| WRIGHT: ĎI see myself as facilitator onlyí
London: John Wright isnít the sort to keep issuing statements. Nor is he the kind to readily pose even for group photographs. Yet, this former New Zealand captain ó who spoke to The Telegraph on the eve of The Oval Test ó has been making a significant contribution as Indiaís first coach from overseas.
Following are excerpts
On the mood leading up to The Oval Test
Having just scripted our most comprehensive win (at Headingley), during my 22 months as coach, couldnít be better... Itís important, though, for our feet to remain on the ground... I hope the wicket here will turn and that it will do so pretty early in the game.
On his 22 months as India coach
(After a pause) Frankly, itís best for others to judge... If we arenít going forward then, obviously, Iím not doing my job... Personally, I try not to look back... But, yes, we are on the right track ó especially, where fitness is concerned. It canít, for example, be a coincidence that Zaheer Khan is getting fitter with each game. Adrian (le Roux) and Andrew (Leipus) are doing a terrific job.
On the top lesson learnt
Firstly, that the selection of the squad should be right and, then, the XI must be perfectly balanced. Indeed, for a while, we got the latter right when Deep Dasgupta was around. Then, at Headingley, we got it right with Sanjay Bangar. To speak of the one-dayers, weíve been getting it right with Rahul Dravid doing the wicketkeeperís job. Selection is a critical area.
On Indiaís performance in the first three Tests
Post Lordís, Iím very happy with the way weíve batted... That, too, in conditions where the ball did so much ó both at Trent Bridge and Headingley. Then, the availability of both spinners has made a difference... Zaheer, of course, has been good and, in patches, Ajit Agarkar.
On constantly talking of passion and commitment
(Grins) Well, you can always get better with everything... Self-discipline, too, is important and, really, itís a jigsaw where things fall into place. If I may add, the harder you work the luckier you get. Moreover, I keep telling players theyíve got to scrap it out in tight situations... Do a Nasser Hussain (as at Headingley)... Thereís nothing better than doing well for your country and nobody should try and cut corners. Success is great, gives that nice feeling... However, nobody should forget what brought them to that stage.
On his approach as coach
Iím clear about having certain standards and discipline within the team... Iím also clear that players who donít wish to work hard have no business playing for the country... Also, I like every player to appreciate that he isnít bigger than the team. And, yes, honesty is a key quality for me... As coach, I try and make even routine workouts enjoyable. In any case, as Iíve said in the past, I see myself as facilitator only. I donít like telling players how to do something, rather, I like telling them what needs to be done. My belief is that no coach should ever get in the way of a playerís natural ability.
On whether his experience at Kent has actually been helpful
Look, the basics and the philosophy remain the same... Even in Kent, I encouraged players who really desired to be there. The players, after all, are most important and the coachís role is small.
On encouraging players to talk to a Sunil Gavaskar
I do... And, why not' Itís nice for former players to also be involved with the present Team India.
On whether itís helped that the present team has many youngsters
Perhaps, yes... My own opinion is that the future lies with youngsters. At the same time, the blend must be right... Experienced players complementing the talented, but inexperienced ones. It does help to have role models in the dressing room.
On handling defeats and wins with equanimity
Thatís how it should be... Thatís why, earlier in our conversation, I spoke about keeping our feet on the ground... Success shouldnít make players lose their perspective. Indeed, at times, success can be harder to handle than failure... Even if youíve done well, you can improve. Similarly, if you havenít, make the most of the next opportunity. You canít win if you donít deserve to. Bottomline is that the analysis must be honest.
On what makes this team tick
(Grins again) Self-belief... The flashy stuff is fine, but itís getting through the difficult periods thatís important ó more than anything else, self-belief counts most here. Itís self-belief, for instance, which carried Bangar and Rahul through the most difficult phase of the Headingley Test.
On whether he has interacted with any cricketer as young as 17-year-old Parthiv Patel
A few, yes, when some very young lads joined the Kent staff... Outside cricket, however, I did work with young boys during the year-and-half I taught maths and science at a secondary school back in New Zealand... Patel is quite a natural, has soft hands and will surely go a long way. Already, heís aware of whatís expected of him at this level.
Finally, on staying away from the limelight
Thatís because the coach isnít the most important person. Iím happy just playing my role and I donít see this assignment strictly as a job. In my own way, Iím very much there emotionally.