Buchanan on his way out of Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata Knight Riders, the IPL team that finished last this season, are understood to have decided to remove John Buchanan as their coach and have begun sounding out possible replacements.
Buchanan, Kolkata's director of cricket operations, and Joy Bhattacharya, the team director, refused to confirm the development but the former Australia coach said he would comment on the issue within the next 48 hours. Steve Waugh, Michael Bevan and Dav Whatmore are among the possible replacements, as well as some Indian candidates, who have been contacted by franchise officials.
"I haven't heard anything officially," Buchanan told Cricinfo. "I may have more to say in the next day or two."
However, a franchise official confirmed to Cricinfo that Buchanan, the former Australia coach, is being removed. There are a few names "in the mix" to replace Buchanan, the official said, and a decision will be taken during a meeting of the franchise's management in July. The high-profile Kolkata franchise is co-owned by Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood star, and the team failed to produce results in the two IPL seasons after finishing sixth in the inaugural edition.
A senior Kolkata official is understood to have already had an exploratory chat with Dav Whatmore, currently head of the BCCI's National Cricket Academy (NCA). Whatmore, who declined to comment, is believed to be a strong contender for the job because of his track record in the sub-continent -- he coached Sri Lanka to the World Cup title in 1996 and was also coach of the Bangladesh team that upset India in the 2007 World Cup -- and his experience with the Indian academy in Bangalore.
Michael Bevan, the former Australia allrounder, who coached the ICL's Chennai Superstars to the inaugural league title, is said to be in the frame as well although he has also been linked to Mumbai Indians. "At this stage, it is very early in the process," Bevan, who confirmed that he had quit ICL, told Cricinfo. "It's been a bit of sounding out to see if there's interest from both parties. I don't think it's appropriate to comment on the teams concerned, but as far as I am aware these are head coaching roles. That obviously means different things in different teams but the extent of the roles in question I believe are quite senior."
One of the Indian names that a senior Kolkata player has suggested to the franchise is that of Lalchand Rajput, the coach of India's winning 2007 World Twenty20 squad. Rajput, who declined to comment, was associated with the Mumbai Indians squad last year but he did not figure in the second IPL season.
"There are a few names in the mix, and some of them have been informally sounded out," the Kolkata official said. "But really, there is no hurry to arrive at a decision on a replacement because there are no activities lined up for the team in the near future. There is a franchise management meeting scheduled for the end of July where a decision is expected."
Mathew Mott, who was the on-field coach of Kolkata this season under Buchanan's supervision, admitted that he was "not quite sure" about his future with the team. Mott said there was no clarity on the situation either from the franchise or Buchanan.
"I've been trying to track down some of the managament team," Mott told Cricinfo. "All I know is what I've read on the web. I've spoken briefly to John (Buchanan), and he's not quite sure what's going to happen. "When you don't have success then I guess everyone comes under the microscope. I know from speaking to some of the owners after the tournament that they were planning to conduct a pretty thorough review of the franchise."
Mott said that he had two "great years" with Kolkata and hoped to fulfill his three-year contract with the IPL team. "I would love to stay," he said. "I've had two great years with kolkata. Last season was obviously hard work, but I thought towards the end of the tournament we got a bit out of it and showed a lot of character. I signed a three year contact, so hopefully I can fulfill that and beyond. "
The Kolkata franchise official, meanwhile, said that they would also look at beefing up the side's batting, which emerged as a weak spot during the IPL, by actively looking to recruit Indian players who have pulled out from the unauthorised Indian Cricket League (ICL).
The BCCI is yet to clarify whether these players, who accepted the Indian board's amnesty offer last month, are eligible for next year's IPL. "But we understand that various franchises have already started approaching some of those players, especially quality batsmen like Ambati Rayudu (Hyderabad) and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala (Bengal)," the official said. "But we expect them to be made available on a common platform, possibly in another auction before the next IPL (in March)."
Buchanan's stint with Kolkata triggered a massive controversy before this year's tournament when he put forward the concept of having multiple leaders in the team. Within a couple of weeks of that statement the team replaced Sourav Ganguly with Brendon McCullum as captain, leading to street protests in Kolkata, Ganguly's hometown. The team went on to perform dismally during the second IPL season in South Africa, winning just three of their 14 league games.
Ajay Shankar and Alex Brown are deputy editors at Cricinfo