Magic Mike – a Mike Hesson top five

This content first appeared in Sport Review newsletter number thirteen – if you’d like to receive articles like this and much more every Friday, you can sign up here
When Joni Mitchell wrote ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’, she probably had this golden BLACKCAPS era in mind. We’ve gone from one great captaincy run to the very start of another under coach Mike Hesson’s leadership, and after he dropped yesterday’s resignation bombshell, everyone on Twitter pretty much wanted someone to just carry on doing what he’s doing.

He’s made a monumental and worthy contribution – here’s a Mike Hesson top five:

5. Mikes Hesson and Sandle, Brendon McCullum and Bob Carter meet in a South African hotel room to lay out the plan for the team’s future, shortly after being bundled out for 45 in a Test innings. They set the blueprint for building a team with flair, a united culture and that New Zealanders could relate to and be proud of. We’re still reaping the benefits.
4. Planning, planning, planning. Remember when Grant Elliott was a surprise selection and Trent Boult wasn’t a white ball bowler? When was the last time we had so many all rounders? The preparation that goes into talent identification and team selections is meticulous in the extreme, and Mike’s hit rate is high.3. Just getting on with it. When he was appointed NZ coach, only people paying attention knew who he was, and the  captaincy change meant he was well on the back foot with the talkback crowd from the start. He kept his head down and let the results speak for themselves, slowly revealing his deep thinking and dry humour as he went on. It wasn’t the Mike Hesson show, but he was running it.

2. Forming the right team around the team. The core support staff are the part of the story you don’t often hear about, but they’re a massive part of the consistency and results we’ve enjoyed over the last few years. These guys work super hard to make sure everyone knows their job, has what they need to succeed and the encouragement to pull it off.

1. Building one of the great eras in NZ cricket. We’re a tough Test team to beat, can take down  anyone in ODIs and were even the number one bloody T20 side for a while there. We were World Cup finalists for the first time ever, hover in  respectable Test ranking spots, and put together a really solid run of wins, especially at home. These are wonderful times to be a NZ cricket fan, and we’re well placed to build on what we have now, with the right appointment.

And so, rarely for an NZ cricket coach, he gets to leave the job with oodles of goodwill and on his own terms. If he ever sits down in Dunedin to write a book, I’d love to read it, as it’ll be more The Art Of Captaincy than Lifting The Covers. It’s a great shame he’s lost to the ICC Cricket Committee before he got started as he’d have loads to contribute.

Let’s see what happens next – if he does end up in the Big Bash or the IPL, he’ll Moneyball it like nobody’s business. And when they hand the trophy out, he’ll just be standing to the side, looking proud of his players and satisfied with doing his bit and a job well done. Go well.

Auckland stadium power rankings

This content first appeared in Sport Review newsletter number eleven – if you’d like to receive articles like this and much more every Friday, you can sign up here

Auckland’s stadiums are like Stuff commenters – there are too many of them, and they’ve all got something wrong with them.

This week’s Auckland venue development strategy, handily summarised at sportsfreak.co.nz, confirmed that as ever, the sticking points are Eden Park, Mount Smart and Albany Stadium. There’s an argument for knocking at least two out of three over and starting again.

A waterfront rugby / league/ football / concerts stadium must happen, with a retractable roof and meaningful connection with the CBD. To help push things along, behold the Sport Review Auckland stadium power rankings:

#5 – Eden Park 
What’s it good for? Rugby, and history. It was fantastic for RWC 2011, but that relied on temporary seating being put in. The number two ground is lovely for second tier cricket, with the old stand and the service station over Sandringham Road to aim at.
What’s wrong with it: It’s basically the world’s largest Back Yard Cricket venue, and no-one turns up for Test matches despite best efforts to put on a show. It’s too far out of town and your transport options are highly variable. Residents permanently terrified of Otago students vomiting on the Q7. No concerts allowed.
Personal high point: Cricket World Cup 2015 v Australia and the semi final, Waikato winning the Ranfurly Shield in 1993.

#4 equal – Albany Stadium
What’s it good for? Has potential but needs lots of work. Why not embrace the Shore’s culture and make it Stadium South Africa, home base for visiting Super Rugby teams, with Braai?
What’s wrong with it: Frustratingly far away from the bus station. Could be an ideal NZ Football venue and high performance set up but needs to get a pro team of its own, which is a can of worms bigger than Dune.
Personal high point: I saw the Kingz there once.

#4 equal – Mount Smart
What’s it good for? Spiritual home of the Warriors, in spite of itself. Close-ish to public transport if you’re up for a bit of a walk or are into industrial areas.
What’s wrong with it: Tired, needs a lot of fixing up. Despite having roots in South Auckland, the owners are keen as beans to move into town. Where Carlaw Park was. Ahem.
Personal high point: Paul McCartney last year, Big Day Out ’94.

#3 – America’s Cup village 
What’s it good for? Drinking beer beside the Waitemata water while watching yachts. Simple pleasures. It’s right beside the Viaduct where it all started, and takes advantage of all the development since.
What’s wrong with it? Nothing so far – there’s a lot to do, but it’s going to be in Auckland, not Italy, which is a great start.
Personal high point: When we retain it.

#2 – Vector Area 
What’s it good for? It’s downtown, still pretty modern and great for netball, basketball and concerts.
What’s wrong with it? The trains go straight past it, meaning an awkward walk back from Britomart. Would be the ideal location for a waterfront stadium.
Personal high point: Luckily, courtside for the Breakers one time, Pixies Dolittle tour in ’10.

#1 – Western Springs, cricket venue 
What’s it good for? The boutique ground to rule them all. OK,  it doesn’t technically exist, but if we can build a venue that can handle 5 or 45k fans just as easily, with lights, green top pitch, craft beer and some kind of artisan meat snacks that can still handle big summer concerts, it’s going to be an absolute winner. Victoria Park would be even better but it’s hard to see this flying.
What’s wrong with it: Residents permanently terrified of Guns n Roses showing up in speedway cars to poo on their begonias.
Personal high point: U2’s Love Comes To Town show in 1989, it was ace.

Like playing in the highlights

This content first appeared in Sport Review newsletter number nine – if you’d like to receive articles like this and much more every Friday, you can sign up here

Watching sport online in 2018 is a bit of a minefield – sure there’s BeIN for football fans, or League Pass for the NBA and SKYGO, run by the national set-top box business. But nirvana, or being able to see that amazing shot / try / catch / tackle / goal on your Twitter / Instagram / Facebook as it happens is still a little way off for most sports.

Sure, you can usually track down someone who’s pointed their phone at their TV and hit record, but shouldn’t we be able to get a quality, not to mention legal, product these days?

Most sports would see this as cutting their own lunch, or be handcuffed by their broadcasting agreements that pay the bills – but not the NBA. In this fascinating interview with Commissioner Adam Silver, he outlines how fans using NBA clips to create their own content isn’t just allowed but encouraged:

We promote the posting of our highlights. The highlights are identified through YouTube’s software, and when ads are sold against them, we share in the revenue. We analogize our strategy to snacks versus meals. If we provide those snacks to our fans on a free basis, they’re still going to want to eat meals — which are our games. There is no substitute for the live game experience. We believe that greater fan engagement through social media helps drive television ratings.

In other words, if you create a YouTube clip of your favourite player picking their nose, you’re more likely to get a viral hit than a legal letter, because it all drives fans back towards live games on their TV’s.

That means accounts like House of Highlights or content like the Ringer’s NBA desktop not only exist with the league’s blessing but get huge engagement numbers. It’s mature and refreshing, and really, really successful for one of the most popular sports in the world.

Here’s a subjective selection of how other sports stack up:

  • I’ve watched more Indian Premier League on my computer and phone than the TV this year, thanks to the exhausting amount of video, from the seven minute match highlights reels to the stunning catches and sixes to the individual player highlights. The ICC does this really well at tournament time also
  • New Zealand Cricket send you highlights of the day’s play to your phone an hour or so after close of play, if you’re happy to give them your email address – it’s a simple concept but bloody handy if you’re at the beach or work. They also get highlight clips of the amazing moments on social media swiftly
  • The Premier League has some average video ‘content’ on their site, and some retro stuff – wouldn’t it be amazing if they made more of the clips from its history? The teams themselves have some limited highlights and content they’ve created themselves on their own sites
  • Rugby isn’t really in the game, as Elliott Smith pointed out in the Herald this week – and the NRL are leaving them in the dust. And Super Rugby really needs to fix their website for mobile, it’s a shocker
  • Other US sports like Baseball and the NFL have loads of high quality content available, fast

It’s not easy putting a model like the NBA’s in place, which requires not just the vision to accept fans taking control of your product, but either a great relationship with your broadcaster or complete control of your rights.

While most NZ sports well recognise the importance and value of video to create and reward fans, it’ll be interesting to see who’ll be the first to take it to the next, mature level.

Chipping in for Kane on The Spinoff

sportreview.net.nz was lucky enough to contribute to top website The Spinoff, plumping for Kane Williamson as our greatest ever batsman, despite him only being mid-career. Have a read.

Then, come back and watch this video of Kane in the IPL – I love seeing what he can do in games like this, when he’s given a bit more license to improvise. With arguably less pressure on him, he can be as inventive and outlandish as anyone. And as always, matching his approach to what’s required for his team.

Things David Warner should have been fined for

Everyone’s favourite angry gnome is sick of just playing cricket and that, and is once more focused on verbals and being held back from fights he’d definitely win.

His encounter with de Kock has had more close examination of camera angles than the JFK assassination, with none of them showing much that you’d write home about. Any more discipline demerit points for Warner in the next couple of years will draw a suspension, and free him up to spend more time with his family he’s gotten so angry defending.

In fairness, his coach and CEO seem pretty relaxed about losing their world class opening bat for brain-explosion reasons. Maybe the board should have a view.

Anyway, sportreview.net.nz can exclusively reveal the first Test sideshow is just the tip of the iceberg for fine-worthy infringements. Behold:

David-Warner-fines2-090318

You can click it to make it bigger.

Bay City Ovalers

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BLACKCAPS v England, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui 28 February 2018

‘It’s great these lights are *finally* up,’ said Neil Craig, NZC board member and a driving force behind developing Bay Oval, while being interviewed on the big screen mid way through England’s innings.

The ‘finally’ indicates the ambition for this ground. Competition is getting fierce among the new breed of boutique grounds that includes University Oval, Hagley Park and  Saxton Oval (not to mention Queenstown, Whangarei, New Plymouth and arguably the Basin, now it’s been opened up to white ball cricket). But the Bay’s oval has moved fastest to get those all-important lights, and was rewarded with the popular holiday period T20s, along with Napier’s only scheduled international game thrown in.

It’s not hard to see more ODIs against the big guns coming here after 8000 or so punters packed in on a Wednesday night, and day / night Tests were mentioned more than once in conversations on the grass banks. It’s an easy ground for punters to get around and find a spot that suits on the banks, and the food on offer is top class, including sportreview.net.nz-endorsed Tag Burger. The Mount looks bloody fantastic on SKY’s  drone shots too.

I’m certain the building won’t stop there either, this ground has built up a serious head of steam. A new stand next?

As for the cricket, it was pretty enjoyable. For England. They fielded like the Kray Twins chasing down a debt, and their batsmen did to us what Ross Taylor and Tom Latham did to them in Hamilton, finding gaps and play it risk-free. It was classy stuff, and this series looks like a tough  assignment for both teams, and an intriguing one for the fans.

Not even Pakistan hipster cable knit could save us #cricket

A post shared by Richard Irvine (@richirvine) on

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Previously

 

Links on Friday

Mascots are generally soul-less husks, but the New York Mets’ Mr Met brings a raw honesty to his work. He’s been fired, of course.

I’d just bought a flat but the moving-in day was the Tuesday of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston. I get picked on Sunday. I’m speaking to the chairman of selectors and I say, ‘That’s great, but I’ve kind of bought a flat and I need to move in on Tuesday, do you mind if I turn up on the Wednesday?’ I’d made up my mind that I was going to do everything on my own terms. He was probably thinking, ‘Who’s this guy?’

Long, raw and fascinating interview with Mark Butcher on his bizzaro life as an international cricketer. The ‘few beers in a pub garden’ interviewing style here really works.

SIGNAL from Revel Co. on Vimeo.

Nothing worse than social media criticism – but consider England, responsible for cricket’s existence, being mocked by the game’s governing body with a GIF featuring  a reality TV (presumably) unknown. Cheap effort for clicks from a digital team who’re otherwise kicking arse at making footage and exclusives available online fast.

Michael Clarke and his part in my sore shoulder

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Brown’s Bay’s Freyberg Park, basically Lord’s with knee deep grass.


As average cricketers go, I’m pretty much middle of the pack. After playing through school, club cricket at Uni and a magical Guinness-soaked season in Ireland I haven’t bothered an oval in any fashion until late 2015, when I’ve had the honour of  representing the mighty Mairangi Vice in East Coast Bays cricket club’s Bays Big Bash comp.

It’s an eight a side Twenty20 comp designed for chaps who’ve played a bit in the past but are too hectic with kids / jobs / laziness to play at the weekends, and are also probably mostly injured. There’s a few rules designed to get the game done before dark like short run ups and only bowling from one end – it felt good to be playing with a proper ball again. Our team was made up of Dads from around the neighbourhood and around the world, with South Africa, England and India as well as NZ represented, we were a happy unit.

Most Monday nights I’d drift off to sleep replaying the one that really came out of the middle of the bat with a satisfyingly wooden-sounding Tchock. Or feeling more useless than Darren Lehmann’s thesaurus  because I’d dropped another catch.  Either way, playing again has been bloody magic.

Trade Me definitely enabled the excitement before season one. I needed a new bat and won the auction for a Slazenger V900 bow, a nice piece of willow that was definitely wider with bigger edges than the ones I was used to back in the day. I was a bit devastated to see Michael Clarke’s name on the back of it, and even more so when I scored a new bag, which also turned out to be endorsed by my least favourite cricketer ever. That will learn me and I look forward to getting my Shane Watson pads next year.

My Michael Clarke bat, Michael Clarke bag, his reaction at my kit.

I consider myself mainly a bowler, yer medium pace out swing, off cutter, obvious slow balls kind of carry on, but my memories didn’t really match up with what my arm refused to do any more. We were playing with white balls that swung alarmingly for the first four overs, then immediately transformed into pieces of dry soap, and it took me some time to get into a decent rhythm and get those effort-ball-leg-side wides out of my game. A few wickets came but I was never the game changer I envisaged on the drive to the ground. Batsman’s game, innit.

In game one this year, full of confidence after a hasty net the day before I somehow managed to rattle up 65 not out. In my mind it was Guptill at the cake tin. The reality was probably more paddle crab with bat.

You can always tell what kind of backyard a batsman has from his go-to shots. For me, the target areas were straight down the ground to the back fence, slashing between point and the covers into the large shrubs and nothing on the leg side, where the windows were. I did manage to work a kind of golf shot to cow corner into this limited set of shots and somehow managed another three 50s this year to my utter delight and furious eye rolling of my partner and kids.

The real shocker was in the field, I could not take a catch to save my life. Everything went great in practice but get me out there with a real live chance and I went to pieces, mournfully throwing the ball back, apologising to the bowler and muttering all the swear words I know to myself for the next few overs. I have no excuse, and if I get to play again, I’ll be out there doing proper practice pre-season. Hopefully.

Full credit goes to the umpires who put up with us, Louis at East Coast Bays and the Mairangi Vice fellas themselves for their enthusiasm and reliability. I’m sure I’ve done something to my shoulder, and while I’m busy not doing anything about it during the winter I’ll have those happy memories of a straight half-volley sailing over the boundary or actually getting a yorker right for once. It’s been amazing fun.