A high-scoring shootout looms when Australia begin their three-match T20 series in South Africa on Friday.
Debate has engulfed the New Zealand sporting landscape since it was announced this week that Black Caps head coach Gary Stead was inexplicably skipping the ODI series with India due to a ‘pre-planned break’.
Most Kiwi sports fans were outraged not only at the announcement itself but also the timing of it.
The side had up until that point lost their last eight international matches. Not only had they lost, they lost in shocking fashion.
The Caps left for their Test tour of Australia full of confidence coming off a Test series victory over England and having a number two Test ranking.
Across this side of the ditch there was great anticipation and excitement of potentially a rare Test series win over Australia in Australia.
Of course they were completely outplayed, if not embarrassed by a classy Australian side who are always incredibly hard to beat in their own conditions. What was most disappointing to the Kiwi fans however was the nature of the losses.
Besides Tim Southee and the lion-hearted Neil Wagner, the New Zealand players folded like Origami under the relentless Aussie pressure.
It seemed that some of these players did not have the talent to play Test cricket let alone have the special opportunity to play a Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
Jeet Raval is not a batsman of international standard and the fact that he was continuously selected must have had the Australian fast bowlers salivating.
Others who are of International standard and have proved it over the last two years, seemed as if they were deer in the headlights.
A tour of Australia is a special one for a Kiwi cricketer given the history between the two countries. The conditions, crowds, media exposure and expectations were just too much.
On selections, why Gary Stead didn’t select Tim Southee for the final Test defies belief as he was one of only a couple of players who stood up on the tour.
The official line was he was rested but I don’t cop that and by all accounts neither did he. The fact he was robbed of a chance to play a New Year Test at the SCG was a disgrace.
Of course following this tour the Black Caps were beaten 5-0 in a T20 series against India at home. The nature of these losses again were concerning. They couldn’t close out games that they should’ve which is worrying heading into a World Cup.
So when the news of Stead’s ‘pre-planned’ break was released there was disbelief among fans, commentators and even ex players.
Former captain Jeremy Coney was the most scathing, calling it “desertion” and that “I’ve seen wayward bowling, mismanaged games resulting in losses, bungled run outs, I’ve seen the fielding coach away, the bowling coach away, the batting coach away.”
He went even further, “If it is too much for them, you can go and get a job in a hardware store and see your family every night.”
After the first ODI in which New Zealand chased down 347 Coney doubled down on his comments telling Gary Stead to “stay away.”
These are strong views by a well respected figure but opinions that are justified. Taking time off work is necessary in all occupations but in a privileged position such as a national coach there are certain expectations.
The fans and public expect the coach to be in position for all matches except in perhaps of exceptional circumstances. If Stead wanted to take leave, take it when no games were scheduled. Firstly, to book it during a series and then to take it after the team was on such a terrible losing streak is just inexcusable.
Yes he coached the Black Caps to a tremendous World Cup and he has an excellent Test record, but as Jeremy Coney stated this move is one of desertion and I agree in saying that Gary Stead should stay away.