Mike Hesson. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Former Otago coach Mike Hesson will replace outgoing
Black Caps coach John Wright next month. He will become the
fifth New Zealand coach in four years and has already had to
duck a bouncer before he has had a chance to go into bat.
Cricket writer Adrian Seconi reports.
If you believe half of what you read, new Black Caps coach
Mike Hesson is little more than a puppet with someone else
pulling the strings.
That puppeteer is supposedly New Zealand director of cricket
John Buchanan. He was the anonymous coach behind the great
Australian team which dominated world cricket for much of the
Since accepting a role with New Zealand Cricket, Buchanan has
been treated with suspicion and portrayed by some as a sort
of nutty professor.
His role in John Wright's decision not to seek a further term
as coach at the conclusion of the tour of the West Indies
helped fan the flames.
Wright felt he could not continue to work with Buchanan,
suggesting the pair were better adversaries than allies.
Meanwhile, Kim Littlejohn's background in Australian bowls
has been a source of much amusement - remember the underarm
incident - and his appointment as national selection manager
was widely criticised.
Throw into the mix the botched appointment of Andy Moles in
November 2008 and you start to get a picture of a
dysfunctional national body, lurching from crisis to crisis.
NZC's decision to appoint Hesson as Wright's replacement has
done little for many to allay those fears.
Outside Otago, Hesson is not well known. He has not played
cricket at the top level, which makes him an easy target. And
even before he accepted the role, many had reached the
conclusion the appointment would be a patsy who could be
controlled by remote from the sidelines.
Some in the media have stooped to labelling Hesson a rookie,
despite his six-year stint as coach of Otago.
All that and the 37-year-old has not even had a chance to put
his feet under the table. So much for a honeymoon period.
"I think the key thing is to remove yourself from the
criticism and just basically get on and do your job," Hesson
told the Otago Daily Times.
"Whether it is good press or bad press, often it is outside
of your control. I am accountable for results and I'm quite
happy to be accountable."
The margin between success and failure can be awfully thin at
the top level. Take Sir Graham Henry, for example. Had the
All Blacks coughed up a late penalty in the World Cup final
against France last year and lost, would Henry still have
received a knighthood?
And how would he be remembered?
Probably as the bloke who led the All Blacks during their
failed 2007 World Cup campaign and bungled the job again,
four years later.
"That is the reality of professional sport," Hesson said.
"But I think everyone is aware in cricket, consistency is not
100%. You are going to have some really good performances and
some poor ones. It is just a matter of having more good days
than bad ones."
Consistency. It is one of the great sporting buzzwords.
Ultimately, sport is about winning. And if Hesson is going to
be held accountable for the results, good or bad, then he
should operate with a degree of autonomy.
Suggestions he will be carrying out plans devised by someone
else are dismissive and insulting.
He achieved good results with Otago, leading the side to two
domestic titles, and got the best out of players such as
Aaron Redmond and Neil Broom. He is an astute man with good
communication and organisation skills and he knows his
"Obviously, I've got to meet the selection manager [this]
week and throw about a few ideas. But I'm my own man and I've
always got my own thoughts while still valuing people's
contributions. So I'll be bringing that to the table and
having a damned good discussion."
Hesson is not planning sweeping changes. He wants to settle
into the environment and work through a period of assessment.
"Having just come into the role I'll need to get as much
information as I can before stamping my own mark on things."
"If we need to make changes then I would have had some time
in the role and have a real understanding of it."
Hesson's close relationship with Brendon McCullum was
questioned by Black Caps captain Ross Taylor during the
interview process. McCullum and Taylor had a
presidential-style showdown for the captaincy reins when
Daniel Vettori stepped down and Taylor was right to raise the
issue, Hesson said.
"We've got a social relationship which has built up over a
long time but we've also had good working relationships in
the past and know where the boundaries are.
"The relationship is pretty robust and we don't agree on
everything. But we're happy to debate and appreciate each
As for whether there might be a captaincy change, Hesson
skirted the issue.
"Oh, look. Ross Taylor is the captain of the Blacks Caps. The
key thing is for Ross and I is to build a relationship now
and a really functioning one. We've already started that and
had a couple of good discussions."
Hesson will drive the strategy and assume responsibility for
developing batting and bowling plans and the like, but he is
also a strong believer in involving the whole squad in the
And having a really strong leadership group to support the
captain forms a large part of his coaching philosophy.
Perhaps his greatest strength will be his ability to get the
best out of players, while allowing them room to play their
Black Caps coach
Family: Wife Kate, daughters Holly and Charlie.
1998-2004: Coaching director for Otago cricket.
2004: National coach of Argentina.
2005-11: Otago coach.
2008-2011: New Zealand A coach.
2009 (July-August): Assisted coach John Bracewell at
2009-2012: Selected for Sparc's New Zealand coach
2011: National coach of Kenya.