Over the course of 48 hours I had the pleasure of absorbing cricketing wisdom from Stephen Fleming and Daniel Vettori. This was like juicing up some kale, spinach, wheatgrass, oranges, ginger, garlic and a splash of coconut oil as Fleming and Vettori combined their powers to offer a nutrient and vitamin rich smoothie. It was only a matter of coincidence that I got the super-charged smoothie as I stumbled across an in-depth interview Fleming did for ESPN Cricinfo's The Monthly, which was swiftly followed by Sky Sports dropping a Daniel Vettori masterclass.
You don't need me to sit here and relay all the gems that Fleming and Vettori dropped, not when you can enjoy this brilliant content yourselves...
After soaking up Fleming's coaching philosophies and the idea of 'have fun and attack, I can teach you the defensive stuff later' and then watching Vettori explain how minor details allowed him to release the ball as late as possible, thus giving him a couple extra mili-seconds to read the batsman, I sat back. As a sports nerd, these insights blew my mind and the coach in me jotted down a few of Fleming's ideas as the futurist in me noted Fleming's views on where T20 cricket fits in, as the backyard tweaker in my fiddled my fingers around a tennis ball.
These dudes are some of the smartest cricketing minds on planet Earth today. Fleming and Vettori are easily the smartest kiwi cricketing minds, they're just amazing.
Wait, so why aren't they helping Aotearoa?
Why does Fleming coach numerous T20 teams around the world and why has Vettori been so quick to follow in his footsteps?
This is a complex conundrum and it centres around a basic premise of the two smartest kiwi cricketing minds not guiding our young cricketers through their Blackcaps careers.
The most obvious place to start is the money and lifestyle on offer from franchise T20 cricket. Not only are Fleming and Vettori both more than likely to earn more than Mike Hesson, they are able to work with various teams, obviously increasing the pool of players they work with in the process. Vettori for example coaches Royal Challengers Bangalore, Brisbane Heat and Middlesex's T20 outfit while Fleming coaches Rising Pune Supergiants and Melbourne Stars.
Money is there, although let's not pretend like Fleming and Vettori coach for a few weeks and then kick back. I'd hazard a guess that they probably do as much work as Hesson. Yeah, I reckon they do and you need to read Fleming's interview or do some research into how much time and effort goes into building these franchise T20 teams to look past the 'oh, they're just coaching for four weeks'.
Franchise T20 cricket is the closest thing cricket has to the NBA, NRL, EPL and so on. You have to recruit players with specific requirements, develop talent (most T20 teams have their own development system), work on skills and drive strategies. You've got X amount of money, X amount of roster spots, X amount of overseas players. Fleming for example, probably went through a series of reviews with Pune after the IPL and is now in preparation mode with Melbourne Stars ahead of the BBL.
T20 cricket isn't a holiday for Fleming or Vettori, it's not the easy route to enjoying a life after playing. You could make a strong case that with more money on the line and working with bigger egos, that it's harder, or that there's more pressure. Reading and watching these two also suggests that they take their jobs very seriously, to a point where it feels as though they are both ahead of the curve in making a significant investment in franchise T20 cricket.
There's no franchise T20 cricket in Aotearoa that can lure Fleming and Vettori back into kiwi cricket though, there won't be for a long time. The closest we'll get to enjoying the two smartest kiwi cricketing minds is their work in the BBL, where there are minimal kiwis thanks to NZC's decision to go against the BBL instead of working with the BBL.
This might be a good time to pull up a quote from Fleming and while you're reading it, ponder that Blackcaps won't be available for the BBL because they'll be playing international T20s...
"Growth. You know, you have got these tournaments coming up. You have got South Africa, you have got England coming in. I'd love to see no T20 internationals. I'll give you a World Cup in between. That's the only time you get to see all your stars come together to play for countries."
Lemme put this simply: if I were in charge of NZC, I'd do anything to get Fleming and Vettori involved to any level. They could pop over to Aotearoa for a month and share their insights to our kiwi cricketers, NZC could splash the cash (that they're so desperately chasing) and make Fleming and Vettori offers than are impossible to ignore. There's so many ways in which NZC could get Fleming and Vettori involved, but there doesn't to have been much effort made to get them sharing their wisdom.
The flipside of that is how willing are Fleming and Vettori to do that? That's where many people threw up the 'too much T20 money and a nice lifestyle' yarn, however I'd speculate that if Fleming and Vettori are as wise as I'm lead to believe, they don't really want to be involved at the moment. Above, Fleming said 'I'd love to see no T20 internationals' meanwhile NZC have scheduled more T20 internationals than Tests this summer and I'm definitely implying anything cynical at Fleming's comments, it just shows two very different opinions.
Both Fleming and Vettori coach BBL teams - there were whispers last summer that while Ross Taylor wasn't in the Blackcaps T20 team, he had a brief BBL stint blocked by NZC. And again, NZC is limiting the opportunities for kiwi cricketers in the BBL this summer by stacking the schedule with limited overs cricket (pesky T20 internationals) during the BBL. Forget the money, the lifestyle or whatever other fluff you wanna put on this; Fleming and Vettori are not on the same page as NZC.
That's my view on why they have not helped out kiwi cricket much in recent times and won't over the next few years. All power to them, I've spent a lot of time writing about NZC's crappyness so if I were Fleming or Vettori, I'd be doing exactly what they are doing. NZC just isn't close to being an attractive destination for our best cricketing minds.
Allow me to try predict the future though because I'm optimistic that there will be a better time for Fleming and Vettori to get involved. By the time NZC has become an attractive destination for our two best cricketing minds, Aotearoa cricket will have a group of young cricketers that have moved into their prime years and Aotearoa will have depth in abundance; the Golden Era.
Maybe Fleming and Vettori aren't meant to be involved right now. The stars have to align and when Fleming and Vettori are ready, we could have the best Test team waiting to start a dynasty via some Fleming and Vettori wizardry.
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