The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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ĎIíve reached a stage where whether or not Iím right, the players are willing to listení
Because the team does so well, it's difficult convincing the players there are other ways of playing: Buchanan

Centurion: John Buchanan has been wearing the coachís hat from the start of Australiaís golden run, yet he remains low-profile and is quite happy staying that way. Itís with good reasons, clearly, that he is regarded a coach with a difference.

Despite being in the midst of Australiaís campaign to defend the World Cup, Buchanan kept 30 minutes aside for The Telegraph and spoke after the teamís workout Friday afternoon.

The following are excerpts

On his three-and-a-half years as Australiaís coach

The work Iíve started isnít complete... Hopefully, the next person will have a good platform. At the moment, thereís lots of work to be done, both within and around the team. My contract is till October, and whether or not it will be renewed should be clear during our tour of the West Indies, just after the World Cup.

On whether he is game for an extension

Yes. I havenít finished what I set out to do.

On predecessor Geoff Marshís belief that he (Buchanan) and Steve Waugh have carried Australian cricket to another level

(Grins) Talking generally, full marks to Steve... The way he plays and the way he leads has contributed to Australiaís success. In fact, the mantle has been taken up in much the same way by Ricky (Ponting) in the one-dayers... Steve and I have complemented each other, but I donít think weíve taken Australia to another level ó that entails revolutionising cricket. What we have achieved is playing more consistently and doing that better than most teams.

On whether his approach as coach today is appreciably different from when he started off (late 1999)

To be honest, it took me two to two-and-a-half years to really feel comfortable about my contribution or analysis or support... Certainly, the relationships have changed and my understanding of the individuals is better. Iíve reached a stage where whether or not Iím right, the players are prepared to listen... Initially, I was careful with the comments I made.

On John Buchanan the coach

My treatment of the players with experience and the newcomers isnít significantly different. My job as coach is to create an environment where the players can perform at their best. My job is also to sit back and allow the players to play their cricket. But, yes, I may spend more time with the youngsters simply because they are still understanding the game.

On whether itís easy coaching such a gifted and high-profile team or the pluses actually make it more difficult

Itís a mix... This team handles pressure well... The expectations, both internal and external, are well met... (Adds laughing) However, because the team plays so well, itís difficult convincing the players that there are other ways of playing. Thatís the tough part of my job. Yet, I see it as a challenge and ways should be explored to become a better player.

On having had to work with a different one-day captain (Ponting) for the past year

The transition wasnít a problem because both Steve and Ricky are similar players and their thinking is much the same. Also, my job is with the team, not just the captain... Iím involved with the team culture, its unity...

On sticking his neck out by speaking up for Steve when he lost his one-day place

I did, possibly, stick my neck out... However, I had an opinion and I said what I felt. My belief then was that the selectors were wrong in removing Steve but, as the past year has shown, they probably made the right decision. The team hasnít missed a beat and probably improved a little. No discredit to Steve but, usually, a change does bring about positives.

On whether Steve can ever return to one-day cricket

Realistically, if he had to, it would have been in the World Cup. Now, his chances are minimal.

On whether, as coach, he has a say in selection

My views are sought... I did call for Steve being retained, but the selectors thought otherwise.

On the importance of individuals

The team comprises of individuals and, so, every individual has an important place. As Iíve said, Iíve got to create an environment so that they can develop both as players and individuals.

On his World Cup strategy being upset by the Shane Warne scandal

Weíve been beset by a range of issues this past year... Steveís removal, injuries to Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie, the Darren Lehmann affair and, now, this Shane business... Itís a huge loss, but this Australian team doesnít revolve round one individual ó whether heís the captain, the best bowler or the next Don Bradman. Everybody tries to make a contribution.

On whether the Warne affair points to a failure on the part of the teamís support staff

Bottomline is that Shane is paying a heavy price for being negligent. He just didnít consult anybody.

On whether coaching itself has moved forward in the past three-and-half years

Be it in the International Cricket Council (ICC) or the respective boards, a coach isnít seen as having a significant influence in the development of the players and the game. As a coachís role is undervalued, in the existing hierarchy, coaching wonít move forward. Our current status is an obstacle and the right people wonít always be attracted.

On whether the ICC should hold an annual coachesí conclave on the lines of the annual meeting of captains

Absolutely. A coach definitely has a contribution to make in a range of issues.

On whether coaches have a shelf life

Yes, though a lot of coaches donít think that way. Some reinvent themselves or move to other teams... I had a shelf life at Queensland and Iíll have one as Australiaís coach. When itís time to move on, I will.

On the pressure he faces

Itís a 24-hour, seven days a week job and is all about maintaining a high level of enthusiasm and energy. Players can switch off during a game, a coach canít. Moreover, he doesnít have an off-season. Once one series ends, planning begins for the next. Fact is, even we have families and, because coaches are older, their families canít travel. So, family life is missed. (After a pause) Of course, while a match is on, the coach goes through the same emotions as players... Itís a rewarding job, but a hugely extracting one as well... Emotionally, mentally...

On teams signing on specialist batting/bowling coaches in addition to the principal coach

Thereís a role for them and players can get greater individual attention. After all, no player has all the skills.

Finally, on tips for his own players finding their way into the New Zealandersí hotel rooms not too long ago

(Laughs) Donít think it was anything top secret, as was made out... Indeed, I had a similar experience when I was with Queensland...

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