New Zealand cricket defend controversial coach holiday

WELLINGTON (AFP) – New Zealand Cricket on Tuesday defended Black Caps coach Gary Stead’s decision to take a holiday after critics accused him of abandoning his team in their hour of need.

The Black Caps are in the midst of a form slump, following up a 3-0 Test series hiding in Australia with a 5-0 Twenty20 (T20) whitewash on home soil against India.

It has left the team, who just a few months ago were being hailed as one of New Zealand’s best, short on confidence and desperately seeking leadership.

Which is why Stead’s decision to take a mid-season break as New Zealand face India in a three-match one-day international (ODI) series raised eyebrows among Black Caps supporters.

To make matters worse, skipper Kane Williamson is sidelined with a shoulder injury, robbing the team of his batting prowess and tactical nous.

Former captain Jeremy Coney said Stead should be concentrating on turning around his team’s fortunes, not going on holiday.

India’s Virat Kohli runs out New Zealand’s Colin de Grandhomme during the One Day cricket international match at Seddon Oval in Hamilton, New Zealand. PHOTO: AP

“Can you see Steve Hansen leaving the All Blacks after they are one-nil down against the (British and Irish) Lions, and taking a week off before the second Test?” he told Radio Sport.

“This is the job and this is the main part of the season. It’s ridiculous this is happening at this crunch time.”

New Zealand Herald sports columnist Chris Rattue said the decision to take a break in the midst of a tour by India was “unfathomable”.

“The brilliant Indians are world sport rock stars, a team to measure your mettle against,” he wrote.

“Surely any coach would move heaven and earth to be part of an ODI series against Virat Kohli’s men?”

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) Chief Executive David White said Stead’s week off had been planned six months ago.

“Of any sport in New Zealand, cricket has the most demands for time,” he told reporters.

“These guys are away from home for a long time and we must manage their workload.”

White said the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia later this year and the new Test Championship were priorities for 2020, so Stead was concentrating on those formats rather than ODIs.

Despite the outrage in New Zealand, Kohli also downplayed the importance of the ODI series yesterday, saying it was a chance for India to experiment with new players.

“ODIs are not as relevant as T20s this year, especially having the (T20) World Cup and the Test Championship running simultaneously,” he said before the opening ODI match in Hamilton.

“So I think in the ODIs you’ll see more new guys getting chances and really having a go at expressing themselves at this level.”