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Cricketing brain drain: Are McCullum and Vettori lost to the Black Caps?

Opinion – It’ll be nice work for Brendon McCullum, if he can get it. The same for Daniel Vettori.

Brendon McCullum
Photo: Supplied

But what about little old New Zealand?

There’s every indication that McCullum, the former Black Caps captain, is about to be unveiled as England’s new test cricket coach. Similarly Vettori, McCullum’s former New Zealand teammate and skipper, is reported to be joining Australia’s staff in an assistant coach role.

Stephen Fleming, arguably the smartest of the lot, continues to make a handsome living as head coach of the Chennai Super Kings Twenty20 franchise.

This is the way of the cricket world now.

Players freelance. They move from franchise to franchise, to further their careers and earn a living, and coaches do too.

That’s something England’s new managing director of men’s cricket, Rob Key, knows only too well. Until taking on the role recently, he was a commentator for hire, popping up in various countries to talk about the great game.

Ben Stokes of England.

Recently appointed England Test captain Ben Stokes will be working with McCullum when he is named England Test coach.
Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Key was adamant that if England sought to have one head coach for test, One-Day International and Twenty20 cricket, they would never attract the best candidates. It’s simply too difficult and too time-consuming to do all three, no matter how well an England coach gets paid.

If he wanted to entice someone of McCullum’s calibre, he had to divide the responsibilities up.

Suffice to say New Zealand, who are about to meet England in a three-test series, have just the one man in charge – Gary Stead.

We don’t have money to throw around here. That’s why our better players are on Indian Premier League duty right now, instead of preparing to play England.

And, sadly, that’s why it appears as if our finest cricketing minds might never coach their own country.

That’s a terrible shame and something that might eventually see us return to international cricket’s doldrums.

We have to box clever here. We’re not blessed with elite talent. Two or three players, sure, but if we didn’t do things such as qualify South Africans to play for us we’d really struggle to assemble a competitive team.

The Black Caps have been able to achieve a lot with comparatively little because we had captains such as Fleming and Vettori and McCullum who found innovative ways to play the game. They built teams that were more than the sum of their parts and enabled New Zealand – and I have to say I hate this phrase – to punch above its weight.

And now that expertise, in the case of McCullum and Vettori, seems as if it will be to the benefit of our opponents, rather than ourselves.

You can throw Shane Bond in there too, if you like. He made his name as Black Caps bowling coach, but now makes his living at franchises and has no desire to be our national head coach.

Dan Vettori is one of a number of Kiwi coaches in high demand overseas.
Photo: RCB

Some will say that’s professional sport. That guys will go where the work and the money is and that you can’t begrudge them a buck.

And that’s true. I have absolutely no quarrel with any New Zealander who takes their chances elsewhere.

In fact I’ll go a step further and say I actually support it.

But if this is professional sport, then what are New Zealand Cricket doing to recruit or retain our sharpest minds?

I know I’d sleep better at night if McCullum was our test coach, Fleming took charge of the T20s and Vettori the ODIs.

We have to get with the programme here and adapt our situation to suit the modern game. For a country of renowned cricket innovators, we appear to be sticking with a very outdated coaching model.

You can’t tell me that men such as Fleming, Vettori and McCullum – all esteemed and decorated Black Caps captains – aren’t passionate about New Zealand cricket. You can’t tell me their days donning the silver fern weren’t the best of their lives or that they don’t want the current team to be the best it possibly can.

And yet we can’t coax any of them to coach us?

I fear McCullum will do an outstanding job with England. Perhaps he wouldn’t have if Joe Root was still their test captain, but with Ben Stokes at the helm McCullum potentially has the perfect ally.

Someone who’ll play positive cricket. Someone who’ll instil confidence in what’s been a timid team and someone with the drive and personality to make England demonstrably better.

Maybe McCullum still has too many peers in this Black Caps side. Maybe he wouldn’t be the right man for us right now.

But that doesn’t mean the day hasn’t already come where we need to divide up the head coaching job. To create roles, and sufficient revenue, to actually have our best coaches involved.

This isn’t amateur cricket anymore.

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