Wright the man but needs more backup
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.