New Zealand news September 9, 2011

Littlejohn may seek help from former selectors - Buchanan

Former selectors such as Glenn Turner and Mark Greatbatch could still be involved in advising New Zealand's new national selection manager, Kim Littlejohn, despite having been overlooked for the role themselves. New Zealand Cricket raised eyebrows on Friday with the appointment of Littlejohn, a former high-performance manager with Bowls Australia with only a small-time cricket background, to the newly-created role.

However, NZC's director of cricket, John Buchanan, wants to revolutionise the way teams are chosen in New Zealand, with Littlejohn set to centrally manage the selection process. Littlejohn and the coach John Wright will form a two-man selection panel, with Wright given the final decision on starting line-ups, while a network of coaches and experts will be put in place to help Littlejohn keep track of player form in domestic competitions.

"If we talk about pulling together a New Zealand squad and then a team, basically it will require Kim to consult with all the provincial coaches, and also he will have an additional network of people which he'll determine," Buchanan told ESPNcricinfo. "That could be former selectors of the likes of Glenn Turner and Mark Greatbatch.

"He may talk to other coaches or indeed umpires that he believes can provide him with current information on players, which will assist him and the current coach John Wright to select a squad for a tour. Once that squad is chosen by those two, it is then in the hands of the head coach to make the final team selections."

It is a bold move away from the traditional selection panel, which generally involved three former players watching domestic cricket and choosing squads themselves. The New Zealand board ratified Buchanan's plan, and while he said there had been some initial reservations, he was pleased they had taken the chance to embrace change.

"It's only natural [to encounter doubts]," Buchanan said. "The board, like most people in cricket, are so used to how teams have been selected in the past, through selection panels. That's understandable. But I think this person will demonstrate over time that through better systems and better processes we can provide a far more reliable and consistent selection process, selection feedback and assessment of playing performance.

"I have to applaud my board for backing me on this one, because it is a leap of faith for them. It hasn't been tried before. But I really am pretty confident in how it should work; that's why I needed to find the right person to ensure that it will work, and I believe that Kim is the man that can do the job for us."

Buchanan said Littlejohn's experience at lower levels of cricket - he played in Perth's first-grade competition and professionally in England, as well as coaching with Melbourne University - was adequate for the managerial role. He compared Littlejohn's appointment to his own surprise nomination as Australia's head coach in 1999, despite having played only seven first-class games.

"I was asked to coach an international cricket team without any international cricket experience. We're now asking Kim to run a national selection system where he has great experience in high performance and systems and process management, but less experience in cricket. For me, one of the reasons I was chosen for the job was that I brought some objectivity; I brought some planning. That's what I see in Kim, and that's exactly what this role will require.

"I think [his cricket background] is sufficient. He can have good conversations with coaches or former selectors or former players because of the amount of cricket background that he has. I think that is sufficient for the job. One of his key roles is his ability to harness the knowledge and experience of so many experts over here. I think he's excellent at doing that."

Littlejohn had been a leading candidate for the role of New Zealand's team manager, a job that instead went to Mike Sandle. He was also considered by Cricket Australia as a potential replacement for their team manager Steve Bernard, who stepped down earlier this year. Littlejohn is set to begin his new role on September 19.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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