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June 16, 2011
John Buchanan, the New Zealand director of cricket, has singled out the need for accountability as the main reason behind introducing a selection structure in the country that gives the head coach the final say in picking a squad. Buchanan, in a significant decision in his new role with New Zealand Cricket (NZC), dismantled the national selection panel, placing the responsibility of picking teams with the head coach along with a national selection manager - both posts are currently occupied by John Wright and in a caretaker capacity by Mark Greatbatch respectively - with the former taking the final call.
"The role of the coach needs to be elevated in terms of its authority around a group of people or a squad," Buchanan told Harsha Bhogle on ESPNcricinfo's Time Out audio show. "The team manager will have a significant role in that side as well, as indeed the captain. It's still, in a sense, not far removed from what existing cricket structures are, but the coach will be the one with the final say in most matters.
"In terms of selection it is designed to reduce the amount of noise around the squad - there can be so many people who can impact the way the team operates. So, we'll be appointing a national selection manager and that person's role is to design a system and process that enables the best choice of squads to be delivered to a head coach. The national coach and the national selection manager will pick the squad for a home or overseas series, and it's then ultimately up to the head coach who chooses the final side."
Most cricket boards have a multi-member selection panel, of which the coach is, in several cases, a part. Buchanan said the latest move, which leaves the coach with more decision-making powers, was an attempt to determine accountability for a team's performance. "That's a reasonable reflection on professional sport and professional cricket these days. The person who is definitely made accountable for how sides perform is the coach," he said. "One of the responsibilities that go with that accountability is obviously selection. So, I want to make sure that the coach remains accountable for team performance."
Such a structure - which will apply to New Zealand's men's, women's and Under-19 national teams - wouldn't undermine the role of a captain, according to Buchanan. "A captain and coach have to have a very close relationship, and supporting that is the national selection manager working very closely with a coach and therefore the captain. In terms of picking squads, the national selection manager will be silly not to be consulting with coach and captain."
But was it a risk leaving so much authority in the hands of one person? "That is again a possibility, but hopefully we'll get the right people to occupy those respective roles and that's the same as any organisation.
"That's important with a coach, captain and a national selection manager that we'll be appointing in the next month or so."
Another of Buchanan's initiatives has been to conduct surveys among players, who've also been asked for their inputs on the leadership capabilities of potential captains like Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum, though he clarified that it wasn't a vote. "Our player reviews cover a range of things and one of those, at the moment is leadership, or broadly a leadership culture, and how individual players perceive that to be in the current set-up.
"One of the important elements of a leadership culture is the role the captain plays, and we're taking the views of players about how they've experienced that culture and the leaders within it. That is part of our information to decide who'll be the new captain."
Buchanan admitted he was "excited" about doing something "pretty special" by bringing these changes. "Whether we can grasp those, and whether we're good enough to do the job is something we'll know in two to three years' time."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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