Lance Armstrong has come cleanish, but New Zealand Cricket (NZC) is sticking with the three wise monkeys’ approach – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – in the ongoing controversy over Ross Taylor’s axing. To recap: in Sri Lanka last November, coach Mike Hesson told Taylor he was being relieved of the captaincy, end of story, according to Taylor; only for the 20- and 50-over forms of the game, according to Hesson.
Taylor was certainly offered the test captaincy when the team returned home. He rejected it, said publicly that the NZC/Hesson party line wasn’t to be believed and opted out of the tour of South Africa where the Black Caps were made to look like boys – rather feckless boys who aren’t much good at cricket – up against men.
Just when NZC was starting to entertain the hope that the media would decide it was flogging a dead horse, the nag came whinnying and snorting back to life. The resuscitating agent was the leak of a letter that Black Caps bowling coach Shane Bond sent to NZC in early December. In impressively direct language, Bond said that based on his conversations with Hesson, Taylor’s version of events was correct and he resented being made complicit in the cover-up.
The NZC counter was that there were four people in the room when Hesson outlined his plans to Taylor; Bond wasn’t one of them. The eyewitnesses were manager Mike Sandle and batting coach Bob Carter, both of whom backed Hesson.
Some took the view that when it’s three people’s word against one, the arithmetic speaks for itself. Mind you, they included a pundit whose take on New Zealand’s all out for 45 capitulation in Cape Town was that the only disgrace was the bloke who watched it from the safety of his sofa, the Incredible Sulk, aka Ross Taylor. An interesting stance given that a Black Caps tailender displayed a lack of grit – and a lack of embarrassment at his lack of grit – that you associate with kids who have just discovered how hard a cricket ball is.
Even if the NZC interpretation is correct, a question mark still hovers over Hesson. Unless you think Bond, who is apparently renowned for his honesty, is lying, then Hesson said one thing to him and another to Taylor. To come at it from a different angle: what does it say about Hesson’s man- management and communication skills that in these critical conversations he left both the person most affected – Taylor – and his bowling coach holding the wrong end of the stick?
NZC seems to have decided that director of cricket John Buchanan’s priorities of integrity, trust, honesty and accountability are less important than preserving the Black Caps’ management structure, or at least avoiding another destabilising upheaval of it.
CEO David White and chairman Chris Moller are probably correct in their calculation that, barring further Bond bombshells, the dead-bat strategy will eventually work. Good results tend to put these issues to bed, and things can only get easier once the Black Caps are out of Africa. England, the world’s second-ranked team, is next up, but the Black Caps are at home and England isn’t as relentless with the bat or ball as the Proteas.
If it does pan out that way, here’s a bit of hearsay to go on with. When previous coach John Wright walked away last August in circumstances that could be construed as constructive dismissal, I heard from someone with an intimate knowledge of cricketing intrigue going back several years. “Mark my words,” he said. “Taylor will be next.”