New Zealand May 2, 2012

Wright and Buchanan: an imperfect pairing

A café near my place is shutting down
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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hemant Gandhi on May 4, 2012, 17:38 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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..

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hemant Gandhi on May 4, 2012, 17:38 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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..

  • 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

  • joseph dougherty on May 3, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    NZC has indeed made it's bed- and as per usual for the last 8 years it doesn't make sense and lying on it will probably turn fans into something a bit like insomniacs. When we finally had a decent coach with the mana to tell the guys how to play, we shell him for a 'system'. A 'system' will not talk hard sense to players nor will it pick players with technique- just some version of 'results'. It is worh remembering that 'results' in the domestic level of NZ cricket does not mean success at a higher level- so many players have scored big runs or taken big loads of wickets there and been shown to lack essential skills, like footwork or swing or good variations. The team also was encouraged to show bottle and patience and one can only say, phew it was overdue. Cricketers are not likely to do well at excessive written self- analysis. Buchanan's approach is unhelpful. Losing our top choice for more of the overweening psychological- analytical approach , like John Bracewell's, is stupid.

  • Steve W on May 3, 2012, 3:48 GMT

    Gee thanks Justin Vaughn (last NZC CEO), what a hospital pass for new CEO David White, employ a guy to take a whole new direction (after employing John Wright) and sign him for 4 years, and then leave a few months later. The last time we had a mad professor in charge of NZ Cricket it was John Bracewell, he took us from No.3 test nation to No.8, well done, also prematurely ended careers of Nathan Astle & Stephen Fleming, oh dear. Bring back Steve Rixon...those were the days

  • Bablu on May 2, 2012, 23:11 GMT

    Written, unsurprisingly, by an Aussie. I wonder who your sympathies lie with?

  • Kapil on May 2, 2012, 20:27 GMT

    Buchanan is definitely not useless. He is actually very very useful...for all the teams NZ will now be facing and losing to.

  • chipper on May 2, 2012, 15:17 GMT

    So, you think Buchanan can turn around Oakland Athletics?

  • Santosh J S on May 2, 2012, 11:42 GMT

    Spot on with yr assessment that it’s for NZ to decide who to hire. Wide off mark when you say JB coached one of the most successful teams; the facts are right, but an unknown county coach would have got good results out of that Aus side – a case of right place, right time. The statement of getting under the head of opposition players is true only to the extent that these players allowed the ‘getting under’ part. Can’t imagine anyone doing that to a Waugh or Sangakkarra. Or to the WI sides of the 70s and 80s! With all due respects, the coach is far too over-rated. He is essential given the rigours of today’s cricket, but he still needs a talented bunch to deliver results. And the current NZ are not going to become world beaters under JB. At best they might jump up a couple of places, JB or no JB. One last aside: it’s for a team and its players to decide the coach’s worth – results always don’t narrate the full story – and JB scores low on that count.

  • CanTHeeRava on May 2, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    You have chosen to remain very gentle on Buchanan, which many would not agree with including me. It is true that a decision has been made or shall I say two decisions...one by NZC to hire and hang on to Buchanan and the other by John Wright that he is not going to compromise his philosophy of the game in anyway. Buchanan was seriosly criticized by cricket Australia and then let go. NZC made a mistake by hiring him and now it is compounded by Wright's resignation. We (in India) look up to Wright as a man who changed the fortune of Indian cricket by teaming with Ganguly. NZC's loss I hope would be India's gain again.

  • Rad on May 2, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    M not sure about the comment as bit harsh on Buck, but grass is always greener on the other side of the fence....

  • vin on May 2, 2012, 7:16 GMT

    There are two individuals in international cricket coaching who are not the kind of people who would change for anyone. Buchanan and Greg chapppel. they are great in their own right but somewhere they need to adjust and climb down to accomodate others.

  • Sulzberg on May 2, 2012, 4:51 GMT

    Does the NZC board have NZC best interest in mind, or those of a self serving analysis how has never play competitive cricket at the highest level. John Wright was the (wright) man for the job, frankly the NZC board should be sack for failing to operate in the best interests of cricket in NZ. Wright has a proven record at all level as a player and coach. Buchanan was a passenger in a team of super stars - Gilchrist, Ponting (in form) , Warne , Macgrath etc....

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  • Sulzberg on May 2, 2012, 4:51 GMT

    Does the NZC board have NZC best interest in mind, or those of a self serving analysis how has never play competitive cricket at the highest level. John Wright was the (wright) man for the job, frankly the NZC board should be sack for failing to operate in the best interests of cricket in NZ. Wright has a proven record at all level as a player and coach. Buchanan was a passenger in a team of super stars - Gilchrist, Ponting (in form) , Warne , Macgrath etc....

  • vin on May 2, 2012, 7:16 GMT

    There are two individuals in international cricket coaching who are not the kind of people who would change for anyone. Buchanan and Greg chapppel. they are great in their own right but somewhere they need to adjust and climb down to accomodate others.

  • Rad on May 2, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    M not sure about the comment as bit harsh on Buck, but grass is always greener on the other side of the fence....

  • CanTHeeRava on May 2, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    You have chosen to remain very gentle on Buchanan, which many would not agree with including me. It is true that a decision has been made or shall I say two decisions...one by NZC to hire and hang on to Buchanan and the other by John Wright that he is not going to compromise his philosophy of the game in anyway. Buchanan was seriosly criticized by cricket Australia and then let go. NZC made a mistake by hiring him and now it is compounded by Wright's resignation. We (in India) look up to Wright as a man who changed the fortune of Indian cricket by teaming with Ganguly. NZC's loss I hope would be India's gain again.

  • Santosh J S on May 2, 2012, 11:42 GMT

    Spot on with yr assessment that it’s for NZ to decide who to hire. Wide off mark when you say JB coached one of the most successful teams; the facts are right, but an unknown county coach would have got good results out of that Aus side – a case of right place, right time. The statement of getting under the head of opposition players is true only to the extent that these players allowed the ‘getting under’ part. Can’t imagine anyone doing that to a Waugh or Sangakkarra. Or to the WI sides of the 70s and 80s! With all due respects, the coach is far too over-rated. He is essential given the rigours of today’s cricket, but he still needs a talented bunch to deliver results. And the current NZ are not going to become world beaters under JB. At best they might jump up a couple of places, JB or no JB. One last aside: it’s for a team and its players to decide the coach’s worth – results always don’t narrate the full story – and JB scores low on that count.

  • chipper on May 2, 2012, 15:17 GMT

    So, you think Buchanan can turn around Oakland Athletics?

  • Kapil on May 2, 2012, 20:27 GMT

    Buchanan is definitely not useless. He is actually very very useful...for all the teams NZ will now be facing and losing to.

  • Bablu on May 2, 2012, 23:11 GMT

    Written, unsurprisingly, by an Aussie. I wonder who your sympathies lie with?

  • Steve W on May 3, 2012, 3:48 GMT

    Gee thanks Justin Vaughn (last NZC CEO), what a hospital pass for new CEO David White, employ a guy to take a whole new direction (after employing John Wright) and sign him for 4 years, and then leave a few months later. The last time we had a mad professor in charge of NZ Cricket it was John Bracewell, he took us from No.3 test nation to No.8, well done, also prematurely ended careers of Nathan Astle & Stephen Fleming, oh dear. Bring back Steve Rixon...those were the days

  • joseph dougherty on May 3, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    NZC has indeed made it's bed- and as per usual for the last 8 years it doesn't make sense and lying on it will probably turn fans into something a bit like insomniacs. When we finally had a decent coach with the mana to tell the guys how to play, we shell him for a 'system'. A 'system' will not talk hard sense to players nor will it pick players with technique- just some version of 'results'. It is worh remembering that 'results' in the domestic level of NZ cricket does not mean success at a higher level- so many players have scored big runs or taken big loads of wickets there and been shown to lack essential skills, like footwork or swing or good variations. The team also was encouraged to show bottle and patience and one can only say, phew it was overdue. Cricketers are not likely to do well at excessive written self- analysis. Buchanan's approach is unhelpful. Losing our top choice for more of the overweening psychological- analytical approach , like John Bracewell's, is stupid.