The former New Zealand coach, who led the Black Caps to the 2007 World Cup semi-finals, signed a two-and-a-half year contract until 2017 to succeed Phil Simmons on Wednesday.
The choice of Bracewell marks a shift of emphasis, with Cricket Ireland keen for its players to receive a thorough grounding in multi-day cricket as they look to achieve their ambition of becoming a Test nation in 2018. Ireland would secure Test status in three years’ time under the ICC’s ’Test Challenge’ should they win the 2015-2017 Inter-Continental Cup and then beat the 10th-ranked nation (currently Zimbabwe) over four five-day matches in 2018.
“There is nothing I enjoy more than fighting for a cause, and in cricket terms there is none better than obtaining Test status,” Bracewell said.
Bracewell has an excellent record in limited-overs cricket, leading Gloucestershire to five one-day trophies during his first spell in charge between 1999 and 2003, although his second spell between 2009 and January of this year was markedly less successful. It was Bracewell’s role as an international coach with New Zealand between 2003 and 2008, however, that marked him out as the outstanding candidate from an initial five-man shortlist.
“His experience as a Test coach is so important to us, if we are really serious about kicking on,” Holdsworth said.
“That is pretty much what it boiled down to.
“The players need to cope with all the physical and mental pressures of playing five-day Test matches, and the high intensity and pressure of building an innings all day. That is what John will prepare us for.”
Bracewell was chosen by a four-person selection panel comprised of two Cricket Ireland management committee members and two independent representatives, although the Irish Examiner understands that Ireland skipper William Porterfield was also consulted during the appointment process.
Cricket Ireland believe that the relationship between head coach and captain will be “very important” and wanted to ensure Porterfield, who played under Bracewell at Gloucestershire until 2010, worked well with his former boss.
Cricket Ireland refused to make public Bracewell’s remuneration package, but it likely to be greater than Simmons’ salary.
Trindidad-born Simmons, who left the Ireland job at the end of their World Cup campaign in March to take over as head coach of the West Indies, almost doubled his earnings when he accepted the 225,000 a-year role with his home country. Simmons retained his family home in England during his eight-year spell as Ireland coach, but Bracewell will be based permanently in Ireland, and will be joined by his wife later in the summer.
He will be expected to work with the current coaching team, including assistant coach Pete Johnston, and will not bring in his own backroom staff.
Seven members of the 14-man squad to face England in the Royal London one-day international at Malahide on 8 May are aged 30 or above, so Bracewell will prioritise player development through the domestic inter-provincial tournament as he looks to build a team capable of winning the ‘Test Challenge’ in 2018.
“He wants to work not just with players, but with coaches as well,” Holdsworth said. “He told us that he wants to work with the inter-provincial coaches and the academy, and he is very aware of succession planning and the players coming through.”