Wright the man but needs more backup

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

John Wright has done a ter­rific job since he be­came the New Zealand cricket team coach in De­cem­ber 2010.

Af­ter the short, undis­tin­guished tenures of Andy Moles and Mark Great­batch, Wright has been a rev­e­la­tion, the best coach the Black Caps have had since Steve Rixon in the 1990s.

He should have been the coach a decade ago, but the fates con­spired against him. Key play­ers were not keen to have him in­volved, and he was no favourite of the Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

There seems to be some feel­ing within the New Zealand camp about play­ers from the 1980s. Teams of that era keep be­ing lauded (de­servedly), and it grates on the mod­erns.

Maybe the anti-wright thing was part of that.

Any­way, Wright’s in there now, hav­ing learned a vast amount coach­ing Kent and then In­dia. He’s done well, too. New Zealand reached the one­day World Cup semi­fi­nals last year, beat­ing the much-favoured South Africans along the way.

Last De­cem­ber there was the thrilling win over Australia at Ho­bart, a proud mo­ment in New Zealand’s cricket his­tory.

New Zealand have strug­gled against South Africa this sum­mer, but Wright shouldn’t be blamed for that.

Only Bren­dan Mccullum, as an opener, and pace bowler Mark Gille­spie would pos­si­bly fig­ure in a com­bined South Africa- New Zealand team. That’s how dom­i­nant the South Africans are.

No coach can over­come those odds.

Wright should be a cer­tainty to con­tinue as coach. His con­tract is up for re­newal shortly and it’s as­sumed he will carry on.

But some hur­dles need to be cleared first.

The main two are the lack of cricket knowl­edge around him and the in­cred­i­ble ‘‘Aus­tralian­i­sa­tion’’ of New Zealand cricket.

Kim Lit­tle­john is Wright’s se­lec­tion panel man­ager. He’s Aus­tralian, of course, with a back­ground in lawn bowls.

He gained head­lines this sea­son by propos­ing that teams be se­lected by us­ing pie charts, rather than cricket knowl­edge.

Lit­tle­john doesn’t have the back­ground in cricket, and es­pe­cially in New Zealand cricket, to be much use to Wright.

Far bet­ter to have for­mer lead­ing play­ers like Glenn Turner and Great­batch in­volved.

Un­for­tu­nately, they’ve been dis­carded, which leads to an­other Aus­tralian, John Buchanan, New Zealand Cricket’s di­rec­tor of cricket.

Buchanan had a long ten­ure coach­ing the Aus­tralian test team, with fan­tas­tic re­sults. With Gilchrist, Ponting, Warne, Hay­den, Langer, Mcgrath, Clarke, Lee and com­pany lead­ing the way, that was hardly sur­pris­ing.

He is a great one for the­o­ries. Wright is a prac­ti­cal per­son, not a the­o­rist. If their ideas don’t gel, who gives way?

The other im­por­tant roles are New Zealand team man­ager and as­sis­tant coach.

Mike Sandle, with a back­ground in rugby, is the man­ager, and yet an­other Aus­tralian, Trent Wood­hill, is the as­sis­tant coach.

It would be help­ful if the man­ager was a cricket per­son and if the as­sis­tant coach was there purely to serve the head coach and the team, re­gard­less of per­sonal am­bi­tions.

New Zealand Cricket’s new chief ex­ec­u­tive, David White, has been charged with ex­tend­ing Wright’s con­tract.

It will be a test of White’s ef­fec­tive­ness to see if he can do so.

White may have to give Wright a bit more say in the set- up around the New Zealand team if he is to se­cure his sig­na­ture. I hope he’s sen­si­ble enough to do that.

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