Crazy like a fox?

Oh, this just keeps getting better and better.

As fun as it was to believe that Mickey Arthur had been thrown under the bus by Graeme Smith – possibly so he could tick off the first box on a list entitled ‘Becoming Dan Vettori – 9 Steps to AWESOMENESS’ (step 2: learn to bowl, step 3: experiment with facial hair), it’s now apparent that greater forces were in fact at work. (Which is not to say that Graeme doesn’t have that list, just that he might have picked a different step to work on for the moment.) Cricket South Africa have done away with their entire selection panel as well as their coach, citing the need for a complete structural overhaul of team operations. Apparently in OfficialSpeak, this means, “We blame those guys for how shit we’ve been since we beat Australia last year, so they have to go. Also, the number of black players in the team has actually gone down since they’ve been in charge, so clearly they are all racist bastards who have done nothing to implement transformation like they were supposed to. Frankly we don’t know how they can sleep at night.”

After all that, you’d hardly blame Mickey for jumping at the chance to land the long-vacant NZ coaching job. All he’d have to do would be to get on Daniel Vettori’s good side and the rest would surely be smooth sailing – certainly in comparison to coaching South Africa, anyway. Right?

But he’d be wise to tread cautiously. Though nowhere near as extreme as what he’s been used to, NZ Cricket has for some time now been showing its own signs of definite eccentricity, both in its decision-making process and the way it chooses to convey things to the rest of the world. It’s not just odd selectorial choices – selectors have, after all, been making those since the first time a group of Neanderthals decided to fling rocks at sticks and run about, periodically slapping each others’ arses, as a form of lively entertainment; it’s practically a tradition of the game now. It’s more their PR that confuses me – it’s either laughably inept, or some kind of deliberate attempt at cunning misdirection, although for what purpose I couldn’t begin to tell you, since there doesn’t really seem to be any point to it.

First they announced that they weren’t going to have a vice-captain at all any more; now suddenly they have one again and it’s Ross Taylor. But first only the players were supposed to know, then they flat-out denied it, and then they officially confirmed it. (Apparently poor Brendon McCullum has been weighed, measured, and found wanting, and consequently booted back into the rank-and-file.) I have nothing against Ross Taylor, but why on earth could NZC not just have come right out and said it, instead of doing the maybe-he-is-maybe-he-isn’t shuffle for three days? And why announce that they were getting rid of the position in the first place if they were going to reinstate it mere weeks later? It could just be that Justin Vaughan has an unfortunate habit of jumping the gun on his official announcements, which is why they all seem to be directly contradicted immediately after being made. Like that one about NZC wanting to invest in new, younger players. That was supposed to be why they were passing on Lou Vincent, returning after a long hard battle with depression, and Scott Styris, both of them fresh off red-hot streaks in the domestic HRV Cup. So who did make the cut?

31-year-old Peter Ingram, and 29-year-old Andy McKay. No BJ Watling (he’s 24) despite his performance at the Napier test.

So what’s going on, NZC? Are you trying to cloak your decision-making in a web of disinformation and subterfuge for some reason? Is this misdirection? Is there something major brewing that you’re trying to distract us from? Apart from the fact that I can’t imagine why you’d bother, the whole thing is coming off as less Erwin Rommel and more Snidely Whiplash from the Wacky Races. I do honestly want to believe that something genuinely interesting and unexpected is going on that we will find out about in a few weeks, but either get better at scheming or get better at making up your minds before rushing to the nearest podium, because right now you look really fucking ridiculous.

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