July 21, 2013

New Zealand lose their philosophical core

John Buchanan leaves. Poetry readings and seminars on Confucianism will never be the same again

Perhaps it was an orchestrated day of protest against Kevin Rudd's innovative idea of transportation for asylum seekers, but whatever the reason, Friday was notable for the number of Australians walking out on the thing they were paid to do. Every time you turned on a television or fired up your laptop, there was another of our Antipodean cousins; shoulders slumped, trudging off stage left to a smattering of polite, embarrassed applause.

Their parade of perfunctory batting has been compared to the cavalcade of calamity that England served up in the 1990s, but this is doing the Aussies a disservice. England's batsmen of that vintage generally just hung their bat outside off stump until McGrath found an edge, or closed their eyes like Obi Wan Kenobi and waited for Darth Warne to administer the killer blow. Australia deserve some credit for finding more proactive and novel ways to dismiss themselves, particularly Chris Rogers, who decided, after missing out on the juiciest of full tosses, that he simply no longer deserved to remain at the wicket.

Meanwhile, in another hemisphere entirely, Mr John Buchanan's stint as New Zealand's Cricket Guru and Chief Executive of Homespun Philosophy has come to an end. Long John Silver Fern's voyage across the Tasman was not remarkably triumphant, but he did introduce some bold ideas, including poetry readings, seminars on Confucianism, and Selectortron, the automated spreadsheet and team-picking device.

Buchanan was particularly noted for his ability to communicate with the New Zealand players, or "his staff" as he affectionately called them. During the lunch interval of Test matches, he would address them, via satellite, in Japanese, Klingon, and Elvish, and he was also fond of the early morning motivational text. For instance, in the early hours of the first day of the Lord's Test, Brendon McCullum received these inspirational communications:

02:30: Be the best that u can b
03:15: All u need is lv
03:21: Remembr the Alamo
03:27: Wot wld Spongebob do?

Impressively, Buchanan also found time to star in an episode of CSI Dunedin as Professor Red Herring, a man who is initially suspected of being the mastermind pulling the strings behind the scenes, but who turns out to be a harmless eccentric.

Having left New Zealand cricket as he found it, Buchanan is to return to Australia, where he will be able to spend more time running a company called Buchanan Success Coaching.

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what success coaching involves. Surely it would be better to concentrate on practising the thing you've chosen to be good at, and let the success take care of itself? A batsman might be adept at lifting trophies without dropping them, accepting Man-of-the-Match awards gracefully, and setting stretching yet attainable goals, but if he can't bat (see New Zealand) such skills might be said to be as redundant as John himself.

Then again, perhaps Buchanan Success Coaching is about coaching people to be successful in the Buchanan way: by elaborating complicated, attention-grabbing ways of doing a relatively straightforward job. For instance, if you work as a waiter, you could try serving coffee in a vase, bringing your customers the bill before they've ordered their food, or asking them to think about Socrates whilst sipping their soup. You may not be a better waiter, but you'll be a better person, although you might also lose your job.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here