September 23, 2013

An agenda for New Zealand Cricket

The board has taken a first half-step towards well-meaning governance. But to regain the fans' trust, it must demand transparency and truth of itself

New Zealand Cricket entered a new era in its latest makeover attempt, announcing a revamped board with an updated constitution going forward. It stopped short of a complete fresh new look, instead opting to leave a bit here and there from the ropey old style. Nonetheless, it was a changing of appearance long overdue.

Firstly, it should be applauded that half the old board did the honourable thing and resigned, moving aside after the most tumultuous year in the organisation's history. Those who have left have shown their integrity and accountability, attributes desperately lacking in recent years. Why the other three directors from the previous regime decided to stay, let alone be pardoned and reappointed by the new appointment panel, is hard to fathom. It is the one downside to this generally positive news.

The last board brought the game in New Zealand to its knees over the last summer, and no one should have survived. Continuity is admirable, but only if the previous experience has any merit for the future regime. Strangely, two of the directors to be retained are lawyers by trade, yet one crucial new addition, Martin Snedden, the former player, board member and NZC CEO and recent 2011 rugby World Cup organiser, has vast experience in law already.

So there are four other new faces, including the nation's finest cricketer, Sir Richard Hadlee. It's comforting to know too that he is joined by Geoff Allott, the former paceman and New Zealand Cricket general manager of recent times.

The latest announcement follows the news that NZC has also recruited Bruce Edgar, another former performer from the '80s, as the new national selection manager.

It has certainly been a turbulent, nightmarish 12 months, but without doubt the tide is slowly turning. It's been a simple case of when one reaches such a low ebb there being really only one way to go.

Thankfully, the makeover has begun, albeit softly softly. It's a naturally conservative and predictable approach. The public has demanded accountability, honesty and integrity the very attributes the departing John Buchanan rightly exposed NZC as completely lacking, so this latest announcement is a real beginning. The fourth and final attribute, Buchanan mentioned, trust, still seems a long way off announcing its welcome, as that will take time to develop.

Having said that, Snedden and Hadlee are ideally suited and positioned to make this half-step a proper first stride. Their experience, respectability, honesty and inspiration will be enormous in shaping a new board mentality.

Over the last handful of years, NZC has operated without any values, any direction, any mission or vision that our national summer game needs. Without question, it has lacked leadership. Credit where it is due, there appears to be a serious shift in the right direction. However, questions remain.

Can this new board, hopefully to be chaired by Snedden, build the vital values of honesty, integrity, accountability and trust?

Can this new board, hopefully to be chaired by Snedden, build the vital values of honesty, integrity, accountability and trust? Can the officials acknowledge once and for all what the organisation actually stands for? Will they provide the talented youth this country always produces a genuine pathway to fulfil their aspirations? After all, what is sport for? Surely it needs to cater to the young who aspire to achieve personal greatness in the collective cause of flying the flag honourably for their country?

Since 2002, when coincidentally the players association came into force, our game has plummeted down the official world rankings. By 2008, New Zealand were at their lowest ranking ever, eighth, and unacceptably have remained there ever since.

On the other side of the fence, rugby has continued to flourish. The All Blacks have maintained their dominance as the No. 1-ranked team in the world. The Blackcaps have indeed become a poor cousin to the mighty All Blacks. While the All Blacks are revered the world over, some refer to the Blackcaps as a laughing stock.

Cricket in New Zealand shouldn't be that alienated. Sadly, the lack of authenticity and integrity has left fans disconnected and the game floundering. It has to change, and it can with care and responsibility, with courage and compassion. It must inspire the young to want to represent New Zealand to fulfil a dream. This should be the brief for the new board.

The All Blacks are our nation's proudest identity. They have a name that befits their look and their actions: all black and all in. They are an intensely proud community where people look after one another, pass the torch from one generation to another. It's truly admirable and inspiring to witness. Other sports have naturally looked to follow in these mighty boots. Most have failed as it's as hard an act to follow as there is.

There is a starting point for NZC - get rid of the appalling brand. Remember, no other cricket nation adopts such foolishness. Did we really need to copy the Australian love of their cap and adopt it as our true identity? It was always misplaced.

If a shortening of the good old "NZ cricket team" label is necessary then let's do a survey and see if there isn't one authentic description that would honour our finest cricketers properly.

For a start, forget black; leave that to the winter codes. This is a summer game. Here is a notion, forget colour. What about the simplicity of "NZ Cricketers" or the strength of a name like the "NZ Nationals"? Although Labour supporters won't approve! Conservative maybe, but so much more appropriate than a silly coloured hat.

Moving on, the organisation must demand transparency and truth of itself. By this demand it will find its own soul, its own spiritual place, and while it will be very different to the All Blacks, it will become very similar in heart. In essence it will find its own mana: centred, grounded, authentic, even loving. Once established, pride and inspiration will resonate from its very heartbeat. That must be the vision, the dream. Then the makeover will be complete.

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

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