Cricket: Black Caps enter the age of Wright

By David Leggat

The fast decision around John Wright is a clear sign the board has had enough. Photo / Greg Bowker
The fast decision around John Wright is a clear sign the board has had enough. Photo / Greg Bowker

New Zealand Cricket has its new broom and John Wright will start work today.

His appointment as head coach of the national side was a surprise in that change was widely expected after the February-March World Cup, when several contracts are due to end.

The fact it happened yesterday is a clear sign by the NZC board that, unimpressed by the 4-0 ODI beating in Bangladesh a couple of months ago, the 5-0 ODI drubbing in India this month was an innings too far.

"We need to get this team back on track," NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan said yesterday, ever so slightly stating the obvious.

What they'd tried with Andy Moles and Mark Greatbatch in the last two years has not done the trick, so NZC have turned to the people's choice.

The former test opener and captain is a man with straightforward views on the game and how it should be played.

"I know it'll be hard," Wright said.

"I know we'll have some good and bad days. Winning and losing is part of the game but I would just like to put together a team that fights."

Wright, who coached India successfully for five years earlier in the decade, will also bring uncomplicated thinking on the importance of the players' job. "It's not about me, or whoever. It's about the team.

"When you're picked you are actually representing the 9-year-old in the street who wants to play for New Zealand, and some elderly gentleman listening on the radio.

"I think that's really important. It's a privilege to play for your country even in this day and age when there's lots of other opportunities."

Vaughan was at pains to point out Wright won't walk into the team room with a magic wand this week. "I don't believe it's a panacea," he said.

"Structural and coaching change will not immediately turn this team round. It will take dedication, hard work, persistence and a bit of patience.

"But I believe we're giving the best possible chance of success for the Pakistan tour and the World Cup."

Greatbatch keeps his place on the selection panel, as convenor, with incumbent Glenn Turner and new arrival, the under-19 selector and former test allrounder Lance Cairns.

Captain Dan Vettori is off the panel, but Wright has no doubt about his importance to what lies ahead.

"He's far and away our best cricketer. He leads by example and I hope he wants to keep leading."

One of the elements Wright insisted upon before taking the job was that Vettori was happy for him to step up.

Wright, who remains New Zealand's third highest test runmaker behind only Stephen Fleming and Martin Crowe, took over India in 2000 when they were at a low point.

He had the right touch for a team loaded with superstars - they turned a 0-1 deficit to Australia into a remarkable 2-1 test series win - then steered India to the 2003 World Cup final.

After five years he returned home and has been involved in NZC's high performance operations.

New Zealand will be a markedly different proposition to the Indians of Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Harbhajan Singh.

Drums have been beating steadily louder for Wright to be given his chance as New Zealand have gone through a wretched run, which now stands at 11 successive ODI losses, all on the sub-continent.

Out of 37 international games across the three forms this year, New Zealand have won only 12 - and five of those were at home to Bangladesh at the start of 2010.

Wright made it plain yesterday that "I've had a few faults myself" and pointed out the key is gathering people together who are compatible and use each other's strengths.

He has a few people in mind for roles within the revised setup. Wright made it clear it's likely to be a leaner operation. "I've always favoured less rather than more and I don't expect that to change. Personally I like close, tight teams. Everyone has to be busy."

First job? "Just getting to know the players, getting their confidence and trust."

It promises to be an intriguing next three months.

- NZ Herald

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