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May 2, 2012

New Zealand

Wright and Buchanan: an imperfect pairing

Jarrod Kimber
New Zealand coach John Wright watches his team sink to defeat, New Zealand v Pakistan, 3rd Twenty20, Christchurch, December 30, 2010
How was the old-school John Wright ever going to mesh with the new-age John Buchanan?  © Getty Images
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A café near my place is shutting down. It’s called the Looney Tunes Café and it has decent food and nice staff. But the owner of the building has decided that he wants a bigger glossier café in its place and the current homely style of café is not going to match his new building.

Now watch me say that John Wright (the soon to be former coach of New Zealand) is the Looney Tunes Café and John Buchanan (current New Zealand director of cricket) is the forward thinking building owner trying to get the most out of his investment.

It’s easy to make John Buchanan out to be the bad guy. A non-Test playing bookish nerd who looks like Ned Flanders, who is overly fond of lawn bowls and ancient Chinese text. It doesn’t help that Shane Warne never misses a chance to abuse John Buchanan, or that several of Buchanan’s theories don’t really make much sense.

But New Zealand Cricket didn’t pick Buchanan by accident. They appointed the guy with the wacky theories to propel their mid-range side to greater things. New Zealand is not a country rich with cricket talent or facilities; they have always been at their best when their team comes together as one unit to knock over the better sides. Even with players like Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder, Daniel Vettori and Ross Taylor, they seem to rely on a team effort to win big games. And like the Oakland Athletics, they’ve only got so much to work with.

Buchanan has had success. Not so much with his theories or wackiness, but with his record. Take out his time with Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, and he has coached one of the most successful teams in world cricket and won Shield titles for a team that had never done it before. He has successfully got inside the head of countless opposition players by “accidentally” leaking player dossiers. Even Shane Warne believes his maiden over theory.

The problem is that few cricket fans in New Zealand would know or care about this. John Buchanan’s just not well respected in New Zealand. Most people only know of Buchanan in New Zealand because he hired a lawn bowls administrator to work for NZC. You can’t put that up against John Wright. A former New Zealand warrior with two stints as coach. Old school, smart and universally accepted. It’s unfair to Buchanan.

It’s also another reason why Wright and Buchanan weren’t ever going to be ideal partners. One believes in cricket laws and man management. The other believes in spreadsheets and KPIs.

NZC were betting each way on this. Hoping that this odd melding of old and new theories would somehow blend beautifully. It hasn’t.

John Wright is leaving.

New Zealand has lost its most respected coach, and people are talking about John Buchanan like he wants their team to be coached by a team of alien ninja turtle avatars who sprout mantra’s from Tony Robbins speeches. Which he may.

John Buchanan is not as useless as many say he is, nor as good as NZC think he is. But the NZC have made their decision. They now need to find a coach who is reading from the same copy of the art of war as Buchanan is. Or they need to clear out Buchanan and start again.

If you are going to make a choice, make one. You may not be able to replicate the homely food of the Looney Tunes Café, but you sure as hell want to make sure the food at the new establishment matches the décor and setting to ensure the locals don’t get angry.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

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Posted by Saul on (June 27, 2012, 11:09 GMT)

The sad part about this is, I honestly don't know how far John Buchanan will be sufsecscul. Sure, he coached an Australian team which could be considered as one of the best to have ever graced any sport, let alone cricket. However, as Gilchrist himself said in his autobiography, Buchanan was appointed in 1999, not so much to improve their playing skills, but more towards improving their mental approach to the game and giving them the tools to become better. Essentially, he inherited a good team and made it great. However, in the case of NZ, they are, by no means, as good as Australia was in 1999. Therefore, it is to be seen whether his methods will be sufsecscul with them.Considering this, it's a real shame that John Wright had to leave, considering he took over an Indian team (which was fairly similar to what NZ are now) and converted them into a really good team. He could have had that effect on this NZ team, if only he was given what he required.

Posted by Ben on (May 7, 2012, 5:29 GMT)

I think NZC are right to want Buck, the guy is a genius. What Buck did with Queensland in the early '90s alone was miraculous, and I think the contribution of Buck's 'game theory' to the dominance of successive Australian teams is very under-emphasised. He will be good for the Kiwis.

Posted by vinay on (May 4, 2012, 22:39 GMT)

John Wright turned into a dominating force in world cricket. It's sad that NZL doesn't realize the potential of a true master coach. India was lucky to get him. Hope he returns back to Indian cricket.

Posted by vinay on (May 4, 2012, 22:39 GMT)

John Wright turned into a dominating force in world cricket. It's sad that NZL doesn't realize the potential of a true master coach. India was lucky to get him. Hope he returns back to Indian cricket.

Posted by Hemant Gandhi on (May 4, 2012, 17:38 GMT)

BCCI, here is your chance. Grab Wright and get Indian team back on track....

Posted by Danny on (May 4, 2012, 9:29 GMT)

The board of NZ cricket has been in disarray for years. The appointment of John wright galvanized flagging public support for a team and administration that were frankly a shambles prior to securing Wright. The team performances under Wright have improved and he has been instrumental in bringing through some new faces and he has popular support of the NZ cricket supporters. It is sad that Wright has been forced out at this time and frankly the board has mismanaged this issue badly, who are these people, it is hard enough for us to compete without the burden of incompetent administrators. I have nothing against Buchanan, but he should never have been put in this position where the conflict with Wright was inevitable.

Posted by dcnbwz on (May 4, 2012, 7:18 GMT)

this whole thing has been a shambles. Once again the legacy of Justin Vaughan has torn apart New Zealand cricket and quickly snuffed out any bright lights that were showing with the introduction of John Wright. As a long suffering fan (and there are many of those in nz cricket) I can't believe this has happened. Of course, I will be supporting them as always, but surely we now have the most incompetent poor cricket board around? Where is anyone answerable to these terrible decisions?

Posted by Rick on (May 4, 2012, 6:14 GMT)

Yet another character or 'real' person in cricket is replaced by a soulless android. No wonder the interest in test cricket has fallen...Give me Botham, Lillee, Thompson, Richards, Cairns, Flintoff etc. any day of the week over some manufactured tosser 'created' by some 'new school' dork like Buchanan. Buchanan is nothing more than a 'never has been' that wants to make some fast bucks.

Posted by Karthik on (May 4, 2012, 0:12 GMT)

Jarrod.. When you say "he has coached one of the most successful teams in world cricket".. you should realize that coaching 11 *mature* super stars is easy. Even with that his team lost to India and England in '01 and '05! Its like saying Ricky Ponting is the greatest captain because he has a wonderful win-loss record.. Well who wouldn't.. with such a team..

Posted by thomas on (May 3, 2012, 14:56 GMT)

You make it sound like JOhn Wright had no success on his own...he changed the Indian cricketing mindset and was very successful at it. John Buchanan and australian team success I believe is inspite of him with players like Ponting, Mcgrath, Warne you dont need much of a coach

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