South Africa in New Zealand 2011-12 March 12, 2012

Young NZ players need to be managed better - Warren Lees

Unless New Zealand Cricket fashions a clear plan to help junior players move through the stages seamlessly, the team will be plagued with underachievement, according to Warren Lees, former national wicketkeeper and coach. Lees used Tim Southee, who was axed for the second Test, as a prime example of the increasing gap between rookie and veteran and how it will affect the country's cricketing future.

"I believe in having three groups as a cricket team. Everyone should start as an apprentice and then work their way into middle management and then become administration," Lees told ESPNcricinfo during the first Test in Dunedin.

"What's wrong with the New Zealand team is that Tim Southee is in administration. He should be an apprentice. But, circumstances forced that on the team. Tim Southee isn't the only one but he is an example and a glaring one. He should still be sitting in the corner with his hands in his lap and listening. Then, it should take five tours and two years before he moves up."

Southee was dropped from the New Zealand squad after a string of poor performances against South Africa. He has gone two matches wicket-less. He has also been expensive, lost his lines and with that, his self-belief. "Tim didn't have the game of his life," Ross Taylor, the New Zealand captain, said after the match, the first hint that Southee may be dropped. "He struggled a little bit with his action but he's played a few Tests now. He's a confidence player and hopefully he can bounce back from this."

The ability to recover and continue to the next phase of international cricket is something that Lees feels will only be possible if players have the right management and team-mates who are in various stages around them. In the past, he does not think New Zealand had a structure with these distinctions.

Lees referred to his own coaching stint, between 1990 and 1993, and highlighted it as being the period in which the gap between the newest players and their seniors widened. He blamed the divide to the inability of players at the mid-level to take youngsters under their wing and help them assimilate.

"New Zealand did reasonably well performance wise when they had [Nathan] Astle,[Chris] Cairns and [Craig] McMillan, but none of them wanted to take the management roles," Lees said. "If you were a youngster getting into the team, none of those players offered anything. So there was this huge gap between Stephen Fleming and his seniors and the apprentices. We weren't developing a culture for the future so when they left the team had no direction."

In recent months, New Zealand appear to have found a path and Lees hopes John Wright, the current coach who he played with, can keep them on it. He believes Wright will act as the bridge between players at different levels. "The one good thing about the team at the moment is that I can't see too many of them retiring anytime soon," Lees said. "Ok, Chris Martin has a limited life and Daniel Vettori is not going to be there forever, but he is not as effective as he was anyway. There's a stronger promise of what could happen in the future. And I think John Wright is the right sort of person to bring that out."

With Wight's commitment, Lees said the New Zealand team will not want for dedication or a desire to produce their best. "They may lose through a lack of skill but they won't lose through a lack of effort," he said. "We saw a bit of that in this game. The first day taught some of those bowlers quite a lot and as a group they grew through the mistakes of day one. You could see for the rest of the Test there was more of a collective effort."

Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kevin on March 15, 2012, 8:23 GMT

    If you want an example of mismanagement of players look at Central Districts. With all their young fast bowlers needing first class experience, what do they do? Play Kyle Jarvis from Zimbabwe. Not only does Jarvis not exactly set the world on fire, but since when did NZ have so much depth of talent we could go about giving experience to Zimbabwes strugglers? Why aren't Milne or Wheeler playing for CD? Crazy!!

  • Dummy4 on March 12, 2012, 20:08 GMT

    I agree essentially with what Lee's is saying but its not the experienced heads we have an issue with. In McCullum, Taylor, Vettori and Martin we have a good leadership group. Its the 'middle management' thats the issue. This is where we lack the experience and understanding needed for test cricket. I think this group consists of Guptill, Williamson and Southee; all players still learning their game. While its disappointing Southee has lost his form the reality isn't terrible. Bring in Nethula, start building another players experience, leave the pace attack until Wagner is available and in 3 or 4 years time Taylor and McCullum should be leading a side that has experience, an understanding and still a youthful feel. We must be realistic in our expectations and the 1st test should be considered a pass. Rain affected or not a draw is a draw. Entering the final day we were behind but had momentum. Considering we were always expected to be whitewashed, we should be taking positives.

  • Dummy4 on March 12, 2012, 11:50 GMT

    Completely agree with lees, unfortunately its a bi-product of the previous 5 years where we lost large amounts of senior players suddenly and the domestic pool at the time wasnt ready for the step up and we had to rush young players up damaging there development. In my opinion on southee is that hes talented no doubts about that but he due to the rushed nature of his career hes been unable to figure out what type of bowler he is and gets stuck between banging it in and swinging it he needs a year to a year and half of solid domestic cricket whether thats in england or sa along with nz before he can be considered again so that he has a knowledge of his own game.

  • James on March 12, 2012, 10:40 GMT

    good article - the difference between the top sides and the rest is that established players go on to contibute consistently, the lesser sides their established players don't go on to great things as much

  • Dummy4 on March 12, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    I'd probably keep Southee out until Martin decides to retire, with Boult, Bracewell and now Wagner being able to be picked for NZ i'd go with Boult, Bracewell, Martin and Wagner..., but id keep Southee in the ODI / T20 squads.

  • Orang on March 12, 2012, 8:57 GMT

    The other problem with Southee is his in-your-face attitude towards the opposition. It is all very well to have an attitude if you are performing well, but if you are mediocre, it's best to improve and let your deeds speak for themselves rather than indulge in needless sledging.

  • Randolph on March 12, 2012, 7:32 GMT

    @FatBoysCanBat - absolutely spot on mate. You cannot be picking players on one or two performances (eg: Lyon) you need constant, consistent performance.

  • Ryan on March 12, 2012, 7:20 GMT

    Last time he was dropped he went back to ND and took 8/27 against Wellington and was back into the team immediately. I reckon he will do something like this in one innings during the last two rounds of the year because he is a step ahead of the majority of our first-class batsmen. However, should this happen, the selectors cant just put him straight back in for the third Test. What Southee needs is 6-12 months away from Test cricket to get that confidence back and take a lot of first-class wickets. Southee and his management team need to do all they can to secure a county contract for him during our winter - just look at how good Guptill has been since his stint at Derbyshire last year.

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