Wednesday 12 December 2012

A Statistician's Look at New Zealand Cricket

I’m really a statistics writer. I’m not the first call for any pieces about management styles, off the field behaviour and so on. When I write about cricket I generally write about what happens on the park, and particularly about the results, and what can be found from analysis. However the current situation in New Zealand Cricket is one that is fascinating to me. The current “crisis” seems to be one that has been misunderstood, misreported, over-estimated and entirely avoidable. So I thought I’d take a statistical enquiry type approach to the current situation, and see what came of it.

The statistical enquiry cycle has 5 parts: Problem, Plan, Data, Analysis and Conclusion.

Problem: Why is there an environment in NZC where a breakdown between captain and coach can have catastrophic consequences and be played out in the public domain as appallingly as this one has.

Plan: Look back over the last 6 years of New Zealand Cricket’s history and see if there is a pattern, and anything that might be the reason:

Data: In a statistical enquiry this is where I gather the numbers. Obviously that’s not so relevant in this situation. So instead I went through just over 4000 articles in three different news archives that related to New Zealand Cricket. Here is a time-line of some of the significant events in New Zealand Cricket over the last 6 years. I’ve broken it up into Governance, Management, Leadership and Players; but some of the issues related to more than one category, so they could have fit across more than one. In these situations I picked what I felt was the most appropriate.

Jan-2006Cairns retires
June-2006Snedden announces 5 year test plan. Incuded 2 tests in 18 months.
July-2006Andy Moles appointed as ND coach
Sept-2006Don Neely replaces John Reid as president of NZC
Dec-2006Snedden steps downDayle Hadlee appointed bowling coach
Jan-2007Astle retires
Apr-2007Fleming retires as ODI captain
June-2007Justin Vaughan appointed new CEO. Forms committee to look at Bracewell’s position as coach. Includes Ric CharlesworthWright turns down Australian academy, expresses interest in working with NZ cricket.
July-2007Bracewell re-appointed for 2 more years. Mark O’Neill new bating coach. Wright to have a (largely unspecified) role. Bracewell loses veto over selectors
Aug-2007Heath Mills expresses concern about the newly mooted ICL. Asks NZC to talk with ICC about it.Nash, Turner, Hadlee and Bracewell all re-appointed as selectors. Haslee and Nash given 1 year contracts, Turner and Bracewell 2 year contractsBracewell drops Fleming from t20’s. appoints Vettori captain
Sept-2007Vettori given test captaincy. Fleming says he will stay on.
Cairns, Harris, Astle and H Marshall all sign for ICL
Oct-2007Ric Charlesworth quits as high performance managerCraig McMillan retires
B McCullum made vice captain
Nov-2007Wright appointed high performance managerAndre Adams makes himself unavailable for ODIs
Dec-2007Richard Hadlee initially left off guest list for Chappell-Hadlee fixture.
Jan-2008Bond signs with ICL
Feb-2008Vaughan allows Auckland to play James Anderson, despite opposition from other asociations.Fleming retires
Ryder incident in bar
Lou Vincent & Adam Parore join ICL
May-2008Bracewell announces he will quit April 2009Andre Adams becomes a Kolpak player
June-2008Major changes in the organisation at NZC. 11 positions removed and 20 created. John Wright and Lindsay Crocker’s jobs both disestablished
July-2008Dermot Reeve appointed coach of CD
Aug-2008A number of staff leave NZC – Alec Astle, Dayle Hadlee, Dayle Shackel, Warren Frost, Brian AldridgeBob Carter appointed Canterbury coach
Sept-2008Alan Isaac replaces Sir John Anderson as chairman of NZC board after Anderson retires.
Nov-2008Geoff Allott appointed general manager of cricket.Andy Moles appointed coach
NZC apologises to West Indies for “it’s all white here” slogan
Dec-2008Mark Greatbatch appointed as advisor to national selection panel
Jan-2009Heath Mills criticizes selectors for not communicating with players when they are dropped.
Feb-2009Dave Currie appointed manager
Mark O’Donnell appointed assistant coach
Apr-2009Moles asks to become a selector.
June-2009State Insurance pull out as sponsorBond becomes available after ending ties with ICL
Aug-2009Moles and Vettori added to selection panel, replacing Nash
Oct-2009First Class competition moves to home and away format.22 – reports players unhappy with MolesMcCullum loses vice captaincy
23- Vettori gives some support to Moles
24- Moles quits.
Nov-2009Name of first class comp returns to Plunket ShieldJohn Wright to assist Vettori with national team
Jan-2010Greatbatch appointed coachTaylor named “stand-by captain”
Feb-2010NZC announce partnership with USACA. Schedule matches in FloridaMartin Crowe appointed “batting advisor”
Mar-2010NZC agrees to nominate John Howard, rather than original pick, Sir John Anderson as new ICC president.NZ pull out of Zimbabwe series
May-2010Roger Mortimer joins as performance director.
June-2010John Howard rejected as ICC presidentMcCullum gives up keeping in tests.
Aug-2010Alan Isaac appointed as ICC vice-president. Chris Moller takes over as NZC chairmanShane Bond assistant coach at CD
Trent Woodhill appointed as assistant coach
Oct-2010Robbie Hart appointed to board
Board calls for sweeping review post Bangladesh clean-sweep
Nov-2010Geoff Allott resigns.Duncan Fletcher comes in temporarily as consultant
Dec-2010Bond, Martin Crowe and Gerard Gillespie bought into cricket committee.Another deal with USACAJohn Wright replaces Mark Greatbatch as coach. Vettori loses selector role.
Jan-2011Alan Donald joins as bowling coach
Mar-2011Vettori retires from T20i
Apr-2011Crowe quits cricket comitteeBuchanan appointed director of cricket.
June-2011Donald quits as bowling coachPlayers consulted on the leadership qualities of Taylor and McCullum
National selection managers role introduced, given to Greatbatch temporarilyTaylor appointed as captain, after rigorous process
Trent Woodhill reappointedVettori quits ODIs
July-2011Hesson appointed Kenyan coach
Damian Wright appointed bowling coach
Mike Sandle appointed manager
Sept-2011Vaughan steps down as CEOKim Littlejohn appointed national selection manager
Dec-2011David White appointed CEO
Mar-2012Ryder & Bracewell dropped for breaking protocol
Ryder takes indefinite break from cricket
Apr-2012NZC signs 8 year media dealICC rule Wagner eligible for NZ
May-2012Therese Walsh comes onboard to run NZC’s part of the 2015 World CupJohn Wright turns down a new contract with NZC
July-2012Mike Hesson named as new coachWilliamson named interim captain while Taylor injured and McCullum rested
Ryder makes himself eligible for Wellington
Aug-2012Bob Carter appointed as assistant coach
Damian Wright steps down as bowling coach
Sept-2012Review of the board completed. 39 recommendations were made, and published.Friday night TV deal announced.
Nov-2012Stephen Boock named NZC president, Greg Barclay appointed as directorTurner and Crowe appointed talent scoutsHesson approaches Taylor with Sandle and Carter, tells him that he is going to recommend a leadership change to the board after the tour.
Dec-2012Chris Moller announces a special general meeting to look at a new constitution for New Zealand cricket.McCullum appointed captain. Taylor rejects offer of split captaincy, steps down from South Africa tour.

Analysis: This is where I normally do some calculations, arrange the data into a nice table, and perhaps draw a graph. None of those things work here, so instead I’ve looked at some of the trends in the stories.

The one constant in New Zealand cricket over the past 6 years has been change. During that time the team has had 5 coaches, at least 11 selectors and at least 16 assistant or specialist coaches. There has been a litany of job titles for people too. General manager of cricket, chairman of selectors, convenor of selectors, national selection manager, high performance manager, performance director, director of cricket selection advisor, batting advisor etc. There have also been 6 captains for the international team (although Kane Williamson was only as an injury replacement and Jamie How was only for a tour match)

There have been a number of quite significant changes in the power balance between the captain and the coach. First there was a confrontation between Bracewell and Fleming. Then Moles and Vettori. Then Hesson and Taylor. The role of the captain has changed a number of times. Vettori was a selector, and for a while was actually the coach as well (although that was only for about 2 weeks while the team was between coaches). However this is not an issue that is limited to New Zealand cricket. There were similar issues in Australia between Warne and Buchanan and most spectacularly in England between Pietersen, Flintoff and a range of coaches.

An interesting story came out in 2009 where Richard Hadlee felt that Fleming had downgraded the role of coach in New Zealand. That balance in power has certainly been an issue.

Likewise there was an issue with player power in Central Districts while Dermot Reeve was coach, and almost one in Auckland not long after Paul Strang took over. In that situation Auckland Cricket acted quickly, brought in someone extra to help sort out the communication and define the roles between the senior players and the coach.

Conclusion: This is not the first time that there has been a power issue between coach and captain in New Zealand Cricket, or in international cricket in general. It is something that has been bubbling under the surface for a while. New Zealand Cricket probably need to do what Auckland did: bring in someone who is respected by both the coaches and the players, get them to work with both groups to define clearly the roles and expectations of the coach and captain. And then stick with it.

There have been so many changes in New Zealand Cricket over the past 6 years, that consistency is probably better than making more changes. However the roles need to be more clearly defined, and there needs to be a third person introduced to make sure that the two are working together correctly. That person may be the manager, or the director of cricket or someone else, but whoever it is needs to get involved before this happens a fourth time.


  1. A captain should not be beholden to his support team.

    1. Sure in the pre-1970's Australian model the captain was the boss, and the coach was the captains support team. I'm not sure that's the model that NZC runs under anymore. Nor, for that matter, do many other teams in the world.

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