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Buchanan appointment the beginning of the end

Wright the pragmatist wanted more control over selection than Buchanan the analyst but NZC decided the former was more expendable

Andrew Alderson

May 1, 2012

Comments: 38 | Text size: A | A

John Wright announces his decision to step down as New Zealand coach, Lincoln, May 1, 2012
John Wright has announced that he will not be renewing his contract as New Zealand coach © Getty Images

You don't get a second chance to make a first impression. John Wright's face appeared equal parts incredulity and apprehension last March, when told New Zealand Cricket was seeking a new director of cricket. Wright had been casually informed by New Zealand's three-person 2011 World Cup media contingent in the palatial lobby of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel on Mumbai's waterfront.

The fact two-time World Cup winning coach John Buchanan was appointed several weeks later is less relevant than the wider scope of the role: Wright would have a new direct boss and the autonomy he so desperately sought as head coach would inevitably be compromised. Perhaps Buchanan's appointment was the beginning of the end. Wright's decision to step down as coach of the New Zealand team after the upcoming West Indies tour - a stint of just over 19 months - has been a tale of two coaches, two contracts and two cricket philosophies. Wright might have beaten Buchanan 2-1 as the respective coaches of India and Australia in 2001 during one of the greatest Test series in history but Buchanan has wrestled one back.

Wright wanted the NZC board and chief executive David White to reduce Buchanan's powers. He didn't get it. As someone who has achieved plenty as a player and coach before taking on the New Zealand role, Wright consequently decided there was more to life, especially given the expectation he would sign until the end of the 2015 World Cup. If the 57-year-old had stayed in the role he faced numerous intense tours over the next three years. It's understood Wright did not demand a salary increase and was happy to concede more administrative responsibility to manager Mike Sandle but, in return, wanted absolute power over the coaching and selection of the team.

The "positive tension" oxymoron White previously spoke about between Wright and Buchanan was at the core of the problem. Wright is a pragmatist, Buchanan is an analyst. Both have been successful international coaches before joining NZC. Yet less Buchanan influence around the selection table became a non-negotiable for Wright.

It placed NZC in a difficult position. It could accept Wright's position and avoid the awkwardness of a public hero stepping aside prematurely. The downside (in the board's eyes) would be reducing Buchanan's control, or, given the pair might struggle to work together, paying Buchanan off. In tough economic times Wright was more expendable, given his contract finished after the West Indies tour. Likewise, if Wright wanted to adjust his staffing situation, which included three Australians - Kim Littlejohn (selection manager), Trent Woodhill (assistant coach) and Damien Wright (bowling coach) - it would potentially require more 'money-for-nothing' pay-outs. NZC's hand was forced.

An endorsement of Wright's tenure was not helped at board level by perceived inadequacies in his communication skills. The board was initially believed to have given White carte blanche to secure Wright's signature. However, its outlook became less generous over time. Concerns were raised that, regardless of inspirational dressing room talks, Wright could not afford to cut corners in the modern cricketing environment and needed to communicate more clearly with players and management outside the shed. One example had Wright adamant players should not have to fill out a substantial 2011-12 season review document. Wright preferred an old-school "sit down with a beer at the bar" approach to counselling players.

Wright was also disappointed NZC failed to appoint former Otago coach Mike Hesson - now in charge of Kenya - to either the selection manager or team manager roles eventually secured by former Bowls Australia high performance manager Littlejohn and ex-Blues rugby manager Sandle respectively.

Sadly Wright's decision means New Zealand cricket fans got only a fleeting glimpse of what might have been possible. Unless something spectacular occurs in the West Indies his tenure will forever be marked with a tentative "showed promise". Under Wright, New Zealand secured the country's first semi-finals spot in a World Cup on the subcontinent (after 11 straight ODI losses in that part of the world at the start of the tournament). They followed that with their first Test win in 18 years against Australia and added further Test wins, home and away, against Zimbabwe. No silverware was earned against South Africa but - the second Test aside - there were signs the team could at least compete for sustained periods. Wright also proved a masterful selector at times, based on form (Mark Gillespie, Dean Brownlie and Kruger van Wyk) and intuition (Doug Bracewell and BJ Watling).

"The 'positive tension' oxymoron between Wright and Buchanan was at the core of the problem"

After four years with NZC in various capacities, Wright can presumably return to short-term contracts, perhaps with English and Indian teams, while spending further time on his Canterbury farm.

The non-renewal of Wright's contract means the coaching position remains a poisoned chalice. Since John Bracewell resigned in 2008 the reins have been held in various capacities by Andy Moles, Mark Greatbatch, Roger Mortimer and Wright. The team won't slide back to square one but Wright's exit means they have lost valuable kudos in the public perception stakes. The former skipper is forever etched in the nation's memory through cricketing achievements, including his famed prolonged and painful exits from the batting crease. When Wright was dismissed the cricketing nation grieved with him, as they do now.

Few obvious replacements spring to mind. Chennai Super Kings coach and former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, Kenya's Hesson, Northern Districts coach Grant Bradburn, Wellington and former Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons and even Lancashire and former England coach Peter Moores have been touted as possible successors, provided they can get out of their current contracts.

As New Zealand's most successful Test leader and with an IPL title as a coach, Fleming would be the preferred choice. Convincing him to step into the full-time role and away from his young family, multitude of business interests and Chennai coaching cameo would require serious levels of persuasion, patriotism and cash.

Hesson seems suitable but, given he was overlooked for the team manager and selection manager roles, he might not be top of the recruitment list. He also needs to be bought out of his Kenya contract.

Bradburn ideally needs to serve a couple more seasons in charge of Northern Districts, despite securing his second Plunket Shield title in three years this season. Bradburn is a consummate professional with Test experience and a proven capability for bringing through fledgling talent.

Siddons has international coaching experience but the creation of a fully Australian management panel (Sandle excepted) seems a risky public relations exercise in the current fragile environment. Moores would be a wildcard, although his name has been bandied in local cricket circles after his stint with England ended prematurely courtesy of a disagreement with then-captain Kevin Pietersen.

Andrew Alderson is cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on Sunday

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Posted by   on (May 3, 2012, 5:45 GMT)

Lets face it NZC are a bunch of total muppits. So Ive been hearing that wrights planning and paper work wernt up to scratch , well you apoint a team manager for that and let wright coach. What you dont do is appoint what was a fearce adversary in the past and make him Wrights boss. What the hell ?? Totally unaccpetible and we also have a lawn bowls expert in the mix , another aussie. The whole thing is a joke. The appointment of Buchanan was a joke. We lost a great coach. NZC boad are total muppits , and stuff the lot of them.

Posted by Saif_I_Khan on (May 3, 2012, 2:26 GMT)

John wright would be a good choice for Bangladesh as he understands sub-continental mind frame lot better than others. However, Richard McInnes is the guy who developed the current bunch of people in BD team as high performance coach. I would like him to be back in Bangladesh with some influential role, may be to develop other new talents....... on main topic, I think comparing Buchanan with Wright is an insult to cricket coaching itself. Coach shouldn't only be judged by its success...Whatmore had limited success with BD- that doesn't make him a bad coach. It is important how a coach utilizes his available potential resources and thus develop a better performing unit. We all know what Buchanan did with bunch of stars of KKR.

Posted by Ruhel_Moscow on (May 2, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

Please J.Wright come to Bangladesh))We will be very happy)

Posted by Clyde on (May 2, 2012, 10:31 GMT)

With the phrase 'director of cricket' I suppose almost all cricket fans would feel the game had been taken away from them. First of all, they would wonder what a 'director of cricket' did. They would know the school or district coach, who was someone they were always going to do better than and someone they were not going to take much notice of. But is a 'director of cricket' like the headmaster, or the mayor, or what? Now, I suggest the journalists try to make Mr Buchanan interesting by describing in Cardusesque terms his style and character. Before we can be sympathetic, Mr Buchanan needs to have his challenges laid bare, as has been done with Jesse Ryder.

Posted by regofpicton on (May 2, 2012, 10:18 GMT)

So the idea is to get John Wright cheap as a part-timer? Because obviously no-one else will want him and its a buyer's market? Good luck with that!

Posted by criexpert on (May 2, 2012, 10:17 GMT)

Buchanan is a world cup winning coach.. But answer this with the austrailian side of that time. Hayden,gilchrist,ponting shane warne,mcgrath,lee gillespie ,symmonds and many more.. which coach would not have won? You should check comments by warne and symonds about this guy. He is a complete XL coach. More like IT company manger. I think Wright deserves more. He is an excellent coach. He makes good strategic decisions like sending laxman in at 3 in famous kolkata test as he was only one in form in first innings. While in same situation Buchanan would have send struggling dravid only as in XL he ll find dravid's average better than laxman. My point is coach should be open not closed like books where only previous data is entered.

Posted by Simoc on (May 2, 2012, 10:14 GMT)

Cricket coaches are way over rated. The captain is the most important person. In all football codes the coach is the most important. Buchanan has an outstanding record as do most coaches with all the best players eg Graham Henry (but he and the team still choked in the final). Imagine how many runs Bradman could have scored with a batting coach, a lot less probably.There have been more low scoring test innings recently than I can ever remember.

Posted by StevieS on (May 2, 2012, 9:05 GMT)

Justin Vaughan just keeps on giving! I don't think there has ever been a player, coach or someone in managemnent that has done more damage to NZC than Vaughan.

Posted by Woodsy71 on (May 2, 2012, 5:51 GMT)

Just give the job to Graham Henry. He knows how to win a World Cup.

Posted by mumbaiguy79 on (May 2, 2012, 5:14 GMT)

It's beyond me why NZC would go with Buchanan who is not even needed back in Australia.

Posted by WiFi on (May 2, 2012, 3:55 GMT)

I thought things were going to get better once Justin Vaughan's reign as head of NZC was over but no, his "legacy" lives on. I thought he was a very weak CEO - remember he was also gave an assurance to Shane Bond that he was fine to sign with the ICL but then bowed to the BCCI, effectively allowing our best fast bowler since Hadlee to sit out two years in the international wilderness.

I don't comprehend how this situation couldn't have been foreseen and I don't blame Buchanan at all, his style was no secret, so it was plain idiocy to appoint him with Wright already in the coaching position. I think every NZ cricket fan will have had their face in their palm of their hands upon hearing that Wright was not going to continue on. It doesn't matter an iota if he supposedly didn't "communicate effectively" etc, that's what the support staff are there for, what matters if the results he was achieving and the progress that the individual players were making. Another sad day for NZ cricket.

Posted by Mad_Hamish on (May 2, 2012, 3:20 GMT)

It's worth pointing out that Buchanan's first success as a coach was to get Queensland to win the Sheffield Shield, in that he was certainly aided by the strength of players in the team but the team had a lot of good players through the 70s and 80s and didn't manage to win it. He did well with the Australian team but had problems with a couple of players (Warne and MacGill being the main ones) who resented him actually making them work on fitness (and Warne badly needed to at times). No coach is perfect for everywhere and there have been a few Australian players at the time who tried to roughen up English counties and got no support. Whether Buchanan is right for NZ currently and whether Buchanan and whoever they get as the new coach will be better than Wright would have been under his demands for "absolute power ... selection" is open to question but there haven't been too many times I've seen a 1 man selection panel work that well...

Posted by soorajiyer on (May 2, 2012, 2:27 GMT)

Really!!! I dont think NZC has taken a wise decision. I am very very happy for the kiwis to prove me wrong..

Posted by Maccanui on (May 2, 2012, 2:15 GMT)

Great article. I think Justin Vaughan needs to take a lot of the blame for this shambles because he appointed Buchanan over the top of Wright in the first place and it has ended in disaster. Vaughan was a poor CEO. Its difficult to find anyone to say a good word about Buchanan and his methods so the future does not look bright for NZC. The 'selection pie chart' is certainly a head scratcher, if I was him I wouldn't be rushing to protect the intellectual property rights on that one, that's for sure.

Posted by LillianThomson on (May 2, 2012, 0:05 GMT)

John Buchanan did well when he coached by far the world's strongest team. But what has he achieved elsewhere? Cricketers change little from generation to generation. Look at Pakistan: they responded far better to Mohsin Khan's old-fashioned ways than to coaches with laptops and feedback forms. New Zealand Cricket has been a basketcase since I moved to NZ 18 years ago, with only a brief period of sanity under Christopher Doig. First they backed Glenn Turner and Lee Germon over their matchwinners like Cairns and Parore (WICB, please note!). Then they allowed John Bracewell to devote everything to ODI excellence at the expense of Test cricket. Now they are saddled with a weird system and a bunch of unqualified "experts" from beyond the cricket world. They need to do exactly what John Wright was doing: build a competitive test team playing enough Tests to hone their skills, because excellence in T20 and ODIs will around players like Bracewell, Ryder, Taylor, Guptill, Wagner and Van Wyk.

Posted by KazaLN on (May 1, 2012, 22:56 GMT)

Leave Buchanan's credentials aside. It seems that NZC has a very incompetent administration at its helm. If what they did is genuine why the need for such elaborate excuses. No one gained from this situation especially NZC.

Posted by r1m2 on (May 1, 2012, 22:07 GMT)

I think John Wright will do well to take up the BD coaching role! He's a great coach.

I can't believe Buchanan is still coaching!! NZ can try making him the full time coach, because the world will finally see what a horrible coach he really is!

During his term Australia won matches sure, but Australia won matches because of Warne, Mcgrath, a great support list of bowlers AND a great bunch of bats. If Buchanan was coaching Australia's current team, we would've seen how good he really is. I think for Buchanan's international record, we need to only look at post-warne+mcgrath era for comparing to other coaches.

Wright took a hapless India and made them world beaters outside sub-continent. Duncan Fletcher took a No.1 ranked team doing well home and away, and taken them back to pre-Wright era. So, you can see how difficult the task is of working in India to win matches abroad.

We also know of how "great" Buchanan was with KKR in the IPL.

Posted by   on (May 1, 2012, 21:49 GMT)

Sad Sad Sad... I do not know why people havent learned from John Buchanan's earlier stints. He is a destroyer of a team. He was only good when australian team was on there prime with there world class players.. The results would have been the same if My grand Mother would have been australian coach. John Buchanan is a failure and i do not understand why NZC wants to spoil there team... Anyways Good luck NZC...

Posted by Masud_BITK on (May 1, 2012, 21:26 GMT)

John Wright, please come to Bangladesh. We desparetly looking for you like coach where you will only be the boss. NO body can talk over you. Bangladesh is looking for a good coach and I think, you are on top now. Mr. Kamal, please call to John Wright today or pick up our Dada (SC) after the IPL. Dada would the second best.

Posted by KTiwari on (May 1, 2012, 21:19 GMT)

Lets get John Wright back as India's coach soon as Duncan's contract is over. He is great builder and works well with India player. I think his old school approach in dealing with performance management is good one and probably that's why he was very successful with Indian players.

Posted by Rag-Aaron on (May 1, 2012, 21:11 GMT)

Another clanger from NZC. Basically the gist of the article is that keeping John Wright was too hard for beauracratic reasons - too hard for the people running the admin side of the game. Using coporate staffing and admin strategies might work for a coproration but in an environment where you want the staff (ie the players) to not just be afraid of their boss but actually open up to them it's not going to work. John Wright was the opportunity for NZ to get the gutsy intelligent appraoch to the game that the 80s team had and which was lost by NZC during the Sri Lankan bomb aftermath when the team lost it's last inspiring kiwi coach Warren Lees. Who'd be a New Zealand cricket fan.

Posted by Patchmaster on (May 1, 2012, 20:54 GMT)

Massive mistake - why they ever let Wright go over Buchannan is crazy......

Posted by Lermy on (May 1, 2012, 20:35 GMT)

Seems to me Buchanan is a systems man who thinks one approach fits all. If NZ is really lucky, the players they currently have will gel under his high performance, high paper work system. If not, look out. This reminds me of Glen Turner as NZ coach, who clearly worked well with some players, and not with others who didn't like his regimented approach. Surely the management of players should be flexible enough to adopt differing systems for different players with different "needs". Some need to be cajoled along, others need a proverbial kick up the back-side every now and then. Making that judgement is part of being a good coach.

Posted by RaoVS on (May 1, 2012, 19:28 GMT)

John Buchanan is the beginning of end. This is good news for other cricket playing nations. We don't have to worry about NZ anymore. I agree with other posters. He was lucky to have coached Aus in their prime, no credit to him. His later assignments prove his worth. The sooner NZ gets rid of him, the better for their cricket. Else its good news for others.

Posted by nzcricket174 on (May 1, 2012, 19:25 GMT)

According to this article, John Wright definitely won't be going back to India. No way would they let him have the power he wants. But if they did, you could expect great things to come from him.

Posted by hhillbumper on (May 1, 2012, 19:25 GMT)

John Wright is a good coach.If Buchanan does well then fair play to him but he did nowt at Middlesex

Posted by Street_Hawk on (May 1, 2012, 19:21 GMT)

Had a good run New Zealand Cricket...RIP!!

Posted by montys_muse on (May 1, 2012, 19:09 GMT)

Buchanan also had problems with Middlesex before, and even Shane Warne said publicly that he isnt any good. KKR stint just brought it all out in the open.

Posted by AsifKhan2012 on (May 1, 2012, 18:41 GMT)

If the readers have any grievance than they should direct it towards NZC who decided that someone of John Wright's stature was more expendable for them and not Buchanan. There is no point of bashing Buchanan because the people at NZC are aware of Buchanan's reputation and methods of working, and felt it was the best way for NZ cricket to move forward. John Wright's method of working, for example sitting down and having a chat with each player in relaxed environment without having the player sign some irrelevant documents was obviously too old school for them. I guess time will tell if this decision to retain Buchanan was correct or not. But personally for me, it will be interesting to wait and see the reaction of the players. Lastly, someone like John Wright will have no problem securing another coaching job but as a Kiwi, it's quite unfortunate that he couldn't serve his own country for a longer period due to management bureaucracy.

Posted by   on (May 1, 2012, 18:09 GMT)

Probably New zealand cricket board has not analysed about the great ANALYSER Mr Buchanan clearly.. Otherwise who would disrespect the services of John Wright ?

Posted by CricLook on (May 1, 2012, 17:59 GMT)

completely agreed with ishaque....John Wright will be perfect choice for bangladesh if they can convince him...he is a great coach who knows how to build & deliver performance from players..sad for NZ though, seems like they eager to lose their identity in the disguise of professionalism.

Posted by   on (May 1, 2012, 17:57 GMT)

As an Indian, I have immense respect for Wright... and I get the sense that Buchanan is a hack. Good luck NZ!

Posted by   on (May 1, 2012, 17:42 GMT)

Bangladesh need to get back Jamie Siddons not john wright

Posted by Kapil_Choudhary on (May 1, 2012, 17:32 GMT)

Calling Buchanan an analyst is a huge insult to analysts all over the world. They guy is just plainly a huge idiot - the luckiest idiot in the world but still an idiot. NZ will now just go the way of KKR if they keep giving Buchanan more powers. If left to him, he will probably just appoint his son as the head coach.

Posted by   on (May 1, 2012, 16:34 GMT)

according to this article.. Wright's step down will be huge setback for NZ cricket... What happened with Ganguly after Greg Chappel's appointment (Ganguly wanted chappel).. Its almost same.. Wright wanted Buchanen but nw Buchanen will be possible reason for NZ cricket downfall..

Posted by Baundele on (May 1, 2012, 16:25 GMT)

Buchanan was the beginning of the end. Now if they select Siddons as the head coach it will be the perfect end of New Zealand Cricket.

Posted by   on (May 1, 2012, 16:16 GMT)

John Buchanan became famous bcoz he lead a great team consisting of great players. Each players of the Aussie team were capable enough to win a match individually. As soon as all the greats retired Aussie slump begin. He masterfully decided to retire from coaching. Wright's capability as a coach is successfully proven. Buchanan tenure with KKR was disaster. Its really sad for NZ cricket they are letting go a person who can help NZ team to reach at the top.

Posted by   on (May 1, 2012, 16:06 GMT)

we bangladeshi will be very happy to have him as our head coach! i hope bangladesh cricket board will contact with him and bring him in dhaka for at least 4years!

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