Wright to step down as Black Caps coach
He had just seen off the new ball; now John Wright is gone.
In a bitter blow to New Zealand cricket, the former opening batsmen has pulled the pin as coach of the national team just 18 months after he assumed the role, citing a clash of philosophies with director of cricket John Buchanan as a key factor.
Wright revealed his decision to decline an offer to extend his contract at a press conference in Lincoln this afternoon, and he will step down as coach after the upcoming tour of the West Indies.
He took over as coach at the end of 2010 and during that time took New Zealand to a semifinal at the 2011 World Cup and a test win over Australia in Hobart.
Wright had been making progress, albeit slowly, and you sensed the best times were ahead for a man as respected in his own country as he is overseas.
Talk of a clash of philosophies between Buchanan and Wright has been lingering for some time, and Wright admits it was a major factor in his decision.
"I never really envisaged going through to the 2015 Cricket World Cup, so the change has to be made at some stage," he said, before adding: "During the review process with the current cricket director, we both agreed the planning systems that he wants to implement don't complement the style and the way I coach, so that was another factor.
"It's part of sport. I've enjoyed the opportunity to coach the New Zealand cricket team."
But he has not enjoyed it enough to stay on, in spite of his differences with Buchanan.
"I think it's important the team has plenty of time to prepare (for the World Cup). It's important that everyone is going in the same direction. I've thought about this decision very carefully. It wasn't easy,'' Wright said.
"I'm satisfied with the decision. I know my philosophies and values that I've always maintained throughout my life in cricket ... and you have to be true to yourself.''
Asked to elaborate on the key differences between himself and Buchanan, Wright said: "I think he's probably in a better position to do that. We're probably not that different; we just see things a little differently.
"As I explained earlier, the planning systems that John wants to implement are probably suited to another head coach.
"I think it's just a difference of style. We see things very differently. I wish him and everyone else success."
A request to interview Buchanan on the issue was declined by New Zealand Cricket.
Wright described as hypothetical and irrelevant a question on whether he would have stayed on as coach if Buchanan was not the director of cricket.
"I've looked at it from my point of view, the way I coach and the values and beliefs that I bring to the job. It's very important that I'm true to myself."
Asked if there had been a power struggle, or whether there were differences over selection and control, Wright said: "No. It was just a decision I've made. I'm going to see out my contract. I've done my very best, but I've made the decision not to continue.
"We see things a little differently. It would be fair to say we're probably more comfortable coaching against each other, which we did for 4.5 years. But it's part of sport."
Wright, the most popular New Zealand coach of recent times, left the door ajar for a return to NZC.
"It took a while to get a go at this job, and some people wanted me to go longer, but you never say 'never','' he said.
''Let's see. It's a small cricketing community, very passionate, lots of opinions, sometimes differences of opinions, and that's the environment we have."
He said he had "mixed feelings" about departing when he had only just started to scratch the surface, but there was no lingering disappointment.
"I've always been in an environment ... where you only look at results, so I've always brought results to the table. When you're a national coach, you're really coaching for the fans. I've had wonderful public support,'' he said.
"And then you work very hard with the players so the public sees a team that fights for them to bring the results they want. I hope we've made progress, and I think the team will continue to make progress."
He was pleased with the way the team "scrapped" to a semifinal finish at last year's World Cup, while the test win over Australia in Hobart was "very memorable for a number of reasons".
"Ultimately, a coach survives on the performances of his players,'' he said.
''I try to make things as simple as possible for the players, remind them of their responsibilities, and I was really proud of the fight and resolve we showed in Hobart."
He was happy enough with the Twenty20 performances, and the test unit was becoming more competitive, but New Zealand's 50-over game needed attention.
As for what is next for him, he has no idea.
"I haven't really thought that far ahead, to be honest. I've still got a few more months in this job. Who knows?'' he said
"Over the last three or four years I've had approaches from here and there but none recently. Maybe someone will pick me up."
The former successful India coach did not rule out coaching at international level with another country. "That's probably too early to think about. Let's wait and see. It's an interesting profession."
He said he had informed senior players Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum of his decision, and they were "understanding".
New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said his main focus since assuming the role in February had been to re-sign Wright, and he had tabled a formal offer to him. He was disappointed but understanding of Wright's decision.
Asked if it had been a simple case of Wright or Buchanan, but not both, White said: "John Buchanan was appointed on a four-year contract to head the high-performance programme. Ideally, it would have been great to have them both, but unfortunately John declined that invitation."
White reiterated his stance that there had been "positive tension" between the pair.
The coaching job will now be advertised and it is hoped a replacement will be found by the end of the West Indies tour.
"We would like to take the necessary time to secure the right candidate to lead the Black Caps to the World Cup in 2015," White said.
"First and foremost, we want the best coach. Ideally, that person would be a New Zealander, in a perfect world."
Wright's swansong will be the West Indies tour from June 30 to August 2, which includes two Twenty20 matches in Florida, five one-day internationals and two tests.
~ Wright was born in Darfield and owns a farm in North Canterbury.
~ He played for Canterbury from 1984 to 1989. During his career, he also represented Northern Districts and Auckland.
~ He was the first New Zealand cricketer to pass 4000 test runs.
~ Wright played 82 tests for New Zealand, scoring 5334 runs at an average of 37.82.
~ The left-handed opening batsman was named New Zealand Cricket Almanack Player of the Year in 1982 and 1990.