Other cricket teams must laugh at the problems New Zealand seems
to inflict on itself. I, for one, can hardly imagine Australia
or South Africa going through the same rigamarole that New
Zealand is going through at the moment.
To summarize what has happened so far: Chris Cairns and Adam
Parore have both withdrawn from the current cricket tour to the
West Indies due to injury. Chris Cairns had recieved clearance
to leave the party after the second test match anyway, to fulfil
county commitments with Nottinghamshire. Adam Parore had sought
and been refused similar clearance for business reasons (the
matches in question are one day fixtures against Bermuda).
Newspaper reports gave the impression that Cairns had ruled
himself out of taking any part in the test series. Thus it was
surprise to see him batting for Notts barely a few days later,
with Notts management saying the injury was "only a niggle", and
he would be playing as a batter in a first class match at the
same time as the second test.
The New Zealand news media sensed disharmony in the ranks, and
the vultures of New Zealand sports journalism immediately
pounced on the carcass with the promise of a "Coach-Player Rift":
the bane of NZ cricket last year. In the last few days the
entire matter has been publicly bludgeoned out in the news media,
with the management team of Turner and Lee Germon on one side,
and Cairns, Parore and Martin Crowe (!) on the other.
In the interests of fairness, this is what the two sides have
Cairns (television interview on Sportsnight): He felt there
was a breakdown in communication between himself and Glenn
Turner. Turner lacked "man-management skills"; Cairns felt
Turner needed to realise that players were different and needed
to be treated differently. He stated that while he felt the
strongest about the issue, other players agree with him.
Crowe (also interviewed on Sportsnight as "expert witness"):
Felt that gap between players and coach had existed all season.
Named Cairns and Parore as two who felt particularly aggrieved.
Suggested that players were often mystified by Turner's decisions
on practices procedures, teams, tactics, which seemed to be
handed down like gospel (my words not his - but I hope you get
the idea). Criticized Turner for not praising the players
enough. Said that Cairns was an emotional player, whereas Turner
was more calculating, but he (Crowe) found Cairns to be best
prepared and most professional member on the team.
Lee Germon (interviewed TV3 news following day): Cairns was as
much to blame for the situation as anyone else. He had cut
himself off from the team several weeks ago. He represented a
minority within the team, and most players were happy with the
Glenn Turner (interviewed TV1 news same time): Cairns and
Parore were the exceptions in the team. Admitted that while
praising players to the moon was not his style, denied that a lack
of praise existed in the team. Suggested some players were
immature in asking to be treated differently. Regarded Crowe's
comments as an unecessary intrusion by someone no longer involved
with the side.
Canterbury coach Denish Aberhart was also interviewed, sort of
as a neutral third party who had worked with both Germon and
Cairns. He said that the players had moved from a management
structure where they had a lot of freedom and a lot of influence,
to a highly disciplined setup. He said some transitional pains
were inevitable, but the latter was probably a better situation.
He said that the team spirit and "family" feeling that existed in
the Canterbury side had taken a long time to buildup.
Now finally here are some comments of my own. There are
currently three groups in this conflict: the management team of
Turner, Germon and Gren Alabaster; Cairns and Parore; and the
other players. The lines between the first two groups are
clearly drawn. However the opinion of the last group isn't clear
at this stage, partly because of the tight media policy
surrounding the players (allegations of unrest only emerged after
the two players had left the party). Cairns and Parore are also
"usual suspects" as far as this sort of thing is concerned -
they've both been suspended from games this season for breaches
of discipline, and they are both used to manipulating the media
to get what they want. While I admire them as players, they're
bargaining position is weaker because it is *them* and only
Comparisons are bound to be made with Geoff Howarth last year,
but this time I think the equation is favour of the coach.
Unlike Howarth, Turner is not going to comments like that lying
down. He's going to fight back and will probably give as good as
he gets. Howarth faced a coup orchestrated by a majority of
senior players, many well-entrenched in the New Zealand team.
This season there are less of those players about and their
position is far less secure; Turner has shown that he will
select players who are prepared to work with him, at the expense
of possinbly more talented, but less cooperative players (the
career of Chris Pringle, New Zealand's most successful wicket
taker in ODI's over the few years appears to be over).
As for comparisons between Turner and Cairns, I think the
problem is not that they are different, but that they are too
much the same. They are both extremely independent,
self-sufficient players (eg, they both forged successful careers
away NZ in county cricket), they both believe they are always
right, and they'll back their beliefs to the hilt.
Final word: "man-management skills" is the most over used term
in New Zealand coaching. It's sort of like "family values"in
politics; everyone believes in them, but nobody likes to define
exactly what they are.
Hmm, this post was a little longer than I expected. Food for
thought, and hopefully some illumination on what NZ cricket goes
through far too regularly.