Derby: Twenty-one months as India coach and John Wright hasn’t changed. He remains just as (if not more) passionate, continues to avoid the spotlight and still largely prefers one-to-ones with his players.
Of course, like anybody in a high-profile assignment, the former New Zealand captain has his critics. In any case, it doesn’t require a genius to pick on one assumed weakness and give it an Everest-spread. Fact is, Wright has always acted professionally and conducted himself with dignity.
Aware that a proper support system was needed, Wright persuaded the then Board president, A.C. Muthiah, to allow a computer analyst accompany the team overseas as well. Then, he played a big hand in convincing present president Jagmohan Dalmiya to recruit a physical trainer (Adrian le Roux).
The benefits have been immense.
Indeed, Sourav Ganguly was spot-on when, during the presentation ceremony at Headingley Monday, he made the point about Wright’s contribution. Speaking to The Telegraph Wednesday night, the captain said much the same thing — only, probably a bit more forcefully.
It can’t merely be a coincidence that India have won four Tests overseas since Wright assumed charge in mid-November 2000. Yes, there have been defeats, but the blame can’t be laid at Wright’s door.
For all his “scientific and methodical approach,” even Duncan Fletcher couldn’t stop India from dominating six consecutive days of Test cricket — the sequence beginning on the last day at Trent Bridge and ending with India’s finest moment overseas (Headingley).
“It’s nice to win, nice to see the rewards of good planning but, at the same time, we’ve been in such positions in the past and haven’t kept it going... The celebrations, then, have rightly been put on hold till The Oval,” Wright remarked, talking exclusively at the Derbyshire CCC ground.
Having played here for as many as 11 summers (1977 onwards), Wright is familiar with just about everything. Moreover, old-timers have the highest regard. In fact, the Supporters’ Club Shop manager refused payment when Wright bought a couple of books Thursday morning. “You served us well... Don’t even think of paying,” the pensioner insisted.
[It’s a tradition at County grounds to have a Supporters’ Club Shop in addition to the official Club Shop.]
According to Wright, “no team has a more attractive batting line-up,” but consistency alone will help India up the ladder. “At this level, the least mistakes carry you the farthest... Moreover, discipline is the operative word. Obviously, it applies to both batting and bowling...”
A big backer of our spinners, Wright is “delighted” both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh could be fielded at Headingley and that both had a significant role. “How many teams can unleash bowlers like Anil and Harbhajan in the fourth innings' Their presence gives our attack more than just variety.”
The coach is also mighty pleased that Zaheer Khan, especially, has been improving with each series. “That he is so much fitter is alone making a huge difference... He’s working hard, too. As I keep saying, the harder you work, the greater the rewards. It’s simple...”
The players have certainly got this “simple’ message.