Cricket: S African leading NZ candidate

By Dylan Cleaver, David Leggat

South African Paddy Upton. Photo / Getty Images
South African Paddy Upton. Photo / Getty Images

A low-profile South African is emerging as a leading contender to take over from John Wright, as significant changes to New Zealand's cricket coaching structure are brewing.

An increasingly hectic international programme and the need for expertise over three formats has compelled New Zealand Cricket to look at overhauling the brief of the head coach.

NZC was impressed by the way South Africa structured their coaching and management team during their ruthless dismantling of New Zealand this year.

One of the key planks of the Proteas' operations has been Paddy Upton.

The 43-year-old has been South African coach Gary Kirsten's right-hand man going back to their days in charge of the Indian team from 2008 until the end of last year's World Cup.

The pair are business partners and Upton joined the South African staff in June last year as mental conditioning coach.

Despite strong ties to Kirsten, Upton, who played two first-class games for Western Province and is currently trainer and mental skills coach at the Pune Warriors in the Indian Premier League, is known to covet a head role in international cricket.

Despite his lack of credentials as an international player, he is regarded as a coach with the wide and necessary range of skills.

The Herald understands that while decisions on the replacement for Wright are some way off, the models used by both South Africa and England - where former Zimbabwe batsman Andy Flower is the head of team operations - appeal to NZC.

At those teams, a head coach has several staff under him with specific roles in ODI, T20 or test cricket and an element of rotation applies, related to the type of cricket each tour involves.

One scenario might see the head coach delegate a short tour to his most relevant assistant while he remains at home preparing for the next assignment.

"Whilst the team is touring and playing one form of the game you must ensure other specialists are preparing [for other assignments] as well. South Africa do that; England do that and it is something we need to look at," said NZC chief executive David White.

White said the demanding nature of the Future Tours Programme, now inked in from this year until 2020, means it is prudent to consider how the national side is run.

With Wright still in charge until the end of the tour of the West Indies in July-August, NZC believes the time is right to investigate all options.

"It's tough enough for the players, but for the coaches and support staff it's tremendously challenging for them to be away from home, on the road that long, and to have just one role when you've got three distinct forms of the game," White said.

White spent time discussing the model with South African officials during their recent tour.

Another coach in the frame is Wellington's Australian, Jamie Siddons, who has completed his first season in charge, after working under NZC director of cricket John Buchanan as an Australian assistant coach, then doing three years with Bangladesh. He rates Buchanan's lateral thinking skills while his term with Bangladesh gave him an insight into the demands on coaches in the modern game.

"With the World Cup in 2015 you probably do need someone fully focused on one-day cricket, and that's really difficult if you're on tour trying to win tests and T20 competitions," Siddons said.

"From my experience in Bangladesh, that makes it really difficult to stay on top of it all. It does get big on you and you end up doing things half-paced."

With a young family, Siddons said he would need to consider all aspects if offered a part in a new NZC setup, but would be interested in a role.

"It's too exciting not to be interested."

- NZ Herald

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