Buchanan backs Ponting to deliver the goods
John Buchanan, who coached Australia to the last two of their three successive World Cup wins, has backed Ricky Ponting to lead them back into the final again in 2011 despite their recent Ashes humiliation.
Buchanan, a giant of Australian cricket, believes beleaguered skipper Ponting, however, needs fewer duties to worry about before he can take his team back to the One-day game's summit.
England sealed a 3-1 series win this month with each victory by an innings as the Australians slipped to fifth in the test rankings after 15 years of world dominance, losing six of their last eight Tests and six of the last 12 One-day games.
Buchanan, though, pointed out they are still the world's top-ranked team in 50-over cricket and believes they will reach a fifth straight final at the Feb 19-April 2 World Cup, to be held in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
"The Ashes is finished with," Buchanan, 57, said in a phone interview from his Brisbane home, which had been spared any flooding that has ravaged much of Queensland.
Image: Ricky Ponting and John Buchanan
'The World Cup is a one-off tournament'
"The World Cup is a one-off tournament and it really doesn't matter what happens in Australia or other lead-up games elsewhere around the world.
"The conditions they will experience will be different; they will be facing new teams every third day, so it's now just about what is required to win the World Cup," Buchanan said.
The quietly-spoken 6ft 4in coach nicknamed "Buck" succeeded Geoff Marsh as Australia coach in 1999 and quit the post in 2007 after leading them to World Cup wins in 2003 and 2007, a world record 16 straight test wins -- twice -- and a 5-0 Ashes whitewash in 2006-07.
Cynics might suggest his exit was timely. Australia's current travails come during a transitional period as the team continues to adjust to life without a raft of now retired world-class players who came together in one golden era.
Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist have all gone.
Image: Ricky Ponting practicing with team-mates
'He's the best man for the job'
One of those remaining, Ponting, who has played in the last four World Cup finals -- the last two as captain -- has suffered the backlash of the team's form dip more than most.
Buchanan still supports Ponting as captain and recommends a more selfish approach to help rediscover the kind of batting form that saw him crack a scintillating unbeaten 140 from just 121 balls in the 2003 World Cup final against India.
"He's the best man for the job as long as physically he maintains his skills -- there is no question of his batting ability," Buchanan said.
"He has been allowed to take on way too much in this so-called rebuilding phase. His principal skills are in and around the team, leading on the field and leading with the bat.
"Provided that is all he is asked to do -- and I think a World Cup will allow him to do that -- that will give him a clearer direction on what he has to do in the short term," Buchanan added.
Image: Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke
Buchanan had forgettable spells with English county team Middlesex and Indian Premier League franchise Kolkata, but was highly successful with Queensland and then Australia.
His intent to be at the forefront of change, sometimes using left-field theories, divided opinion.
He favoured psychology more than the baseball glove and bowling machine. Warne was a frequent critic, while ex-Australia captain Ian Chappell has rarely supported the role of a coach at elite level.
Some observers undermined Buchanan's achievements, claiming anyone could have been successful with such a talented group to work with.
"Buck", though, pointed out Warne was not part of the 2003 or 2007 World Cup wins, while McGrath was not as influential at the latter two World Cups as '99.
"I never took this position with the idea I was going to tell Warne, McGrath, Hayden, Ponting how to play cricket," Buchanan said.
"I could provide questions and an environment that would challenge them but ultimately your principal role is to make sure they are their own best coach and that they know their own games inside out," he added.
Image: John Buchanan
'I will go for either an Australia-Sri Lanka or Australia-India final'
Little has changed in his outlook on coaching in his current role as a motivational speaker, which accounts for most of his work nowadays.
While Ponting and Co. seek glory in the sub-continent, Buchanan may also be in India; not coaching cricketers, but inspiring those from the corporate world.
"I basically take the principles and lessons I learned from cricket," he said.
"If I visit an accountancy firm I will ask them where they want to be. Do they want to be the best accounting firm in Worcestershire, or the South East of England, or the UK or Europe? Where are they going?"
Although Buchanan opts to support his three sons and two daughters in their chosen fields in his spare time now, cricket remains his passion. When asked to predict the World Cup finalists, his patriotism is clear.
"I'm still an Australian through and through," he added, "Australia has played well over there in one-day tournaments and they're number one. So I will go for either an Australia-Sri Lanka or Australia-India final."
Image: Ricky Ponting plays a shot as India's MS Dhoni looks on