Cricket: Hesson swats away short-pitched criticisms

Mike Hesson. Photo: Peter McIntosh
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 last decade.

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 cricket.

"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 other's view."

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 process.

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 natural game.

 

 


Mike Hesson
Black Caps coach

 

Age: 37.

Family: Wife Kate, daughters Holly and Charlie.

Career

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 Gloucestershire.

2009-2012: Selected for Sparc's New Zealand coach accelerator programme.

2011: National coach of Kenya.