New Zealand cricket - A matter of attitude
It was nearing the end of 2012; New Zealand were the laughing stock of world cricket. Mike Hesson, the newly appointed head coach of the side, acrimoniously dumped Ross Taylor from the captaincy and handed it to the controversial Brendan McCullum – his long time ally from his days as Otago coach. The general consensus was that Taylor was doing a reasonable job, and that the situation was an unnecessary farce that significantly undermined their best and most popular player.
Indeed, the outcry in New Zealand was incredible. New Zealand Cricket received angry letters from disgruntled punters and large numbers of the beige brigade threatened to vote with their feet and boycott matches, and Taylor took a break from the game in order to lick his wounds and bash some journeymen around in the first class 20-20 competition.
Fast forward only a few months, and the decision seems to be a masterstroke. New Zealand cricket had a bad attitude problem under Taylor, including a heavy drinking culture foreign to elite level sport; and while those carefree stylings may have appealed to the man on the street, it was not a useful attribute in an international changing room. Hesson and McCullum have straightened up, shipped out and sorted the drinking culture around the camp with old school discipline and a huge change in values.
Jesse Ryder has seldom been seen anywhere near the camp. His undoubted talent outstripped his attitude problems for years under a weaker administration; but with the rise of young middle order players around him, he has been sent back to Wellington and asked to sort himself out. Whether this works remains to be seen, but such a move is refreshing.
Spin twins Jeetan Patel and Blackcap legend Dan Vettori have fallen foul of drinking rules, and were recently forced to issue a full public apology for their behaviour after a late night incident in which they abused a nightclub bouncer was reported across the country. With the recent success of Bruce Martin, their futures hang on a thread – even Vettori’s.
Young bowling starlet Doug Bracewell is a victim of circumstance. His exclusion from the England series was in part caused by a foot injury picked up clearing up glasses at a party during which he didn’t drink. Under management past, or under different circumstances, Bracewell would have been given a kind benefit of the doubt. Not today. The seamer stayed pitchside even when he regained fitness, much to Neil Wagner’s gain. Bracewell will return to the fold, but the line is now drawn in the sand – the Blackcaps have a zero tolerance policy on alcohol related misdemeanours.
If these two talents return to the side with a renewed valour for the game and a streamlined attitude, it would only help NZ cricket. The eternal underdogs of world cricket deserve to be rewarded for their stance on what was a disrespectful culture of behaviour by their players. And as they close in on a historic series win against England, they might just get that reward a few years ahead of schedule.