Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Taylor wrangle leaves Buchanan on sideline

John Buchanan was overruled on the captaincy. Photo / NZ Herald
John Buchanan was overruled on the captaincy. Photo / NZ Herald

New Zealand Cricket's director of cricket John Buchanan could be a casualty in the balance of power at NZC in the wake of the Ross Taylor captaincy saga.

Despite direct calls to Buchanan and a request to speak to him through NZC's media department, the director of cricket has stayed silent, though he did respond to inquiries with a courteous text saying he could not comment at this stage. Yet he remains a key piece in what has been a 1000-piece summer holiday jigsaw for New Zealand fans.

Buchanan's role in the soap opera which resulted in Taylor's exit as skipper seems crucial to understanding the full picture. He was an unequivocal supporter of Taylor remaining captain in all forms of the game but was overruled in favour of what NZC claimed was a preferred split captaincy option with Brendon McCullum taking over in limited overs.

A source said Hesson and Buchanan engaged in "robust discussion" on the topic during the Sri Lanka tour.

Taylor's decision to step away from the test leadership means McCullum now leads New Zealand in all three international formats.

After Taylor was axed as captain - or in NZC-speak "turned down the test captaincy" - he spoke about Buchanan's role in events: "John has been outstanding in this process. He gets a lot of flak but has been an amazing support for me."

The lack of Buchanan's right-of-reply on the captaincy issue is a shame. Whether you agree or disagree with his cricketing views, they are often insightful and innovative. However, embracing robust, open debate on the topic has hardly been NZC policy in recent weeks.

Instead, the governing body is left with a director of cricket contracted until after the 2015 World Cup who at best disagrees with Hesson and senior management over a crucial issue; at worst it makes Buchanan's future in his current role unpalatable.

Buchanan survived when his methods differed with former coach John Wright; whether he can survive the disagreement with Hesson, given NZC's wholehearted endorsement of the new coach, is an area to watch. Buchanan could become marginalised or, as one source put it, "might struggle to retain significance".

NZC chief executive David White denies this: "John has put in place a thorough plan as director of cricket for the Black Caps, White Ferns and under-19s and is working towards integrating our programme."

Buchanan's work enacting a long-term high performance plan has also been appreciated at major association level. The current model is understood to extend beyond the 2015 World Cup and included plenty of consultation. Buchanan is believed to have been zealous about ensuring its implementation.

Buchanan was described variously as "thorough at canvassing opinion" and "happy to argue, debate and justify his point of view" even if it was sometimes "left-field when drilling down into the game".

The 59-year-old was appointed to the job in April 2011. He has already seen transitions in the key roles of chief executive (Justin Vaughan to White), coach (Wright to Hesson) and captain (Dan Vettori to Taylor to McCullum).

Herald on Sunday sources say Buchanan might still consider a return to coaching ranks. He is understood to have worked in that role with the New Zealand A team against India A in September and October at Lincoln to whet his appetite.

Buchanan was Australian coach from 1999-2007 in a tenure that included a record number of straight test wins (16) and two World Cup triumphs.

- Herald on Sunday

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