Australian influence must be bowled by NZC

AARON LAWTON
Last updated 05:00 29/07/2012
NZ Cricket
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WINDS OF CHANGE: New coach Mike Hesson (left) NZC chief executive David White and director of cricket John Buchanan.

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OPINION: If John Buchanan is not already on shaky ground with New Zealand Cricket, he should be.

Since being appointed the organisation's director of cricket in May last year, the former Australia coach has, when it all boils down, achieved very little.

Very little, that is, aside from the fact he was responsible for convincing former Bowls Australia high performance manager Kim Littlejohn to cross the ditch and take up a role as the national selection manager.

It'd be funny if it wasn't so sad. Forget about the fact New Zealand's cricket scene is, as some critics suggest, too “Aussie-centric”. Strewth, the more important question we should be asking is how a bowls sage managed to land such a plumb role in the first place?

With the end in sight of John Wright's mixed reign as Black Caps coach, and with the talented Mike Hesson set to take over from him next month, the time has come for New Zealand Cricket to make some tough calls, or risk continuing to watch its top team languish in the backwaters.

Chief executive David White, in his short time in charge, hasn't been afraid to do that thus far and his decision to restructure the organisation and move it to Auckland shows he's prepared to rock the boat when the occasion warrants it.

But the bigger call he needs to make is how to sort out the Black Caps. That starts with asking how he can find the right people to put around Hesson and the team who will actually make a difference.

Much has been made of the fact that Wright and Buchanan didn't see eye to eye. But what, during the respective reigns of these two men, have the Black Caps achieved?

Wright's days as head coach are coming to an end. And while he will be remembered for the fact he guided the Black Caps to a test win over Australia in Hobart and a semifinal appearance at last year's world cup shortly after he started, the highlights reel otherwise looks pretty sparse.

From late December in 2010 when he took over, the Black Caps have hardly set the world alight. In 28 one-dayers, they've won 13, lost 14 and had one no-result.

Not bad, right? But if you peer into the microscope a little further, only five of those 13 wins have come against decent countries.

What happened to the days when New Zealand could consistently foot it with the best one-day teams in the world? Aside from the occasional upset, it seems as if they are now well and truly behind us.

When it comes to test cricket, again, the presence of Zimbabwe nicely skews the figures.

Under Wright in nine tests, the Black Caps have won three, drawn three and lost three.

But of those wins, two were against Zimbabwe and the other was the aforementioned success in Hobart. But what of Buchanan - the former Aussie boss, who guided a champion team to two world cup victories?

Yes, he's only been on the ground for a year, but you would have thought a “cricket guru” like him would have started to generate some marked improvements in his wide-reaching director of cricket role.

But no, he hasn't. Well, not that anyone can see anyway.

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When he started last year, the Black Caps were ranked eighth in the world in test cricket and seventh in one-dayers.

Little more than a year later, and they now sit seventh in test cricket and eighth in one-dayers.

If, as one NZC insider suggests, Buchanan is being paid “ridiculously big money”, is he really earning it?

So what should be done?

Rumours around the traps suggest that a total cleanout might be on the cards. And that's exactly what should happen.

White must continue to be bold and go all the way, which means Buchanan could soon be departing our shores for good. Further to that, it wouldn't be unfair to say that Hesson, as he gets his hands on a chalice that many believe is poisoned, deserves to have a new support staff around him with the Black Caps.

That means Wright's assistants Trent Woodhill and Damien Wright's days could be numbered, given it's very hard to see what difference they could make moving forward, based on their limited results with the New Zealand team thus far.

The calls won't be easy to make, but if the Black Caps are to become at least a competitive team on the world stage again, White needs to get out the broom and start sweeping.

- Sunday Star Times

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