John Wright in his New Zealand days in 2012 © Getty Images
Derbyshire have become the first English county to employ a specialist T20 head coach.
Contemporary thinking, though, has rarely seemed more of a throwback as they have turned to John Wright, the former New Zealand Test batsman, who first set foot in Derbyshire nearly 40 years ago.
Wright, 62, is steeped in experience with coaching spells for India for five years from 2000 and his native New Zealand as well as guiding Mumbai Indians to the IPL title in 2013. He currently has a scouting role with Mumbai Indians.
Specialist T20 coaches have been logistically unappealing in England because the NatWest Blast has stretched over three months of the season. But the competition is back in a tighter block for 2017 – something tried only once before – and Derbyshire have been quick to take advantage.
After a dismal 2016 season in which poor T20 form was allied to a failure to win a single match in the second division of the Championship, they now hope that Wright’s know-how, and love for the area, can bring a change of fortune in the shortest format.
Chris Grant, Derbyshire’s chairman, said: “We’re delighted to secure a coach of John’s quality and experience for this crucial role.
“It’s a unique position amongst the 18 counties in England, but it is not uncommon amongst teams in the major international Twenty20 competitions like the Big Bash, IPL and CPL.
“It’s a high-priority that we improve our Twenty20 performances and the new model allows John to give the NatWest T20 Blast competition his complete focus.”
Wright, who scored almost 15,000 runs for Derbyshire between 1977 and 1988, will join them in mid-June.
Derbyshire have already looked backwards in an attempt to move forwards. Kim Barnett, a former captain a generation ago, is their new director of cricket and has trust in Wright’s methods.
“We could not have secured anybody with higher pedigree than John to fill this new role,” Barnett said. “He has won the IPL with the Mumbai Indians, been an international coach and was a great player at Derbyshire.
“I could not be more pleased to get him back on board here and work with him. He is a fantastic strategist and will give us a lot of expertise technically and tactically.”
Wright’s genial manner enabled him to cope with the cultural challenge of being India’s first overseas coach.
But it is his scouting knowledge that will also appeal to Derbyshire as they seek value from their overseas signings and, indeed, seek to identify unproven English players with T20 potential. Barnett, who does not delegate without good reason, will give Wright total freedom to design his squad as he sees fit.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.