change his role with no support from the coaching team - tough gig in a short period of time... Seems a couple of bowlers were also grumpy with Taylor's frustration when they bowled bad deliveries - in Oz if bowlers don't perform properly you get dropped, they're lucky they play for NZ...

  • Craig on December 9, 2012, 19:02 GMT

    Martin Crowe says it how it is, we need more ex test players in the top NZ cricket roles.Taylor is our best current player.On a different note it would not surprise me if Ryder did not play for NZ again and that will be of his own choice.NZ cricket without Taylor and Ryder is going to take some hidings on the field.

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2012, 18:34 GMT

    True but hard to conceive. But the time when BCCI flexed it's power over this board they lost invaluable services of SHANE BOND. I still couldn't get out of that to digest this latest episode. From then I used to think it'll always be better to play in our backyards to enjoy the essence of the game.

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2012, 16:45 GMT

    I don't agree that a prerequisite for being coach of the NZ cricket team is having played Test or even first class cricket. Graham Henry coached the All Blacks to the world cup, and he never played for the All Blacks.

    That being said, the question should have been framed liked this: would we rather have NZ's best batsman in the side or be graced with a coach who has coached Kenya and Otago (not sure which team is worse)?

    Finally, if senior bowlers were unhappy with Taylor's responses when they bowled a poor ball: putting aside the fact that they shouldn't be bowling pies in the first place, it seems to have done the trick, as I don't seem to remember taking 20 wickets too many times immediately before Taylor's captaincy.

  • Dummy4 on December 9, 2012, 11:55 GMT

    The more I think about it, the more I read, there is only one solution. Send Hesson back to Otago, or Kenya and appoint a new coach. This must be done for two reasons. Firstly, NZC must be seen to act decisively over Hesson's handling of this sorry saga. Surely they cannot want that level of incompetence in their ranks and lets face it, he's gives them every justification to terminate his contract. Secondly, while Hesson remains at the helm the door remains only partially ajar for Ross Taylor's return. We need the best players playing for NZ.

    In regard to choice of coach. Give John Wright a one year contract and appoint Stephen Flemming as assistant coach with a view to him taking over. Seems Ross Taylor benefited from JW's coaching style and Stephen Flemming would also benefit from have such a mentor. I think Stephen Flemming is the future. His cricketing credentials, and ability to inspire and lead certainly outstrip the current coach.

  • Matt on December 9, 2012, 11:44 GMT

    I have been a huge NZ cricket fan since the moment that I became aware of this great sport growing up in Wellington. Being a NZ cricket fan in the 80's was awesome, in the 90's it was challenging, and in the 00's with Fleming at the helm it was pleasure. However, I have lived in Australia for the past 10 years, and I am finding less and less reason to search Internet sites to read and watch NZ games as I have become so disillusioned with the selection policies of the team in the past couple years, and the treatment of certain players has been embarrassing to say the least.

    I fear that this latest incident with Taylor could be the final nail in the coffin for me and NZ cricket. I real don't think I can follow a team with McCullum as leader, who I believe should be justifying his selection in the team, not the first name on the list.

    If I feel this disillusioned with NZ cricket, I can only imagine how Ross Taylor feels...

    This is a disgrace...

  • David on December 9, 2012, 11:26 GMT

    My best cricketing memories are of MD. Crowe and A.Jones batting during the late 80's early 90's - got me into cricket as a kid. Hopeful that Taylor and Ryder can one day emulate that because they could be better. McCullum said in an interview that they stopped listening to Crowe a while back. Well by all accounts Crowe has worked closely with Taylor and look at his record compared to McCullums. We need people like Crowe who are passionate about NZ cricket and intellectual powerhouses in terms of the game to sit on the board, not businessmen. Bracewell, Vaughan and now the current board / coach have destroyed NZ Cricket and will anything be done? That's what worries me the most, that this will just continue and guys like Taylor and Ryder will never reach their full potential as was the case with quite a few very good NZ cricketers. Don't give up Martin, guys like me can't be heard but surely someone of your stature in the game can be and somehow make a difference.

  • Kuldeep on December 9, 2012, 6:46 GMT

    Great article Martin, it is really shame for world cricket that a player of his ability has to sit out the South Africa series for wrong reasons. Let's hope that he is recalled to the team and we have a good series.

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