Level head and hard work behind tremendous cricket

Mike Hesson
Mike Hesson
Long before most had heard of Mike Hesson, he was strolling around the University of Otago Oval with Glenn Turner and plotting how to get the Volts to the top.

His hands would be trailing behind his back and his brow would be creased in deep thought.

That mind of his was always solving puzzles. How do we get Michael Papps out? Should Matt Harvie take the new ball? How do we get the most out of Mohammad Wasim and why is he going so hard at the ball so early?

He was still just the manager of the side but was already showing he was ready to take the step up and lead a first-class team.

Former Otago Cricket Association chief executive Ross Dykes gave him that opportunity in 2004-05 when Turner moved on.

Hesson came up against the same kind of resistance he faced eight years later when he was named Black Caps coach. He did not play cricket at the top level and that always meant he had to work a lot harder to prove himself.

That turned out to be a massive advantage. He had to earn his reputation and he did that through meticulous planning, consuming attention to detail, a willingness to work harder than anyone else and absolute loyalty to his players.

You will not find a news clipping where he throws one of his players under the bus after a loss.

He has always kept a level head in defeat and in victory. That could be frustrating when you were hoping for a provocative quote.

But he was concise and accurate in his comments. You knew behind every word there were hours of work spent researching the answer.

He drew a lot of confidence from his work ethic and demanded the same of everyone around him. Slackers were not accommodated - read Jesse Ryder.

His controversial appointment of Brendon McCullum as captain must have tested even Hesson's tenacity. It was a tumultuous time and a move that polarised public opinion.

It was always the right move. The team needed a different style of leadership. That said, it was not handled well.

The public swung in behind the popular Taylor. But some of the personal criticism Hesson had to put up with was disgraceful.

The pair found a way to continue working together despite a rift that will probably never be bridged. It is testament to Hesson's professionalism that he did not let the incident cloud his judgement when it came to Taylor's obvious merit with the bat.

If Hesson did have a weakness, perhaps it was that he was too structured and too conservative in his selections.

If someone new came into the fold, then they had most likely achieved two feats: they had had a productive summer the previous season, and had demonstrated the ability to play at a higher level through the New Zealand A programme.

It was textbook selection, whereas others may have gone with their gut more.

Hesson had McCullum to lean on for that, though. The pair were able to forge such a successful relationship because of, not instead of, their many differences.

McCullum was prepared to take a punt where Hesson would fall back on the statistics. But when McCullum wanted to bash his way through a block wall, Hesson was there to remind him it was reinforced with steel.

It was the perfect combination which almost carried New Zealand all the way to glory at the 2015 World Cup.

New Zealand played tremendous cricket during Hesson's six-year stint. The Black Caps earned respect on and off field and Hesson deserves a lot of credit for the example he set.

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