New Zealand has a new cricket coach, Andy Moles, replacing John Bracewell when his tenure runs out after the Adelaide test (probably some time on Saturday, the way things are going). This begs a number of questions: Firstly, who the f*** is Andy Moles? Secondly, why the f*** isn’t it John Wright. Thirdly, and I’m aware that this is more of a statement than a question, but seriously, thank f*** Bracewell’s gone. I’ll go through these in reverse order, just because I can.
I’m gonna call Bracewell’s tenure the most blighted since Glenn Turner atomised our young side in ’96, with the core of one of our greatest teams dismantled well before its time. The last ODI before he took over featured Chris Cairns, Stephen Fleming, Scott Styris, Chris Harris and Lou Vincent, all of whom have gone from our national side now, all of whom are still making a living from playing cricket somewhere in the world (I know Styris remains in the ODI side, but he plays four-day cricket for Auckland in spite of his test retirement). Nathan Astle was injured for the match, but he unequivocally falls into that category too. I’m not suggesting that they all, or even a majority, merit a place, but to lose them all, along with Craig McMillan (a player who I have a love-hate relationship with, but who entered sparkling late-career form and had a test average of 38) in the space of five years speaks pretty strongly to why we have had such trouble getting upper and middle order partnerships of any consequence.
If those guys had stuck around longer to mentor the likes of Taylor, Ryder (have fun with that!), How and Flynn through their early years of international cricket, and plug the other end (you can’t tell me Astle, Fleming or Styris couldn’t have put an innings together during either of those innings in Brisbane) we would be in a very different situation today. As it is our batting line up is hopelessly green, and will remain so for at least a year or two until these guys find their feet.
The bowling stocks haven’t been nearly so badly ravaged, with one obvious exception. Shane Bond’s absence from the team is ostensibly as a result of the ICC strong-arming NZC into reneging on their earlier decision to allow Bond to play in the rebel ICL, a bitch-move of epic proportions, but one that any coach worth a damn would have died rather than let happen. Particularly for a Bond, a once-in-a-lifetime bowler. None of the players outright blamed Bracewell for the move, but the subtext is clear, and when the books are written I’m sure this stuff will come out. The man destroyed our test team to create a one day outfit about as good as the one we had under Rixon, about as good as the one we always have: enough for a world cup semi and the occasional shock win, but no more.
So good riddance to Bracewell, England can keep him and his attitude. Moles? Well after Mott turned us down I guess he’s the guy. But a record coaching ND and Scotland (seriously!) hardly suggests greatness, and with John Wright under the employ of NZC it seems a call tantamount to the non-selection of Tab Baldwin as Breakers coach when Lemanis got the job (not that I’m complaining now on that one).
I guess we give him a chance, the talk is that the player-power which flourished under Aberhart (why did we get rid of him again?) – and was targeted by Bracewell with disastrous results – is likely to be resurrected. When you have guys as thoughtful and talented as Fleming was and Vettori is in the side then that’s no bad thing. Hopefully he can restore a semblance of normalcy and stability to this side, and maybe even tempt some of those guys back into the fold (how much happier would you be with Bond and Fleming around for a couple more years?). Because it feels like a golden era was robbed from us by Bracewell’s obstinacy, and that of the ’80s cabal – Snedden, Hadlee et al – which surrounded him, with the latter two not making the finest decisions of their admittedly great administrative careers at this point. Here’s hoping the anonymous Moles can revive something of that feeling.