Bracewell's zeal both positive, negative

One of John Bracewell's strengths as the Black Caps cricket coach his passion for the game also proved an undoing.

No review of Bracewell's coaching era, which spanned five years from late 2003 to 2008, can fail to acknowledge his intensity to extract the best from the team and the seemingly endless amount of energy and enthusiasm he poured into that task.

It was just that at times the way he went about it was like a misdirected missile exploding in numerous directions.

Bracewell made coaching his job after finishing as a feisty New Zealand player but his inability at times to keep his abrasive character under control resulted in several foot-in-mouth conspiracy theories.

That meant Bracewell copped probably more stick than he should have for the failings of the Black Caps team.

He delivered with the one-day team lifting its ranking from sixth into the top three and can reflect with justifiable satisfaction on a healthy one-day record with 61 wins from 106 one-day internationals.

Most players enjoyed working with Bracewell who was prepared to be innovative in trying to gain an extra edge, challenging them in new ways and did not deserve to be crucified for that.

He tried shock therapy with some players, including dropping Nathan Astle and Chris Cairns, in a bid to extract better from them, but in the end they only walked away from the game perhaps earlier than they should have.

His team's test record is mediocre though and although there are 13 wins in 40 tests, seven came against minnows Bangladesh or Zimbabwe.

The team went backwards and now clings tenuously onto seventh place.

Bracewell at times did not help the team's cause with some weird and wacky decisions during his tenure and the selections were not just from left field but sometimes out of the ballpark.

Bracewell was unable to enhance the test team's batting ability partly because it lost a core of experienced players, starting with opening anchor Mark Richardson in late 2004. Teams were tinkered with, leaving some players frustrated, something that continued to the last test with an unbalanced took to the top order batting line-up.

Perhaps because he was a spin bowler his record with the tweakers was excellent. He has helped Daniel Vettori progress his game further and uncovered Jeetan Patel as an emerging talent.

Medium pacer Mark Gillespie was added to the one-day mix with good results while Bracewell had to work around the regular injuries that befell the likes of Shane Bond and Jacob Oram.

He will doubtless relish returning to the role of underdog, guiding one of the less fashionable English counties, Gloucestershire, where his every move will not be dissected and he can concentrate on what he does best.


The Press