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Max Bania: Hesson can get most from under-achieving Caps

opinion Max Bania

Published: 1:01PM Tuesday July 24, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

Six coaches in five years - perhaps it's little wonder some people haven't bothered to learn the name of the latest man to take charge of the Black Caps.

"Who's Mike Hesson?" a couple of so-called cricket fans have asked publicly over the last few days. To which the answer should simply be: "Who cares?"

I'll stop right there to make it clear that's no slight against the 37-year-old's coaching abilities. In fact, it's his lack of public profile that could stand him in better stead than his short-lived predecessors.

Let's not kid ourselves that another coach of John Wright's profile was ever going to be lured into the head coaching role. New Zealand Cricket simply doesn't have the financial clout or prestige to lure a big-name foreigner downunder. It'd be like Michel Roux taking up a duty manager job at McDonald's.

And yes, fond memories of the Steve Rixon era have convinced many that a hard-nosed Australian like Darren Lehmann or Jamie Siddons could be the catalyst for attitude change amongst the players. But can an Aussie ever fully understand the psyche of a New Zealand cricketer?

Perhaps not, if the current pair of John Buchanan and Kim Littlejohn are anything to go by.

The truth is, even if they don't know who he is, New Zealand fans should be well pleased with Hesson's appointment.

Already Hesson has two factors in his favour over the soon-to-be-departed John Wright. Firstly, he belongs to a younger breed of coaches that has experienced the changing face of professional cricket alongside the players.

He's well liked by his peers, most notably Brendon McCullum, and will be confident of coaxing the very best form out of the mercurial batsman.

Secondly, he isn't John Wright, and carries none of the fanfare and expectation that the former opening stalwart brought with him.

If new Blues coach John Kirwan inherited the most under-pressure job in New Zealand sport last week, Hesson could hardly have taken on a role with lower expectations. Even since his appointment on Friday, the Black Caps have slipped below Bangladesh in the Twenty20 world rankings and narrowly-avoided a loss inside three days to a West Indian warm-up team.

Any sort of improvement under Hesson would be welcome and there's ample evidence to suggest he has the tools to engineer it.

A career coach, he's never shied away from tough, unglamorous assignments. That includes stints in charge of Argentina, Kenya (where he oversaw modest improvement in trying circumstances) and New Zealand "A" tours to cricketing backwaters.

His record on the home front is no less impressive. He led an unfashionable Otago team to the domestic one-day title in 2008 (after convincing McCullum to make a mercy dash from Black Caps duty to play in the semis and final - he scored hundreds in both) and the Twenty20 crown a year later.

His eye for talent is also undisputed. Paceman Neil Wagner, and a young crop of batsmen like Michael Bracewell and Hamish Rutherford, have flourished under his watch. Where most saw imported batsman Jonathan Trott as a journeyman county player, Hesson saw an Ashes hero in waiting.

Already there have been positive noises about the hands-off coaching style he plans to adopt.

"Ross Taylor is the captain of the Blacks Caps," he told the Otago Daily Times. "The key thing is for Ross and I to build a relationship now, and a really functioning one.

"We've already started that and had a couple of good discussions."

Hesson is used to getting the best out of modestly-talented groups of players. Now he has a gifted, but chronically under-achieving group of batsmen on his hands, the challenge changes.

Doubtless, he'll also be limited in his decision-making by the demands of his superiors, although hopefully not unduly so.

Most importantly, he wants the job. Whereas Wright had been there and done that in the world of coaching, and seemed world weary towards the end of his tenure, Hesson's professional career has been building up to this job for more than two decades.

He'll be desperate to prove himself up to the task. If he can summon that same desperation from his players, the fans won't care who he is or where he's from - all they'll care about is the results.

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