Former Australian Coach John Buchanan.
Former Australian Coach John Buchanan. Warren Lynam

NZ cricket must be bold: Buchanan

AS first steps go, John Buchanan can't be accused of fiddling with the hub caps when the engine has blown up.

In unveiling New Zealand Cricket's new national selection structure, the director of cricket urged the country's cricket bosses to "be bolder" and strive to be innovative in their thinking in international terms.

"I think NZC has a great capacity to do things in advance of everybody else," he said.

"This is one of the first steps towards changing a little of the way NZC goes about what it does, becomes a little bolder.

"What we operate with now, is it the best, can it be better? The selection system is our first toe in the water."

The bottom lines with the Buchanan national selection model are investing the head coach, John Wright, with more authority, streamlining the selection process and investing one other person, the national selection manager, with considerable power.

Buchanan's belief is that the traditional three, four or five-man selection panels don't work, primarily for two reasons: two many voices give too many different messages to players; and there's no place for part-timers in fulltime jobs.

"I've always found it's very difficult to have part-time people - albeit well-meaning people who understand the game - being involved in fulltime sport. I think that's a bit of an anachronism."

The obvious casualties are selectors Glenn Turner and Lance Cairns, although Buchanan hopes they won't be lost to the game.

"I see them as very much part of the network an NSM would utilise, if they were not that person," Buchanan said.

Turner and Cairns are victims not through any cricketing shortcomings but rather a structural change in which three positions were morphed into one, powerful overseer.

The third member of the old selection triumvirate, Mark Greatbatch, stays on for now as acting NSM, probably until about August, when the permanent appointment is made.

The six major association coaches will liaise with the NSM, who forms a two-man selection panel with the head coach. The final say on tight selection calls rests with the coach.

Buchanan also sees no role for the captain in selection, home or overseas. Where in the past he was seen as needing to be hands-on overseas, given that he was leading players on to the field, Buchanan has a polar opposite viewpoint.

"There's no question the head coach and captain must have a very close working relationship.

"Beyond that it's very clear to me the head coach needs to make the final decisions. Sometimes the captain, as a player, may be one of the persons who has to be removed.

"It's very difficult to place the captain in that role and also in the role of selecting other people that they've then got to walk out on the field with."

The streamlined process, with its clear lines of authority, seems straightforward enough, with the NSM the critical appointment.

Wright must have the biggest say as coach, because he is accountable for how the national team performs.

Buchanan admitted selling the new structure to NZC was not straightforward, but wasn't surprised by that.

"Because it's new, it does challenge tradition. I was able to run those arguments past a range of people and everybody had their various views, but it received solid support. In the end, like any system, we've got to get the right person, then make it work."

Buchanan believed that in about six months, the signs will be apparent if it is working. In his mind, there's no if about it.

Under a broad high performance banner, Buchanan has other items to be ticked off. But he's started with a biggie. Tinkering round the edges will come later.

THE WAY FORWARD

  • The traditional three-person national selection panel is ditched in favour of a national selection manager, who liaises with the New Zealand coach, effectively forming a two-man panel.
  • Former selection panel head Mark Greatbatch will be acting selection manager for the next few months. He will liaise with the six first-class coaches in assessing players but final decisions on selection rest with head coach John Wright.
  • The selection manager, expected to be in place by August, will be a fulltime position and will be responsible for men's and women's international cricket from under 19 up to the senior national teams.

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