Cricket: Wright walks but who's next in?

By David Leggat

John Wright is reluctant to continue in the job under his current terms. Photo / Getty Images
John Wright is reluctant to continue in the job under his current terms. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand Cricket are back on familiar ground today, but not in any remotely satisfying way.

John Wright's decision not to accept an offer to continue beyond July's tour of the West Indies means NZC have been through four coaches in 3 years.

Wright took charge in December, 2010. John Bracewell, Andy Moles and Mark Greatbatch had occupied the seat, with varying levels of authority, in the previous two years. Those numbers reflect poorly on the national body's ability to lock in, and stick with, the appropriate people.

When Wright was offered the chance to carry on to the 2015 World Cup, which New Zealand and Australia will co-host, he declined. He said when he signed on he "never envisaged" that he would be in charge at the World Cup.

The Herald understands he was then offered, and rejected, a second deal - to continue until the end of New Zealand's tour of England in the middle of next year.

At that point, had Wright and NZC been happy with progress, 2015 could have been revisited.

Instead, NZC will advertise the job, and need someone installed in time for the busy second half of this year, during which New Zealand will tour India, Sri Lanka and South Africa, as well as contest the world T20 championship, also in Sri Lanka.

Wright yesterday admitted to "mixed feelings" over his decision. At his press conference it quickly became crystal clear that he and director of cricket John Buchanan are far apart in their thinking.

"We see things a little differently," Wright, 57, said.

"We both agreed the planning systems he wanted to implement probably don't complement the style and way that I coach. They might be better suited to another head coach.

"That was another factor [in his decision], and that's part of sport.

"What is important is we are all going in the same direction."

Asked if his decision would have been different had Buchanan not been involved, Wright ducked it as "a very hypothetical question" and not relevant.

"I've looked at the way I coach, the values and beliefs I bring to the job and it's very important that I'm true to myself. I always have been over the years and will continue to be so."

NZC chief executive David White reiterated an earlier observation about "positive tension" in the Buchanan-Wright relationship, which he regards as no bad thing and "a fact of the high performance environment", and repeatedly said that it would have been "great" to have Wright on board through to 2015.

He also suggested reworking contracts for coaches and support staff could be coming.

There is a view that, given the hefty workload for those involved in the international game, giving coaches breaks, or enabling them to skip parts of some tours to keep fresh, may be the way of the future.

New Zealand Cricket Players' Association boss Heath Mills hopes Wright is not lost to NZC.

"The players will be disappointed by John's decision but if he feels he can't continue beyond the West Indies that's his decision and everyone will respect that," he said.

"It would be a shame for John's intellectual property to be lost to NZC and I hope at some stage [after] the West Indies he can continue in some capacity within the cricket programme."

Wright's high points? Reaching the semifinals of the World Cup on the sub-continent last March, and beating Australia for the first time in 18 years at Hobart in December stand out like beacons.

Wins over lightweights Zimbabwe coloured Wright's tenure, but the scheduling is not his fault.

His decision, and the arrival of a new head coach, also place a question mark over Wright's support staff.

The new person will want his own people.

Ideally that person will be a New Zealander, White said.

"We want the best coach, and what is very important is to not only ensure we have quality players coming through but quality coaches and support staff that are New Zealanders."

SCOREBOOK

John Wright's record with New Zealand:

* Tests 9 - won 3, drew 3, lost 3.
* Wins v Zimbabwe (2), Australia
* ODIs 23 - won 12, lost 10, /r 1.
* Wins v Zimbabwe (6), Pakistan (3), Kenya, Canada, South Africa.
* T20s 10 - won 7, lost 3.
* Wins v Zimbabwe (4), Pakistan (2), South Africa.

NEW ZEALAND'S NEXT COACH?

Trent Woodhill
The Australian who has been John Wright's assistant. Well regarded but yet to have a major international job on his CV.

Jamie Siddons
Former heavy runscorer in Australian domestic cricket, who coached Bangladesh before taking over Wellington at the start of last season.

Darren Lehmann
Australian batsman who coached Queensland to the Sheffield Shield title this year. Highly regarded, but in charge of Deccan Chargers who are last in the IPL.

Paul Strang
Former Zimbabwe spinner who has steered Auckland to back-to-back T20 titles.

Grant Bradburn
Has led Northern Districts to two Plunket Shield title and one one-day title in the past three seasons.

John Buchanan
Certainly an interim contender, post the West Indies tour in July. Might there be moves to merge his director of cricket title with the head coaching job?

Mike Hesson
Former Otago coach now in charge of Kenya. Was close to the national selection manager role last year.

- NZ Herald

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