Glenn Turner's association with New Zealand cricket has been long and occasionally stormy. He captained New Zealand in ten Tests in the mid-1970s before quitting the job in the wake of one of his regular disagreements with the administrators. He managed New Zealand's teams to Australia and England in 1985-86, and was reappointed in 1995, after New Zealand's notorious "drug tour" to South Africa. He later coached Otago, and was appointed a national selector in August 2007. In India as the manager of New Zealand's A side, he spoke to Cricinfo about New Zealand's trying times, and looked back at his mid-90s stint as national coach.


"I don't see the need to have a major support staff, and personally don't believe in having three coaches" © Getty Images
New Zealand is going through a transitional phase. A few players have retired and joined the ICL. From a selector's point of view, what's the talent pool like?
We talk about succession planning these days. Not too may teams want to be in a position where they lose too many players at once. Selectors sometimes haven't been prepared to unearth new blood, and we saw that with the Australian side in the mid-1980s when we were beating them. I think the situation right now in New Zealand has to do with the turmoil with world cricket, with the ICL coming in. I think what is damaging for us is that we have only six teams to select from. We've got South Africans playing in domestic cricket, and we have ICL players in there as well. Canterbury, in fact, have five ICL players, and none of them are eligible to play for New Zealand. It's different in county cricket where they have 17 or 18 teams to choose from. You anticipate at the end of the day that there will be some sort of equilibrium. The gold rush is on, and in any gold rush there will be short-term problems.
Would you say Shane Bond was the biggest casualty?
Well, definitely it was unfortunate. One hoped that it could have been handled better, though I'm not aware of the politics of that. I think he felt he was good enough to play at least another season for New Zealand, but that was cut off. He may well have seen his time in the game was limited, and wanted to set his family up, so who can blame him?
What's your take on Twenty20 cricket? The kind of money in the game now - is it healthy?
I think the laws of the game will change. I think it is too much in favour of the batsman and clearing the boundaries. I see the laws of the game being changed to give the bowlers more opportunities. A bowler gets to bowl a maximum of four overs, while a batsman can play as many as 20. Why should a bowler who's on song get to bowl only four? Perhaps he should be allowed six or eight overs, and some of the others can bowl around two each. To what extent should you limit bouncers? Why do you have to have close-in catchers? Why can't you spread the field out a little more?
I think all versions of limited-overs cricket have attracted more people to the game. I was at Worcester recently and there was a packed house watching a limited-overs game. Most of the people had grey hair. It was like an orchestral concert. There was this music blaring between overs as it was a televised match, but the English were too polite to complain. There were guys who said, 'I've been following Worcestershire since 1958' and so on. You may not get that in Twenty20, but you never know. So long as a particular format exists, there will be a following for it, so I'm not going to rubbish it.
What do you think needs to be done to retain players and prevent an exodus to Twenty20?
I see it ending up like soccer, where players play for their clubs and play for their country from time to time. Whether you consider that admirable or not is irrelevant; you have to accept reality. A lot of rhetoric comes from club and country, but when it comes to the crunch, the mighty dollar speaks louder than the vast majority of people's minds.
 
 
In Asia when the kids go out onto the street they have to fend more for themselves. In a larger society, the competition is a lot more. Maybe that creates the maturity that New Zealand doesn't have.
 
It's a far cry from the days when you had to fund yourself on a tour.
My parents didn't have a lot, so I worked night shifts at a bakery and earned enough for my airfare. I toured Pakistan in 1976 as captain, and I was the lowest-paid because the rest of the guys were amateurs and I was the only pro. My province, Otago, weren't prepared to pay me while I was away playing for New Zealand, and the New Zealand board weren't prepared to pay me extra, while the rest were getting half or full salaries from the companies they worked for.
Personally, I've never done things just for money. I'm not going to stand up holier than thou, and say people should act a particular way. They're obviously thinking of their families.
This summer a number of the New Zealand batsmen didn't do too well in the Tests in England, but then turned it around in the one-dayers. What's your assessment of the tour?
In the World Cup year we played very few Tests. That could have been the problem. If I was an English supporter, I'd be wondering, 'How could England be so poor in ODIs if they could beat New Zealand so easily in the Tests?' Then South Africa whip England in the Tests and lose comprehensively in the one-dayers.
There's more gambling going on at the crease now - in terms of risking your wicket. In limited-overs you have to stretch your jockstraps a bit and play the big shots. It's almost as if 'If it's my day, so be it. If not, never mind'. I feel that it's an attitudinal change and it brings some inconsistency with it.
What is the public perception of the current New Zealand side? Has the departure of players affected the following for the game?
It's interesting because I've done some television work across the world, and supporters generally don't seem to have too much faith in their teams. Our supporters are no different: there are no expectations. Cricket in New Zealand is not the No. 1 sport. If the [rugby] All Blacks lose, they close the blinds. There's a lot less beer drunk in the pubs. Cricketers don't get mobbed on the roads, unlike here. I see you've got a few gods and added a few more. (laughs)
New Zealand cricketers don't play as much as the Indians or the Australians do. The Sheffield Shield and the State Championships run for around the same duration, but in Australia they fit in more games. Should the domestic season be extended in New Zealand?
At the moment each team plays around eight first-class games, but our summers aren't that long and hence we struggle to fit in more games. Rugby too encroaches on the season. Also, we don't have a big pool of players to pick from. If we produce a few good players we'd like to hang on to them a bit longer. (laughs)


Lee Germon as captain was an experiment that didn't work for New Zealand in the long term © Getty Images
If you look at Australia, most sides think you have to be good sledgers if you want to beat them. That's nonsense. The reason they're so good is because they've got good climate and money, and players play for positions. It's got nothing to do with behaviour on the field.
Dav Whatmore said recently that the increasing number of Under-19 and A tours was the secret behind India's success at the U-19 World Cup. Are New Zealand on the same path?
We do have a winter programme in place, and this year it included the Emerging Players tournament. I'd heard of a reciprocal programme between the MRF Pace Foundation and the Australian academy where, aside from a couple of Indian fast bowlers, they had sent a coach or an observer. I had an interesting conversation with him recently in Australia. I asked him something, which had always puzzled me. In the West, we thrust responsibilities on youngsters at a very early age. But in India they are more dominated by their parent's wishes. That to me would indicate that the kids in the West should be mature earlier. I asked him why we have to wait longer for our youngsters to come up while you guys churn out so many talented 17- 18-year olds. He thought for a moment, and said that in Asia when the kids go out onto the street, they have to fend more for themselves. In a larger society, the competition is a lot more. Maybe that creates the maturity that we don't have.
How has the India experience been so far for this A team?
Our main purpose of coming here was for development. We've done away with the live-in academy, and players from the age of 19 onwards learn more from doing and experiencing the playing side of the game. We brought over a side that was not necessarily suited for limited-overs cricket, and not many have experience in Indian conditions. The point was to give emerging players the experience of spending time at the crease to develop their skills. It would be nice to get into winning ways, but that's secondary.
Would you like to see more overseas players in New Zealand's domestic competitions?
With the number of South African players around, they have to wait four years to qualify, and I think something needs to be done about that. Four seems too long. If we continue to lose players to the ICL, we might just have a handful to pick from. It's probably not that helpful to have overseas players who aren't eligible to play for the country. If you do have them, they have to be good contributors. I heard Dimitri Mascarenhas is coming over to Otago. He's being paid the same as the others, which is peanuts. But he's using our set-up to train for the IPL. Sure, he might win Otago a few games, but it's all very short term, isn't it? So you can only afford to have one Mascarenhas in your team.
Coming to your experience as national coach in the mid-1990s, what were the biggest challenges you had to face?
I took over at a time when we had a couple of senior players trying to run everything, and they were allowed to do so. I tried to put a stop to it, but the establishment didn't support it.
There's over-coaching at times. I don't see the need to have a major support staff, and personally don't believe in having three coaches. A specialist each for batting and bowling is sufficient, and one of them needs to double up as a strategist. I don't see the need for a sports psychologist or fitness trainer either. The physio can double up as a trainer.
 
 
International sport is tough, no doubt, but there shouldn't be too many crutches. In most cases sports psychologists are crutches, and they tend to soften rather than harden the players
 
There have been players with attitude problems. Wouldn't a psychologist be useful in such cases?
I think they hinder. The psychologist has to be able to apply knowledge of the game when dealing with players, but I don't find too many capable of doing that. I believe in greater self-sufficiency. International sport is tough, no doubt, but there shouldn't be too many crutches. In most cases sports psychologists are crutches, and they tend to soften rather than harden the players.
Steve Rixon told Cricinfo recently that you have to be a strict coach sometimes, especially in dealing with players with attitude problems. Do you subscribe to that approach?
I think you have to draw the line, and do what makes sense. But I find the lines are getting blurred, and we're allowing players to focus less on cricket and drawing them into the management/coaching/psychological side of things. I think it's more of a distraction than an aid. Most teams draw up a number of protocols, and you get a good result when there isn't pressure to perform. But when the pressure develops, they want to break the protocols that they had bought into, and at that point the management draws the line and says, 'But you crossed the line you helped draw.' So to that extent you have to be quite strong.
One of the most interesting and unusual moves of recent times was thrusting Lee Germon, a debutant, into the captaincy. Could you give us the background to that?
We had just been to South Africa [1994-95], which was known as the "drug tour" [Stephen Fleming, Matthew Hart and Dion Nash were banned for smoking cannabis at a barbeque]. There was a lot of indiscipline, and I was hired to turn things around. The problem I had in particular was that the administration had changed, and they were inexperienced. Germon had already captained a number of the New Zealand players at Canterbury, and he had integrity and ethics. It was also helpful to bring in someone from the outside. It would have helped if the administration had gone along with that. They didn't, and that's why it didn't work for a long period, and he was given the axe. Things went back to being the way they were. New Zealand were known by Australia and England as the worst sledgers. But we weren't very good at it as it isn't in our culture. (laughs) Most of them just laughed at us.
Stephen Fleming too was pushed into the captaincy with very little experience as an international. Was that a gamble?
He was pushed into it by the senior players when they couldn't get there themselves. It was always going to be easier to manipulate a younger player. By his own admission, he was brought in too early. His best years were in his middle-later period. It's an interesting debate as to how long a player should captain an international side. Had he taken up the job later, he would never have captained so long.
You've been one of the most dedicated servants of New Zealand cricket. Is there anything you haven't achieved yet?
I keep trying to bring a more professional approach to New Zealand cricket. It's an uphill battle. I stay in the game because I find it intriguing and interesting. I'm not interested in coaching international sides. I don't mind short-term coaching. I don't want to get involved in the politics of teams. I'm now managing the selection team that Richard Hadlee has brought out.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo