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Mike Hesson is young but experienced, and has excellent man-management skills which will help New Zealand in a tough year ahead
July 22, 2012
At just 37, it's early for him to be taking charge but he is a worthy appointment, with a CV demonstrating abilities to organise, empower, listen and advise. He will initially have to live with the stigma of having "never played for New Zealand" or even any first-class cricket. However, try telling that to the rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Graham Henry and league coach Graham Lowe who were not international players.
Hesson was in contention for the job with New Zealand assistant coach Trent Woodhill, Glamorgan coach Matthew Mott and South Africa's mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton.
New Zealand Cricket could not afford to repeat the decision of July last year when Hesson, a former Otago coach, left on his ill-fated trip to coach Kenya, frustrated at the board's inaction while appointing a national selection manager (former Bowls Australia high performance manager Kim Littlejohn) and a team manager (former Blues rugby manager Mike Sandle). The appointments panel deserves plaudits for coaxing Hesson back into the fold.
Hesson must now prove why New Zealand is capable of producing its own mentors, coaches and leaders rather than looking offshore. Besides, his new role has got to be easier than walking into a player mutiny on his first day on the job in Kenya, where he had to scramble with pidgin Swahili so he could act as a go-between for the players and the board. Such an unflappable approach should benefit the New Zealand team on its intimidating itinerary over the next ten months which includes series in India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, England, who will also to be played at home, and the World Twenty20.
A former opening batsman, Hesson was a three-time 12th man for Otago, ranked behind Matt Horne and Mark Richardson in an eight-year career with the wider squad. Yet few people have gained as much respect as Hesson has from the players, coaching staff and media in the cricket community. His main hindrance is lack of a public, by virtue of his selflessness. He puts his players first.
That was emphasised in his first media conference. Hesson stressed the need for players to make their own decisions rather than having their hands held. He proved it can be done with Otago, where he spent 15 years perfecting his trade under the likes of Glenn Turner, and was elevated to head coach in 2005-06. Otago have traditionally struggled for talent and manpower but Hesson galvanised the talent with his communication skills and work ethic. The result: Otago won their first title in 20 years - the State Shield in 2007-08 - and backed it up with the Twenty20 championship a year later. They were also unbeaten in the 2006-07 first-class season.
Hesson has coached New Zealand A on a number of tours, and helped mentor Nathan McCullum, Craig Cumming, Gareth Hopkins, Neil Broom, Aaron Redmond into national ranks. His recruitment skills brought South African-born fast bowler Neil Wagner and batsman Jonathan Trott to Otago.
Hesson has long held ambitions to coach New Zealand. Cumming, Otago's former captain, had said of him: "While he's young, he's spent his whole working life as a coach so he's aware of player problems. A lot of us, when we leave school, try to be cricketers but Hess went down the coaching route, doing a lot of the groundwork in the technical stuff which players can take for granted." Cumming said Hesson's man-management was a reason why he continued well into his 30s.
In 2009, Hesson was shoulder-tapped for a government-funded coaching accelerator programme alongside then All Blacks assistant (now head) coach Steve Hansen. Dr Alex McKenzie, from the New Zealand Academy of Sport North Island, who had also taught sports psychology at Otago University, ran the programme. "One thing we looked for was people capable of coaching world or Olympic champions," McKenzie said. "New Zealand Cricket thoroughly endorsed him and said if he wasn't a coach, he'd make a great business CEO because of his organisational skills." He said Hesson was rational, relaxed and someone you could trust in a crisis.
So he fits the bill, especially after the saga of losing Wright.
Andrew Alderson is cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on SundayFeeds: Andrew Alderson
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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