New Zealand head coach Gary Stead‘s one-week pre-planned holiday at a time when they look to back bounce back from a 5-0 drubbing in the T20Is has sparked outrage in New Zealand, but David White, the NZC chief executive, has defended the break citing workload issues.
“Player and support staff’s workload is a big issue in international cricket,” White said. “We lost our last coach, Mike Hesson, to workload issues. We want to make the role sustainable going forward. That is why Gary is having the week off this week.”
It is the timing of the break – even if pre-planned – that has irked the critics, former captain Jeremy Coney being at the forefront. This is an important summer for New Zealand, who are playing the Big Three, all in one season. After a successful home series against England, they have been blanked 3-0 in Tests in Australia followed by the T20Is at home against India. Also, captain Kane Williamson is injured, which many fear, leaves a leadership void.
It remains important for New Zealand to come back strongly from the reverses if they are to fight the growing reputation of being a side that does great against lesser opponents, something Coney suggested too.
“This is probably the most important season we’ve had for 10 years, with no Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and West Indies to feast on,” Coney told Radio Sport Breakfast. “We’re facing the three big boys (Australia, India, and England). They were marmalised in Australia and it’s now five-zip at home. Wouldn’t you think the main coach and selector would be there?
“Can you see Steve Hansen leaving the All Blacks after they are one-nil down against the Lions, and taking a week off before the second Test? This is the job and this is the main part of the season. It’s ridiculous this is happening at this crunch time. You don’t take your captain away from the helm when you are wanted most, when the ship is in deep shook, amongst the rocks.”
Coney went on to call it a “desertion'”. “Would you call it desertion or would you just say, ‘It’s really bad look fellas’? If I was David White I would say to myself, no I’m sorry Gary, you can wait a week. If you are really finding it tough and have to be away from the family, let’s have a chat and find another coach for the T20 format.
“I’m quite annoyed about it. I’ve heard they want to freshen up for the other challenges ahead after this series. What? What? What series are they? They’ve got three T20 and three ODIs versus Australia. They have the rest of March off, all of April, all of May, a couple of weeks in June off, then we face the might of Ireland, Scotland and West Indies.
“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. If it is too much for them…you can go and get a job in a hardware store and see your family every night. It seems to me this is your job and this is the time of year when you really work.”
White, though, presented a calm defence of the situation. “I can understand the passion,” White said. “It has been a challenging time for us but this planning was done six months ago. Please go back and look at the schedule: World Cup, tour to Sri Lanka, then full tour by England, then going to Australia, then playing India now.
“It has been a big time commitment. It is not just Gary, we are constantly rotating the support staff, so we can manage the workload. Of any sport in New Zealand, the one that has the most demand for time is cricket. These guys are away for a long time, so we must manage their workload.”
White was asked if Stead could not have taken the break during any other time on the tour, including the nine-day gap between the ODIs and the Tests. “For this Indian tour, we have prioritised preparation for the T20 World Cup and also the Test match Championship is our priority,” White said. “When they play a Test match, a lot of preparation goes into it. The guys go into a camp. A lot of planning, a lot of preparation. A big time commitment.
“I just want to point out to everyone that when we did the schedule some six months ago… Gary has been always reluctant to take a break, the man works very, very hard, so it is something as managers we must manage the workload. Otherwise we will have a burnout. As you know, coaching, at international level, is one of the toughest jobs in cricket.”
White said Stead had been away from home for “something like 350 days” over the last 16 months. Because of this workload, White said they had even considered splitting the coaching job over formats, especially keeping in mind how Hesson had to give up because of the workload. However, they went ahead with a unified head coach and specialist support staff. Stead has copped a fair bit of criticism for this break, but White said he was doing fine.
“We have some contact with him,” White said. “He is fine. He is a professional. He is a seasoned first-class coach. Very, very successful coach as well. He has had a very successful time of 16 months, Test series wins away, taking the team to the World Cup final. Yes, we have had a challenging time in Australia and now, but gee, if you look at it as a whole over the last 16 months, he has done a fantastic job.”