New Zealand Cricket CEO David White speaks to the media
during a press conference in Auckland yesterday. (Photo by
Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Were William Shakespeare to sit down and pen The Great
Captaincy Coup with a stage play in mind, he'd still have
trouble finding the right starting point.
For many the narrative begins only when Mike Hesson, a
long-time admirer of Brendon McCullum, is appointed coach in
In truth, the sorry saga stretches back to October 2009, when
Andy Moles resigned after conceding he had, in modern
sporting vernacular, lost the dressing room.
Suddenly, the spectre of player power loomed large.
McCullum, the vice-captain and obvious heir apparent to
Daniel Vettori, was fingered as the biggest personality in
the dressing room, a man with too much influence over the
younger players in particular.
He was relieved of his vice-captaincy duties. Soon after, the
quieter, less bolshie Ross Taylor was ushered into his
McCullum was furious, not with Taylor's ascension, but with
his demotion and the tittle-tattle that accompanied it.
He resented the implication that he was somehow a negative
influence on the team and lost respect for those he felt were
propagating that line. He initially wanted nothing to do with
leadership aspects of the team but quickly came around to
thinking that it wouldn't do anybody any good.
Things appeared to sail along fairly smoothly until Vettori
stood aside, prematurely perhaps, after the World Cup in
March last year.
Rather than passing the baton directly to his vice-captain
Taylor, New Zealand Cricket decided to have him and McCullum
present for the job - a farcical situation because sources
have told the Herald there was only ever one person
coach John Wright was going to have as his skipper, and it
So all the process did was turn what should have been a
low-key coronation into a highly politicised, extremely
Camps were established, rumour and innuendo were allowed to
flourish. Taylor had high-profile and very vocal backing from
Martin Crowe. His manager, Leanne McGoldrick, was known to
have the ear of key people on the board.
McCullum, once managed by McGoldrick, was now represented and
advocated by Stephen Fleming, arguably NZ's finest captain.
People inside cricket circles were being asked to take sides,
fans were being asked to take sides.
Two of the most important players in the team were
effectively being pitted against each other, having their
pros and cons very publicly debated.
It might have made for an entertaining media sideshow, but in
all other respects it was an appalling piece of management.
When chief executive David White sat down yesterday and said
straight-faced that there were no issues with Taylor's
captaincy, he must have been living in a vacuum for the past
Even before Hesson's appointment the whispers were growing
louder that Taylor was struggling with certain aspects of the
job, most notably communication.
He never looked entirely at ease in front of a microphone,
but that's no deal breaker. It was certainly nothing that was
particularly damning, and nothing that couldn't have been
improved with time and experience, but it was there all the
The bowlers, it was said, were struggling to get a sense of
what Taylor expected from them and were tired of the
withering looks when they strayed off plan.
Again, there was nothing to suggest there was anything that
would prove terminal to his leadership; it was painted more
as an awkward bedding-in process.
That all changed when Hesson was appointed.
The writing might not have been on the wall, but it was
certainly in the paper. This is how the Weekend Herald
reported the appointment of Hesson, back on July 21.
"Taylor can no longer be guaranteed a long reign as
"Taylor was very much a Wright appointment, chosen not
only for his cricketing brain and undoubted talent, but also
because he was more pliable than the other candidate, Brendon
"Where Wright wanted players to do what they were told,
Hesson said yesterday he wanted them to take more
responsibility on their own shoulders.
"Quite apart from the fact they have an affinity for each
other through their work at Otago, Hesson might argue
McCullum is more suited to delivering that style of
It was obvious very early that Hesson and Taylor was not
going to work. After the tour to India, there were noises
that the coach wanted a change. Taylor scored a century in
the final test at Bangalore that possibly bought him some
He did so again in Sri Lanka, after he had been asked to
Many thought his superb batting and a highly meritorious
victory would be enough to buy more time.
Unfortunately the noise was too loud by now and it was going
There was to be no turning back.
New Zealand Cricket was moving very slowly towards a giant
train wreck and simply didn't have the wherewithal to avoid
White headed for Dubai and International Cricket Council
business on Saturday. He characterised his five days away as
dealing with "important international business" and conceded
there had been "a void" of information in that time.
As is always the case, that void was filled with talkback
chatter and social media tittle tattle, all of it incredibly
damaging to Taylor, McCullum and cricket in general.
White has insisted player power had nothing to do with
"I don't believe so. Ross is well respected," he said.
Asked what had changed since Taylor was endorsed 16 months
ago by a panel which included director of cricket John
Buchanan, White said: "We've got a new coach."
Although publicly NZC is saying Hesson wanted Taylor to
remain test captain, this reeks of compromise, rather than a
firmly held conviction that Taylor was the best man for the
It is known Taylor had started to feel increasingly isolated.
Opening batsman Martin Guptill is believed to have been a
staunch ally; younger players in the squad have been
identified as having been less than 100 per cent supportive
of Taylor's leadership style.
Whatever the more intricate details, there's no question this
imbroglio is at least on a par with the player power which
did for Moles, if not quite up with the "biggie", the players
strike of 2002.
The captaincy is worth about $40,000 but that's peanuts
compared with the blow dealt to Taylor's pride this week.
Another outcome of yesterday is that NZC has once again lost
the services of its former champion batsman Martin Crowe, who
has resigned from the job of talent scout just weeks after
accepting it. Crowe is a longtime supporter of Taylor.
Fleming's teammates have suggested it took him at least a
couple of years to grow into the captaincy.
This is not to say Taylor would have become another Fleming.
It does give pause for thought, though, whether he even had
- By Dylan Cleaver and David Leggat, The New Zealand