John Bracewell, the newly appointed New Zealand coach, feels that it is the right time to accept a job at the international level because of the potential for the side to continue its rise in the world rankings.
Bracewell, who left his Auckland coaching base in 1999 to take up a position with Gloucestershire with a view to gaining the experience that would make him a viable international coach, will take up his place on November 1. That means the New Zealand team will tour India under Ashley Ross, New Zealand Cricket's player development manager, who has been an assistant coach on several previous New Zealand tours.
Bracewell told Wisden CricInfo today that one of the most common questions he had been asked by the New Zealand media was about his potential compatibility with Stephen Fleming, New Zealand's captain, who, in recent years, has taken on much more of an all-round leadership role with the side.
"Stephen is the world's leading captain undoubtedly and I am pleased he has decided to take on that sort of role," said Bracewell. "I am also pleased that he has finally decided he wants to be a top batsman. In order to do both he might want help and that will be my role."
Bracewell, a former offspinner who is one of only three New Zealanders to have taken 100 Test wickets and scored 1000 Test runs, said that he was "pretty excited" about getting the coaching job although he had been a little nervous until he talked to his Gloucestershire players. He did that yesterday and was feeling happier about his decision as a result.
"I'm really comfortable with my decision. It is time to move forward for me and time for Gloucestershire to move on. It looks to me, like they say, a good time to come on board with New Zealand. They have a management structure that is really getting things together."
Bracewell said that he wasn't sure if they were any specific issues in the New Zealand side that he would be looking at from the outset but he said that with rankings systems now in place for both Test and one-day cricket it was important for the side to be continually improving.
In Gloucestershire he had been used to dealing with fewer resources than enjoyed by some of the other counties, but the side's success had come from utilising what resources there were to the maximum.
Since he joined the county, it has won the NatWest Trophy in 1999 and 2000, won the Benson & Hedges Super Cup in 1999, the Benson & Hedges Cup in 2000, won the Norwich Union League first division in 2000 and the NUL second division in 1999. The side has achieved a success rate in limited overs matches of 65.7%, with an 84% win ratio in the NatWest Trophy and 75% in the B & H Cup. The county championship record in which Gloucestershire is in the second division had only a 23% win ratio by comparison.
While there has been a suggestion that Bracewell will also be the chairman of selectors, thus supplanting Sir Richard Hadlee from the position, Bracewell said that he had never asked for that to happen but if NZC felt they wanted the coach to bear the responsibility of the selection consequences then he had no fear of it. NZC will be announcing their selectors in another few weeks.
He admitted that he liked to control his own destiny and he said that it was understandable that the coach should be looked at when people were looking for excuses for why a team wasn't performing.
"New Zealand is a world force in the game," he said. "It is respected. I always got the feeling when I toured England as a player that we weren't respected. But I feel now that New Zealand is respected and you can see that when so many players are wanted by county sides. And I also know they wanted others who turned them down."
Bracewell said he was aware that some players were struggling with their games at the moment and he was prepared to work with players in finding out what they wanted. "Some players listen and hear people giving them different messages. I might ring some bells for some of them. But I would be a fool not to pull on any resources that might scratch the itch of a player."
The important thing was for players to want to perform. There would be no place in his sides for players who were half-baked (although in typical Bracewellese his description was a little more graphic) in their thinking and commitment. "It's such a short time they have to take advantage of their skills and they don't want to waste that time," he said. "It's not me who walks onto the paddock and the players have to get their thoughts together."
By taking on the position, which now involves ending what he described as "one hell of an adventure", with his family having put down roots in England, he would be reuniting with the man who sent him out into the wider world of coaching. His former boss at Auckland Cricket, Lindsay Crocker, was named general manager of the New Zealand team today.
"It was Lindsay who inspired me to go out and take the chance to expand my career and I'm looking forward to working with him again," said Bracewell. "I intend to finish the season with Gloucestershire and will move to Christchurch then."