New Zealand cricket will lose the services of John Wright as national coach unless significant concessions are made over the next month.
Wright is reluctant to continue in the job under his current terms. He is contracted until the West Indies tour finishes in August. The Herald on Sunday understands he will not demand a salary increase and is happy to concede more administrative responsibility to manager Mike Sandle but, in return, he wants absolute power over the coaching and selection of the team.
New Zealand Cricket want to lock Wright in until the 2015 World Cup but it seems likely he will opt for a shorter term.
The New Zealand team under Wright secured the country's first semi-finals spot in a World Cup on the sub-continent (after 11 straight ODIs losses in that part of the world when they entered the tournament). They followed with the first test win in 18 years against Australia and added further test wins, home and away, against Zimbabwe. No silverware was earned against South Africa but - the second test aside - there were signs the team could at least compete over more sustained periods. Wright has also proved a masterful selector at times, based on form (Mark Gillespie, Dean Brownlie and Kruger van Wyk) and intuition (Doug Bracewell and BJ Watling).
The extent of 57-year-old Wright's national coaching dreams will now be tested. After more than four years with NZC in various capacities he could presumably return to short-term contracts, perhaps with English and Indian teams, while spending the rest of his time on his north Canterbury farm. If he stays in the role he faces several significant tours of duty over the next three years. The "positive tension" oxymoron which NZC chief executive David White spoke about between Wright and his direct boss John Buchanan last week is believed to be at the core of the problem.
Wright is a pragmatist, Buchanan is an analyst. Both have been successful coaches in their careers before joining NZC. However, Wright is believed to want no Buchanan influence around the selection table.
White says nothing has changed from NZC's perspective.
"We've had nothing but positive conversations with John. We always said we'd give him time to collect his thoughts after the South Africa series. He deserves a break after a long, tough season."
The board was initially believed to have given White carte blanche to secure Wright's signature, preferably until the end of the 2015 World Cup in Australasia. However, their outlook is becoming less rosy. There are concerns that regardless of inspirational dressing room talks, Wright cannot afford to cut corners in the modern cricketing environment and needs to communicate more clearly with players and management above and around him.
One example had Wright adamant players should not have to fill out a substantial review document of the 2011-12 season. The Herald on Sunday was told Wright preferred more of an old school "sit down with a beer at the bar" approach to counsel players.
Wright was also disappointed NZC failed to appoint former Otago and now Kenya coach Mike Hesson to either the selection manager or team manager roles which were eventually secured by ex-Bowls Australia high performance manager Kim Littlejohn and ex-Blues rugby manager Sandle respectively.
If Wright's contract is not renewed the coaching position will remain a poisoned chalice. Since John Bracewell resigned in 2008 the reins have been held in various capacities by Andy Moles, Mark Greatbatch, Roger Mortimer and Wright.
Few obvious replacements spring to mind. Chennai Super Kings coach and former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, Northern Districts coach Grant Bradburn, Wellington and former Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons and Lancashire and former England coach Peter Moores have been touted as possible successors, provided they could get out of their current contracts.