Cricket Wellington will be looking forward to the words of wisdom from former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming following another poor domestic one-day campaign. Fleming, who returns to Wellington tomorrow to captain the Twenty20 team, will inherit a dressing room bereft of confidence after the side finished fifth among the six teams in the 2008-09 State Shield, with four wins and six losses from ten matches.
Cricket Wellington chief executive Gavin Larsen said Fleming was the perfect man to help address their inadequacies. "We're going very well in the championship, but you have to say it's a bit of deja vu [in the one-dayers]," Larsen told the Dominion Post. "We'll sit down, we'll let the dust settle a little bit, but the Firebirds must now change their focus and Flem's going to play a huge role in that when he's back."
Larsen said he would have preferred Fleming, who is using the domestic Twenty20 competition to get up to speed for the IPL, to have captained the one-day team, led by Matthew Bell.
"It would have been brilliant but, at the end of the day, it wasn't possible, so that's fine, we've just got to work with that," said Larsen. "But what we've got to do now is absolutely maximise Flem's input - his tactics, the strategies that he wants to develop around the Twenty20 team."
Larsen admitted a brainstorming session was on the cards between Fleming, coach Anthony Stuart, Wellington selectors Greg Hooper and Lance Dry and himself. Wellington have made the State Shield semifinals just once in the past six years, in Stuart's first season as coach in 2006-07, and it has been seven years since they won the one-day competition.
Stuart, whose contract runs till the end of the 2010-11 season, said the camp had a "heart to heart" about their one-day underachievement last Thursday before narrowly beating Otago in their last match on Sunday. "There were a few home truths, I think, from a few players and guys wore some criticism on the chin," he said.
The major areas highlighted were lack of partnerships, runs from the top four batsmen and not reacting quickly to match situations, even as the team had six players who had played for New Zealand in the series at home against West Indies.
"The crux of the issue that we spoke about as a team was not enough runs," said Stuart. "Northern Districts are leading it because their top four have all scored over 300 runs, whereas Belly was the only guy in our top four. Obviously the batting at the top of the order we were disappointed with and I think the numbers are there for all to see.
"Just being able to read a game...it's probably not something that we've been particularly smart with on the field, being able to adapt to certain situations."
The 2008-09 State Twenty20 tournament gets underway on February 4, and Wellington will be up against Central Districts in their first match, a day-night encounter in Napier.