August 7, 2002

Parore ensures the '90s pain won't go away

None of the cricketing countries have players who dump on the game that has sustained them and built their reputations in the way that New Zealand players do.

Cover of book 'Adam Parore - The Wicked-Keeper' by Angus Gillies
None of the cricketing countries have players who dump on the game that has sustained them and built their reputations in the way that New Zealand players do.

After all the bloodletting and turmoil of the mid-1990s, and the fodder for a forest or two of books by departing players, there was reasonable cause to hope that it was all over and done with.

But alas, the pain seems to go on forever.

Adam Parore is the latest to spill his guts on paper in a book of convenience, The Wicked-Keeper (Penguin NZ Ltd $34.95).

This is events as Parore saw them, and they're none too pretty.

Clearly the most salient points to the sales of his book relate to the troubled days in the mid-1990s when New Zealand Cricket was in the process of self-destructing. Firstly, there was the 1992 bomb blast in Sri Lanka and the revolving door with players bailing out midway through the tour. Then there was the debacle in South Africa that preceded the trauma of the home centenary season of 1994/95, which ultimately caused the reconstruction of NZC.

And then there was the aftermath as the playing issues of the day were dealt with, initially under the iron fist of Glenn Turner.

The celebrated incidents in India at the start of the 1995/96 season and the walkout by Parore and Chris Cairns at the end of the season in the West Indies are at the core of events.

Turner, of course, was first to get his story in print, Parore now has his, and Cairns' version will be awaited in another month or so.

It is richly ironic that Turner in an earlier era was regarded, rightly or wrongly, as something of a rebel. He could quite correctly claim that he was merely attempting to shake comfortable amateur administrators into reality in their dealings with professional players.

It shouldn't be forgotten that Turner placed himself in self-imposed exile, not playing Test cricket from 1977 until 1983. But he did his protesting through the correct channels. Unpalatable as it may have been for those working in the channels or a team and public denied his skills in battle for the glory of New Zealand.

Nearly 20 years later things had changed. Whereas Turner had been attempting to make his point as a player in a much more restrictive environment, Parore, Cairns, Dion Nash and Roger Twose, had been brought up in a much more liberal, some would say radical, environment.

There is no doubt the two, Turner and his more youthful group, came at the same problem from completely different angles. And like political extremists from opposite ends of the spectrum, there was no room for manoeuvre.

Turner, the player, can reflect on treading a path, which allowed others to follow. He had skills, which twice saw him called back into the fold as a coach. He still offers himself to the game in Otago, and despite the knock back from NZC, he demands dedication from his players and respect for his achievements.

Certainly, a different approach by Steve Rixon and John Graham achieved something that Turner had not been able to implement in one season in the job. Rixon made Parore the wicket-keeper he became, but when the game no longer suited him, Parore let his high standards slip too quickly for comfort.

Parore admits his lack of support for Turner was driven by his own sense of self-survival. Cricket was too useful for him, to be denied its financial security.

He had to plead to be allowed to play his last Test match, and he got it because he said he would produce a memorable effort. It suited him to do it because he had a statistical goal he wanted. But some would ask why if he was able to apply himself to achieve the goal then, that he could not do it on other occasions when his team-mates and his country might have wanted it?

That is the enigma that will surround Parore's career. He was capable of so much more but by his own words he didn't always take his chance.

That is sad. But having read his story which is neatly crafted by Angus Gillies, one is left with a feeling of sadness that so much potential allowed itself to be shunted down an emotional railway siding reserved for mis-directed anger.

The most interesting quality of the book is the insight provided by John Graham who was called in to manage the side in the aftermath of the West Indian episode.

"There are very few rugby players who are as complex as cricketers, very few. Rugby's a much simpler game, less complex in its time-span, less complex in the personal battles that go on. When you're batting, you're on your own against 11 people. When you're keeping, you're on your own. There is a team aspect obviously, but the demands of the game are heavier on the individual," Graham said.

"I found him [Parore] challenging all the time. He was always challenging. Adam Parore was never not a challenge. Occasionally, that was a pain in the butt. But the progress I made with him was also personally satisfying. You see, the really outstanding sportspeople are idiosyncratic. They're not the norm. Particularly in cricket, which is such a demanding psychological game because it requires mental toughness to play it well and because you can fail so easily. So the real stars of cricket all have characteristics that are demanding of management, the coach and their team-mates. If you have a look at it, they're all the same.

"The reason Adam bought into our discipline as opposed to the discipline of Glenn and Gren [former manager Gren Alabaster] was that we didn't tell him, 'This is what you will do.' We talked through issues. The key to leadership is to get people on board with the issues, especially with men. That's why schoolteachers often don't make very good leaders outside school, because they're used to telling youngsters what to do."

But at the same time Parore used matters to his own advantage, a cricketing chameleon, when it suited.

He referred to the Martin Crowe/Ken Rutherford saga, which became the closest thing to a class battle modern cricket has known. Crowe was the Aucklander of the corporate world, Rutherford, from Otago, belonged to the working class.

"I wasn't really interested in politics, unless I needed to be to save my career. Then I was very interested. I was just interested in turning myself into a decent player, and anything else I wasn't really too fussed about," he said.

"I wasn't with Crowe or Rudders. I was with me. I was with whatever was best for me."

But to one who eschewed the political games of others, he was remarkably percipient when it came to any change in fortune surrounding his own career. Except it seems when Auckland decided they had had enough of his antics.

So too, interestingly, in Australia last summer when captain Stephen Fleming, faced with Parore struggling with things, said, "Mate, I can't be bothered with you. I'd rather give my energy to someone who's more interested in the whole procedure."

Cairns also switched off talking to Parore at that time.

For much of his career, the thing that allowed Parore latitude was his innate skill and his work ethic. He was fit and remarkably injury free for a player in his position.

But when that wasn't enough, he was cunning enough to detect the winds of change before they swept him away.

"I'd seen all this coming for a few years," he observed of the move to instil more discipline into the Kiwi camp.

"There'd been plenty of press bandied around about Lee Germon being the boy who would take us out of the doldrums. People said we needed to sharpen up on player discipline. So, I'd seen the angles on it pretty early.

"I was pro-Geoff Howarth for that very reason. I supported Geoff mainly because I didn't have a problem with him ... I was also very aware that while Geoff Howarth was there, that meant no Glenn Turner and no Glenn Turner meant no Lee Germon and no Lee Germon meant I stayed in the side.

"So while I didn't get involved in the politics too much, I wasn't stupid either. I knew exactly what was going to suit me best in the long run and played the game accordingly, not that I had much pull because I wasn't a senior player at that stage. But I wasn't one of the young fellas either. I was just a guy who was good enough to be in the team.

"So the Glenn Turner thing was not good for me."

Turner was, in effect, hung out to dry.

Appointed by an out-going administration to do a tidying-up job that should have been the work of that administration, Turner found himself ultimately without that necessary support when that administration was swept away after the implementation of the Hood Report.

That report set international competitiveness as one of its cornerstones, and for New Zealand to achieve that it couldn't afford to discard a player of Cairns' ability, and to a lesser extent, Parore.

The players knew that, and they used it to the full.

"We were all pretty determined that we weren't going to do anything Glenn Turner told us, simply because we didn't agree with the way he was treating people and the way things were being done," Parore said.

In the West Indies the situation became terminal.

"I wasn't acting very responsibly, and neither were some of the other players, but I was staggered to see how poorly Glenn and the management team handled it. They became antagonistic and lost control. Glenn became isolated and insular. It was becoming apparent that his goose was cooked," Parore said.

"For the first time in my life I didn't want to play cricket for New Zealand any more. I was staggered because that was the only thing I'd ever wanted to do since I was a little kid. And now I didn't want to play.

"I didn't like the way things were being done. I didn't like the situation I was in. I didn't particularly like the way that I was handling it."

"I'm not sure of Glenn Turner's merits as a technical coach in terms of his knowledge of the game because I never got to see enough of it. It was always clouded by his inability to get performances out of people. And he couldn't. He just could not get a performance out of Cairnsy and me."

Therein lies another problem.

Turner, and many others, would argue that it wasn't his job to get a performance out of players - it was up to them to get it out of themselves. All he could do was provide the environment for the players to achieve that. And that is all that Rixon and Graham did - their method was just a little different.

Parore showed in his last Test match when he pleaded for the chance to play that he would give a good performance, that he could turn on the right buttons at the right time.

As in his playing career, so with his book. There is so much that might have been possible, yet the reader, like the cricket fan, is left unfulfilled. And for a player of his ability that is sad.